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by Larry Roberts

June 05, 1998

NASCAR's current promotional thrust to publicize its 50th anniversary states that NASCAR is as much about people as it is about cars - and I believe it. The drivers are mostly smiling, fresh-faced "regular guys" who always have time for fans and spectators. Maybe this is part of the reason for the phenomenal growth of the organization and its fan base that numbers in the multi-millions. My own grandsons, ages four and seven, are NASCAR fans and consider Jeff Gordon their personal sports hero.

Another aspect of the NASCAR "folksy" image involves the people and teams that are involved in its Winston Cup, the premium series of races that involves millions of dollars annually in sponsorship money. While some of the teams are relatively new and sometimes change allegiances and sponsors so frequently that a fan needs a score card to keep track, other teams have been around a long time. Some NASCAR "families" have been involved with NASCAR racing for three and in some cases, four generations.

An example of this long-time family involvement in NASCAR is the Wood family of Stuart, Virginia. NASCAR had been in existence just two years when Leonard and Glen Wood began entering Sportsman and Modified events in Virginia and the Carolinas in 1950. Glen was the driver and won his first Grand National race (the predecessor of the Winston Cup racers) in 1960 at a quarter-mile track in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. During those early NASCAR days, the brothers set a benchmark for organized pit stops which until that time were haphazard affairs. With a team comprised of relatives and close friends, the brothers were organized to the extent that some of those quick pit stops made the difference between winning a race or placing second or third. Glen Wood retired from driving in '64 to become the official team owner while Leonard remained as chief mechanic.

Always involved with Ford products, the Wood brothers have had some of the biggest names in NASCAR drive for them over the years. Former greats Tiny Lund, Curtis Turner, David Pearson, A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones and Donnie Allison to name a few of them. Current CART Champ Car driver and car owner Bobby Rahal was behind the wheel of a Wood Brothers Ford at one time. And it was the Wood brothers that provided the pit-stop strategy for Formula One World Champion Jim Clark when he made his landmark win at the '65 Indy 500 at the wheel of a rear engined Ford-powered Lotus 29.

Michael Waltrup is the current chauffeur under contract with the Wood Brothers team and has been for two years. He currently stands in 12th place in Winston Cup point standings driving a Ford Taurus much to the chagrin of his older brother Darrell who is in 32nd place driving a Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt.

The current team sponsor is the CITGO petroleum giant which has been enthusiastically underwriting the team for 14 consecutive seasons.

While the team is strictly professional and a full-time business, it's still a family enterprise. Glen has now passed the reigns of the team to his sons Eddie and Len Wood while the office management of the team is handled by his daughter Kim who is married to the Wood Brothers shop forman Terry Hall.

NASCAR prides itself on the fact that its races provide entertainment and fun for the whole family. The Wood Brothers team proves that this "family orientation" exists clear down to the starting grid.