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NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Leonard Wood

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Leonard Wood

Eddie Wood
Leonard Wood
February 8, 2013


KERRY THARP: Leonard Wood, inducted tonight in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and he's joined by his nephew Eddie, who presented him tonight. Leonard, congratulations. Certainly your contributions, your entire family's contributions, go without saying, but certainly your achievements in the sport and what you have done to influence so many others in the sport goes without saying, that tonight indeed is a great tribute, and congratulations. Your thoughts about going into the Hall of Fame?
LEONARD WOOD: Well, thank you very much. Yeah, the Hall of Fame is‑‑ this Hall of Fame, it just rewards you so much, and like when I was announced to be inducted in the Hall of Fame I believe in June, they've been celebrating it all year long, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame took all my family to Indianapolis, and they pick a certain racetrack to celebrate the inductee, and they chose Indianapolis, and my nephews Eddie and Len wanted us to do Indianapolis because we won Indianapolis with Jim Clark in 1965, so we had a candy apple red race car in '65, and because we won Indy with Clark in '65, they painted the car the same color as we had in '65 and put my face on the hood of it.
So 47 years later, here this car is streaking down Indianapolis Motor Speedway with my face on the hood, and so it was very rewarding.
KERRY THARP: Eddie, certainly your uncle and the entire Wood family has had tremendous, tremendous accomplishments in the sport, but what did it mean for you to be involved like you were here this evening?
EDDIE WOOD: Well, it's a really great honor, just being a part of it. With dad getting in last year and Leonard this year, it's really special to me and my brother Len and our whole family. Just them going in back‑to‑back is really beyond words.
The really cool thing about the Hall of Fame is this whole night, and every time they have one of these, it fixes so many things. It fixes relationships and it gives people a chance to say things that they normally wouldn't say, wouldn't be brave enough to say. I know I said things I wouldn't be brave enough to say.
But years pass, Pearson and Petty got to say their‑‑ you were the best, no, you were the best, those kind of things, and I think that's what really makes the Hall of Fame special. It gives everybody a chance to say things that you wish you'd have said, that needs to be said, and I'm really proud to be here tonight, and I'm proud of my dad and my uncle to be in here.

Q. Leonard, what did you know that Dale Inman did not know, and on the opposite side of that, what did Dale know that you didn't? You were the two guys that went at each other for so long.
LEONARD WOOD: Well, you know, I was chief mechanic and crew chief, so I don't know when I went to crew chief. I counted myself as chief mechanic from day one, so all of a sudden it's crew chief, so I was into cars and I built engines and I built race cars, any part about it for that matter. But he was a great team leader, organizer and called the races. He was one of the best there was in calling races. He kept up with everything that was going on. He just had a knack for going around and finding out what gear everybody was at. I know he'd come to me and say, what gear you got. I'd tell him and then someone would go ask him, well, he's gone.
He was just a great, intelligent person to call races, knowing when to pit, when to change tires, when not to and all that. He was great at that.
So I really don't know how much he knew about engines or whatever, but I just enjoyed competing with him, and I think it proves that this day and time you've got these guys that they think they're the worst enemy, the other driver is their worst enemy, but when it's all said and done, they're the best friend you've got.
Even though we was really rivals, Dale and I and the Pettys and the Wood Brothers, but at the end of the day they're the best friends we've got.

Q. Of all the success you guys had in NASCAR, I'm just curious, where does that triumph at the Indianapolis 500 rank amongst all the accomplishments that you and your family have had in this sport?
LEONARD WOOD: Well, I look at it as like all five Daytona 500s, all were very special, and then I include the Indianapolis, even though it wasn't our car, we pitted the car, and we got the most publicity in the least amount of time we ever got in our life. It went all over Europe, and the Ford Motor Company, they was wanting us to go up there and pit the car. They sent us all these clippings from Europe, and there must have been a stack as big as a catalog, just all the articles of the guys from down south pitting the Jimmy Clark car.

Q. Eddie, there's a lot of young fans who came into NASCAR in the '90s who maybe weren't familiar with the Wood Brothers in their heyday. 2011 you won the Daytona 500, 2012 Glenn goes in the Hall of Fame, tonight Leonard goes in the Hall of Fame. Can you talk about how this has sort of raised the visibility of your family with NASCAR fans?
EDDIE WOOD: Yeah, I mean, it really has. It probably really started when David got in the Hall of Fame, which was in '10, I guess, or '11. And we changed the‑‑ to honor David's accomplishments and his Hall of Fame induction, that's when we went back to the red and white car that they had had for so many years.
That seemed to just be the right thing to do that day. I'm not even sure how we came up with it, it was just like, let's just do it, and the guys at Motorcraft said, okay, that's fine.
That just started that whole ball rolling, and then we got fortunate enough to win the 500, and just like you said, dad getting in and then Leonard getting in. You know, there's a lot of young fans that are really, really young that probably‑‑ they don't know anything about what happened in the '60s and '70s and stuff like that, but that did‑‑ I mean, just the attention that we got since then has just been like it was back in the '70s with winning a lot of races, which is really, really cool.
I was a little bitty part of that in the '70s. I was his gopher, but I was there. So I remember all of that and how much fun it was and how special it was.
Winning that race kind of brought all that back.
And then the people, we heard from people after we won that race that we hadn't heard from in 40 years. I mean, it was just unbelievable the attention that it brought, which is‑‑ that's NASCAR. That's the way it works.

