Dashboard Confessional: Leonard Wood

Leonard Wood

Proud of My Home State
Leonard Wood writes into our Commonwealth Corner Series

Sixty-six years of racing, and I still enjoy racing in my home state of Virginia. I especially love winning here. And, Wood Brothers Racing has done that a lot in the Commonwealth.

Our love for racing started when my older brother Glen took his personal car to a practice session his friend was running in. He took his car out on the track, and he was able to keep up. He thought if he had a real race car he would be able to do quite well. That’s how it all got started. At the time, Glen was 25 years old and I was only 15. I was always the mechanic in the family, and was always tinkering with the engine and tuning cars. So, I was Glen’s chief mechanic at 15. According to the media, I stayed 15 for like 10 years.

It wasn’t long before we were sitting on poles, setting track records, and winning races. Our first race was at Morris Speedway, close to Martinsville Speedway. Then, it became a business. In 1956, Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly, both Virginians, went to Ford Motor Company and told them they should put us on board. We got connected with Ford Motor Company in 1956, and have been with them ever since.

What inspires you to do something is wherever you’re lacking or need improvement. In 1960, we saw Fireball Roberts and Smokey Yunick change two tires and fuel the car, and it took them 45 seconds. We were thinking there is room for improvement here. We just began working on it and what the weakest link was. We worked on each part, like changing tires, speeding up the jack, and speeding up fuel to go in the tank. It wasn’t long until we were down to 25 seconds. We began to improve on that. You think it’s the fastest you can get, and you just keep working at it. You come up with new ideas to speed it up in a certain area. When we would make a pit stop, we would end up a half a lap ahead. It didn’t take them long to catch on to that.

I still love winning to this day, and we have collected 98 wins over the years. Glen actually won a race at Richmond in 1957. I was just drafted into the army, and I was riding down the road, and got word that he won the race in Richmond. It’s a nice size track, and a very fun track to run on. The most rewarding victory lane was in 2011 with Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500. He was the youngest driver with the oldest team ever.

Kyle Petty won his very first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond. Many drivers have gotten their first win while driving one of our cars and it’s very rewarding. A few races before Richmond, Kyle had been racing with Dale Sr. He passed Dale in practice, and he bumps Kyle and Kyle hits the wall. We had to work late into the night, even after the track had closed, to get the car ready for race day. Dale saw me the next day in the garage and puts his arm around me, and asks, “How bad did it tear the ole car up?” Dale was extremely competitive, but he had a big heart as well.

We definitely enjoy running Richmond. Any track you win on, you like it. Just the whole Richmond area with all the modifieds that use to be around there at places like Southside Speedway. You would watch people like Emanuel Zervakis, Sonny Hutchins, and Ray Hendricks. All those guys would run up there, and they were super tough. Richmond at one time was the hub for some of the best modified racing in the whole United States. The Richmond area is also home to Junie Donlavey, my good friend. There’s just something in the atmosphere coming to Richmond, and it just has a good feeling.

I have always been proud of our home state. We used to run Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. It was the Myers Brothers against Glen Wood and Curtis Turner. They were the Virginia boys and the Myers Brothers were the Carolina boys. I have always been extremely proud of the state of Virginia and being from Virginia.


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