The ties that bind Martinsville Speedway and the Wood Brothers Racing organization are numerous, which should be expected. Seven decades of stock car competition have intertwined the half-mile oval and the famous family based in nearby Stuart, Virginia.
From the outset, their proximities made the relationship a natural, as did the respective successes on the NASCAR landscape.
Martinsville Speedway was on the inaugural NASCAR schedule in 1948. The Wood Brothers Racing founder and family patriarch, the late Glenn Wood, made his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville in 1953. His car number was, of course, No. 21. An icon in the making.
Wood, named one of NASCAR’s “50 Greatest Drivers” during NASCAR’s 50th anniversary year, surprisingly never won a Monster Energy Series race at Martinsville as a driver in 14 starts. But he sure was close, finishing second in 1959 and third in ’60 and ’61. He had four poles at the paperclip-shaped oval including three consecutively bridging the 1959 and ’60 seasons. Two victories came as a car owner, with drivers Cale Yarborough in 1968 and David Pearson in ’73. Wood’s triumphs behind the wheel at Martinsville were in Modifieds.
Wood died in January at the age of 93. During the March NASCAR weekend, Martinsville Speedway unveiled a lasting tribute – the Glenn Wood Tower in the Turn 1 grandstands. Members of the Wood family joined Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell, grandson of speedway founder H. Clay Earles, for an emotional dedication ceremony in front of an appreciative crowd.
“Our Dad loved racing here at Martinsville, probably better than anywhere he ever raced,” Glen Wood’s son, Eddie, said that day.
“We were really honored and surprised when we were on stage with Clay Campbell,” added Woods’ son Len. “Looking down towards Turn 1 and seeing our Dad’s name on a huge banner was the highlight of our week.
“Our family’s history with Martinsville Speedway goes back to 1953 and our Dad raced Hardtops, Convertibles and Modifieds at Martinsville. We remember one year watching a very young Clay Campbell drive a pace car and there was no way his feet could reach the pedals. I’m not sure how he did it, but he did. We watched Clay grow and mature over the years into a man that his grandfather would be proud of. Clay gave us the Glen Wood Tower banner and it is proudly displayed in our museum in Stuart.”
The Woods’ long-running relationship with the speedway has had ramifications both on and off the race track. Some years back, the famed Martinsville hot dogs were replaced by a new brand; the change was noticed almost immediately by teams when the garage opened on the first day of the race weekend. A veritable uprising ensued. A group of competitors, including Eddie Wood, complained to none other than NASCAR’s president at the time, Mike Helton.
“As luck would have it, Mike agreed,” Eddie Wood said. “He made a call to [NASCAR Chairman and CEO] Bill France and the hotdogs were fixed by lunch time”
In advance of the Oct. 25-27 First Data 500 weekend for the Monster Energy Series, the Glenn Wood Tower is again being showcased with a special ticket offer – two tower tickets for $121. On the morning of Oct. 27, Eddie and Len Wood will appear for an autograph and photo session with fans.
“Martinsville Speedway and the Wood Brothers – we go way back,” said Campbell. “My grandfather and Glenn Wood were both involved in making history although I don’t think they were thinking about that in NASCAR’s early years. They were pursuing their own unique dreams and we are proud to say those dreams converged.
“We are talking about two remarkable stories that have transpired over seven decades … in two small Virginia communities … within 30 miles of each other. It’s a storybook tale that helped form the foundation of NASCAR. The fact that those stories are still being written is special, to say the least.”
Paul Menard, who currently drives the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers, understands that and embraces his role in the legendary organization. During a recent tire test, Menard showed up wearing a Glen Wood t-shirt, saying “every time I go to Martinsville I try to honor the Woods in some way.
“Glen Wood was a great man, first and foremost.”
— Martinsville Speedway —