One of the most touching stories filtering through the media center at Daytona International Speedway this weekend is the fact that Glen Wood, who founded the Wood Brothers Racing Team with his brothers in 1950, did not attend Speedweeks here for the first time since 1947. Yup, that’s 71 years.
Glen Wood was here for the first 59 Daytona 500s.
Wood, 92, a former NASCAR Cup driver and a Hall of Famer who raced on Daytona Beach in his early days as a driver, stayed behind in Stuart, Va., to take care of his wife of 67 years, Bernice, who was ill. Glen’s oldest son, Eddie Wood, who now runs the team that has 99 NASCAR Cup victories, with his brother Len and sister Kim, says his dad is in good health.
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Eddie Wood, 65, who underwent heart surgery in December, was bound and determined to get here to see his only driver in Sunday’s race, Paul Menard. And the president and co-owner made it, but not without a Keystone Cops-style adventure.
Wood somewhat grudgingly shared his tale during a press conference of team owners Saturday. He said he was driving his wife’s Ford Focus ST, a “really, really fast car,” last Tuesday on his way down. For some reason, he was going through gasoline faster than one of his team’s cars during a race. Let’s let Eddie tell his tale:
“Everybody’s car has got … so‑and‑so miles till empty,” he said, “Well, I’m running along there, and I’m not used to driving that car, so it’s like 50 miles, and next time I look, it was 30, 20, and it’s a six‑speed. I had it in fourth [gear]. I didn’t know it.”
He continued with the story, much to the delight of his fellow owners and media in the press room.
“So I’m riding down 95, and it’s dark, and I glance down, and it’s on seven. Like, oh man, so I start looking for exits. Finally find one. By the time I get to the exit, it’s about four, and so there was actually a Shell station right off of 95. So I roll down the ramp, I almost turned over with it out of gear, to fill it up with gas. I said, damn, I’ll never do that again because I’ve always been a believer [that] you want to be full of gas unless you’re on fire. So I’m thinking, I’ll never do that again.
“I got all the way – it did the same thing again. I got it in fourth gear. I don’t know how I keep doing that. I mean, I checked it, I thought. I mean, it’s real close, and the car will absolutely fly, probably 140 miles an hour. But I’m riding down the road, and it’s like 12, and then, oh (shoot) I started looking, and I reached – I knocked it out of gear to coast down this hill, which is not much hill here. So it gets going again, and I pulled it back and forth again and didn’t know it.
“So all of a sudden it’s at one, one mile, and I’m like … I see green signs, one mile to the … and it was this exit right out here to Deland (Fla.), 92. So again, knocked it out of gear, rolled down the hill, turned into the service station – I mean, I must have turned in at 80 miles an hour, and this is no joke. I mean, it’s stupid to even tell. But I don’t really get excited about stuff, like it just winds me up.
“But I was up on the steering wheel like this right here, I was almost like through the windshield. This just‑fixed heart was going bam, bam, bam, bam. It took me until about midnight that night to calm down. I never had anything like that happen to me, ever. So anyway, that’s how stupid I am.
“And then I come down here after running out of gas, I get bronchitis. I’ve had a big week. We did have a good race the other night. I’m really happy about that. Like I said, I’m going to let somebody else talk.”
And, well, somebody else did. Fellow team owner Tony Stewart, seated next to Wood.
“So the moral of the story is do not go on a road trip with Eddie Wood,” Stewart laughed. “Anywhere.”