Trevor Bayne’s win in Sunday’s Daytona 500 was the 98th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win for Wood Brothers Racing.
The foundation for the legendary Wood Brothers’ success was cemented at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., NASCAR’s longest-sanctioned NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track.
Glen Wood, 85, of Stuart, Va., attended his 65th Daytona Speedweeks this year dating back to the original beach racing days. Wood posted the team’s first three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Bowman Gray in 1960, and added a fourth win there in 1963. He also won a NASCAR Convertible division race at the historic track in 1959.
Wood and his engine building brother Len had a knack for the legendary flat .250-mile paved oval. Glen won two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championships there. In 1954 he won the title in the Sportsman division and 1961 he was track champion in the Modified division. He ranks 13th of 117 drivers on the track’s all-time feature winners list with 29 wins, tied with Satch Worley.
“That was my best track as far as success goes,” Wood said of Bowman Gray, which opens for its 63rd season on April 30. “We won there in Cup, Sportsman (then a Bowman Gray weekly division and forerunner of today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series), Convertibles and Modifieds.
“We built a 1937 Ford Modified for Bowman Gray. We started out wanting to move the engine back 10 or 12 inches, but by the time were done we built a whole new frame because we ended up setting the engine back 24 inches. When Len got done building that car I felt like I could fly in it because it was so fast.
“Because the engine was set back so far, it seemed like I was driving from the back seat. I had to get use to driving it so far as judging where the front of my car was when I was racing with other cars. I mean my view from the car side to side was from the back seat windows.
“When I was on the gas I could pick the left front tire up off the track and carry it almost all the way down the straightaway. They had cross ties (rumble strips) on the inside of the turns so we couldn’t cut the corner into the infield grass. If I could get into the corners with a little drift and get on the gas, we could get fast enough to left front tire over the cross ties. It was kinda neat.”
Full-bodied NASCAR series racing returns to Bowman Gray Stadium in 2011 with a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race on June 4. Daytona 500 winner Bayne’s first win in NASCAR racing came in that series in 2008 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
In 1949 stock car racing at the stadium was originally promoted by NASCAR founder Bill France and Alvin Hawkins, a member of NASCAR’s founding group and NASCAR’s first flagman.
“I thought highly of both of them,” Wood said. “Bill France was a leader and I had a lot of respect for him. Alvin Hawkins was a good friend, and his good friends called him ‘Hawk.’ I raced at Bowman Gray from 1950 to 1964.”
Wood said he still visits the track on occasion, taking a seat in the stadium’s massive concrete grandstand.
“I don’t get there as often as I’d like,” Wood said. “I was there for a race during the track’s 50th anniversary in 1998. Eloise Hawkins (the late Alvin’s wife) presented me a plaque for bring one of their early champions.”
Following Sunday’s Daytona 500, Wood Brothers Racing records over 57 years include 1,362 starts, 118 poles, 98 wins, 337 top fives and 519 top-10s.
In addition to Wood and Bayne, others to drive Wood family’s Fords to NASCAR Sprint Cup wins include David Pearson, Elliott Sadler, Morgan Shepherd, Kyle Petty, Neil Bonnett, Dale Jarrett, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, A.J. Foyt, Marvin Panch, Donnie Allison, Dan Gurney, Tiny Lund, Curtis Turner, Speedy Thompson, and Joe Weatherly.