DARLINGTON, S.C. – While some people would argue that it should have been done much sooner, the timing couldn’t have been better for the Wood brothers.
Much like everything else in their storied racing history – which dates back to 1950.
Len and Eddie Wood gathered with Ford Motor Company’s Edsel Ford II on Sunday to talk about NBC’s recent hour-long documentary on the history of Wood Brothers Racing.
The feature first aired Friday on NBC Sports Network and again Sunday leading into the rain-delayed Bojangles’ Southern 500.
It was all the more poignant for the brothers following the death of their father, team founder and NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood, who died in January at the age of 93.
“We were over the moon with it,” Len Wood said. “It told about 15 stories in that hour, and there was 100 more to go. It told about our family and some of the struggles we had as well as some of the wins we had.”
A number of moments stood out. Len Wood was particularly interested in the footage of pit practice for the 1965 Indianapolis 500 with Jim Clark.
But probably the moment that garnered the most attention was the fateful phone call in 2009 that kept the Wood Brothers in business.
“We were testing at Pocono, and Edsel calls looking for a phone number, actually for an Air Force guy, and he got after me for not calling in a while,” Eddie Wood said. “He wanted to know what was going on. I said we’d run so poorly and so bad that I was ashamed to. At that time, we were missing races and really, really struggling, and he said, ‘Well, we’re not going to have that.”’
It was at that moment that things changed for the longest-active team still going in the sport, starting with a renewed commitment from the Fords.
“We talked and we were both disappointed in the way the car was performing, the way the team was performing,” Ford II said. “Eddie and everyone else wasn’t getting the support that they should get from Ford Motor Company, and I called some of the people that I knew at Ford, and I said, ‘We need to figure out how to help the Wood Brothers.”’
There’s no doubt in Eddie Wood’s mind that the team would not be racing today without that phone call.
“When I hung up from that phone call standing in the middle of the infield at Pocono, it started,” he said. “I think that was the confidence in knowing that it was going to be OK just because he said it was.
“Two years later, Trevor Bayne wins the Daytona 500.”
It was a fitting start to what will be a nostalgic weekend for the team, as Paul Menard’s No. 12 Mustang featured the same paint scheme that Glen Wood sported during the only time he raced at Darlington in 1957.
“Obviously, this is all about honoring Mr. Glen Wood – driving a scheme that he drove in a convertible in 1957, so we’re throwing it way back,” Menard said. “Every week kind of feels like a throwback with these guys. They’re a lot of fun to be with. Eddie and Len always have a story to tell, and when Mr. Leonard comes to the race track, it’s always a good time.”