The legendary Wood family in victory lane after Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500. From left to right, Len Wood, crew chief Donnie Wingo, Bayne, Eddie Wood, Glen Wood and Leonard Wood. (Photo courtesy of Wood Brothers/Ford Racing)

Sons make sure Eddie Wood, patriarch of Wood Brothers team, extends streak of attending every Daytona 500

Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One of the most impressive streaks of consistency in NASCAR history will remain intact in Sunday’s 56th Daytona 500.

Glen Wood, patriarch of the legendary Wood Brothers race team along with younger brother Leonard, will be in attendance for the race.

There had been concern that Wood’s 55-year streak of his pilgrimage to the Great American Race would come to an end, but sons Eddie and Len made sure that their father would continue his history-setting mark.

“I knew I needed to come in a sense, but when (wife) Bernice said she wasn’t gonna come, I had made up my mind that I would stay home,” Glen Wood said in a Ford media release.

Extrapolated more, Glen Wood has been coming to Daytona actually since 1947, racing on the beaches. He was the last driver to win in a beach race in 1958 as the predecessor to the Daytona 500, which began in 1959 when Daytona International Speedway opened.

“I think it means more to my family, or at least Len and Eddie, because I’ve been here so many times,” Glen Wood said. “I’ve been to every one since 1947, so this makes 68 (straight years that he’s been coming to Daytona). They didn’t want me to stop that.

“I told them I’m getting old and it has to stop before long, but they told me it wasn’t going to be this time.  Eddie called up and said he had it all figured out, so how could I refuse?”

Eddie Wood said returning to Daytona every year is a family affair, and it just wasn’t the same without Dad being there.

“It was like something didn’t feel right all week,” Ed Wood said. “He and my mom both said early on in the winter that they didn’t think they were gonna come so far, and then they had the snow and that kind of finished it right there because we had 12-14 inches in Virginia.

“They usually come down early like we do, but I kept having it in the back of my mind that if everything plays out Len and I wanted to get him here.”

Eddie and Len hatched an impromptu plan, deciding Thursday that Eddie would fly back to Concord, N.C., pick up his father and make the eight-hour drive together to Daytona in a, what else, brand new high-horsepower Ford Taurus SHO.

“On midday Thursday I got to thinking about it and decided I was gonna get him either way because we were going to be here even if we didn’t make the race,” Eddie Wood said. “When I called dad and told him I was gonna fly home and pick him up, I could tell he got excited.

“The key thing that told me he really wanted to come was when he asked what time the plane was going to leave in the morning. I told him that we were gonna drive his car and he said OK. He hasn’t flown in years. He doesn’t like to fly and never has, except for Curtis Turner. He loved to fly with him, but I knew that if he was willing to fly back down here, he really wanted to come.

“So we went to dinner last night with Mr. (Edsel) Ford and it was just like everything was like it was supposed to be. It was like a piece was missing and things weren’t going right, and then all of a sudden Trevor (Bayne) runs a great race (in the Budweiser Duels), dad is here and everything is complete.

“Daytona from the first week of February to the third week is where we’re supposed to be. Any way you cut it, that’s where we’re supposed to be.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.