Q. To follow up, when they sat there and gave the list of drivers that the Wood Brothers had won with, you could just kind of hear the oohs and ahhs in room because there were a lot of people in there that know the history of the sport. Just hearing all those different drivers just kind of brought back memories, I guess, for a lot of people and people who didn't know it was just kind of mind‑blowing. Rusty was in here a little bit earlier, and he said that getting inducted made him feel different. I can't imagine you feeling any different compared to before or after, but do you feel different?
LEONARD WOOD: No, I don't feel any different. I've had the good fortune of inducting David, and so then we rode that out. I got a lot of fun out of that, and then Glen asked me, do you know who's going to induct him, and I said, no, I haven't heard. He said it was me.
So I had the pleasure of celebrating with him, and then he's had the pleasure of celebrating with me. So Kyle Petty, you know, wanted us both to go in separate, so it's‑‑ I'm sure glad we did because we've just sort of done double coverage. I celebrated with him and he celebrated with me, so we both got to celebrate.

Q. Did it give you any sense of things coming full circle to have a driver who's not yet 22 years old introduce you tonight?
LEONARD WOOD: Oh, I loved it. I thought that was the coolest thing. He's just‑‑ you mentioned what was my highlights. Well, the five Daytona 500s and Indianapolis was a big highlight, but him winning the Daytona 500 in 2011 was one of the most exciting winner's circles and most celebrated that I've ever been in in my life. I was so happy for Eddie, Len and Kim and Donnie Wingo to accomplish that, and like I said, I want to see them do it again this year.
He seems to me he's matured enough that I think he's got what it takes to win the Daytona 500.

Q. I know you were up at the Prelude to the Dream this past year and Trevor has done some racing on the dirt track at Charlotte. Are you involved with anything with him going up there for racing truck or otherwise? And do you have any dirt tracks from the past you really liked racing at?
LEONARD WOOD: You're talking about Prelude to the Dream?

Q. Well, this year the truck race up there.
LEONARD WOOD: Yeah. I mean, that's a very exciting race up there. I've been up there a couple or three times, and the crowd really comes out for it. I think it'll be a big plus for the Truck Series to do that. I mean, it seems like everybody gets so excited when they see those other cars run. So I'm sure the trucks are going to put on a great race.

Q. And were there any tracks you liked to go to over the years that were on dirt?
LEONARD WOOD: Well, I mean, we just started out on dirt, but I liked asphalt much better because it didn't get the cars near as dirty. (Laughter.)

Q. Eddie, if you could boil it down, what did that guy teach you?
EDDIE WOOD: Teach me? About everything I know. He taught me how to be articulate, detail, never take anything about a race car for granted because‑‑ I think he said it tonight, if you start taking race cars for granted, they'll turn around and bite you, and they will. But he always taught us to work until it was time to leave. You didn't have regular hours, you just‑‑ you worked all day, half the night, whatever, then my brother Len and I would hop in the truck and we'd go to the racetrack. It's kind of like having a weekly TV show. If you have a weekly TV show, it takes you a week to get ready. If you have a nightly one, it takes you a day, and that's the way race cars are. You work until it's time to load them and then you leave, and it's not really changed that much today.
But stuff like that. I mean, he just‑‑ he always taught me to be thorough and just pay attention and watch people. My brother and I, Len, we was‑‑ one of our jobs back in the '70s was to walk around and look at things and pick up pieces of tape. I remember one thing we did, he was looking for a particular exhaust port that was on a different make of engine, I don't remember whose it was, but‑‑ and they still do it today, I guess. You would take duct tape and tape up the exhaust ports before you put the headers on, like when they ship the engine, when they would take that tape off it would just go in the trash can. So we would sit and wait until they took that piece of tape off, get it and bring it back to him, then he would see the size of the intake port. And he didn't have to see the port, he knew by the size of what‑‑ what sized headers they had, what kind of cam shaft they had, how much lift they had, he could tell just by that size. And just stuff like that, just paying attention, like looking at a picture and you'd see a picture of something, say you see a picture of a race car in victory lane, well, you see the race car but he taught us to look at what's behind it, like the things behind it, like what's around it, and just paying attention.
KERRY THARP: Leonard and Eddie, congratulations to the Wood family. Again, we appreciate all y'all have done for the sport and continue to do for the sport. Best of luck at Daytona.
LEONARD WOOD: I would just like to add that Len, Eddie, they was great helpers to me, and we all three was the same age. (Laughter.)
EDDIE WOOD: I'll account to that because‑‑
LEONARD WOOD: We did work hard, we'd work fast, and then we'd get the job done and then we'd play a little bit.
EDDIE WOOD: Yeah, we played hard.
LEONARD WOOD: We had a few little toys we played with. Like I said, we were all the same age.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations.

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