Wood Brothers Won 5 Daytona 500s
by Tom Jensen January 25, 2021
NASCAR’s oldest continually operating team is one of the best performers on the sport’s biggest stage.
One of the best parts of being a NASCAR fan is witnessing moments in history so remarkable that they have to be true, because if they were made up no one would believe them.
Nowhere is that more apropos than at Daytona International Speedway, home to NASCAR’s most important race, the Daytona 500. There have been many great finishes and amazing moments at Daytona, including five victories by NASCAR’s oldest continually operating team, Wood Brothers Racing.
At least three of the Wood Brothers’ Daytona wins prominently featured you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up moments. The five Daytona 500 victories helped earn Hall of Fame spots for team founder Glen Wood (2012) and his brother and crew chief/engine builder Leonard Wood (2013).
Here are the tales of the five victories.
1963, Tiny Lund
In a sports-car race during Speedweeks at Daytona, Wood Brothers driver Marvin Panch flipped his Maserati in Turn 4, with his car bursting into flames. Journeyman driver DeWayne “Tiny” Lund was driving through the track’s infield tunnel when he saw Panch trapped beneath his burning car. Lund jumped out and helped save Panch’s life by freeing him from the car. Hospitalized with burns, Panch recommended to team founder Glen Wood that they hire Lund to drive in the Daytona 500.
Winless in 121 premier series starts coming into Daytona, Lund finished sixth in his 100-mile qualifying race, earning him the 12th starting spot for the Daytona 500. Hall of Famers Fred Lorenzen (2015) and Ned Jarrett (2011) dominated, but following strategy conceived by Leonard Wood, Lund made one fewer pit stop than Lorenzen and Jarrett, as he finished 24 seconds ahead of the Hall of Famers, with the top three the only drivers to finish on the lead lap. Lund ran the entire race on just one set of tires.
1968, Cale Yarborough
Although the record book shows that Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough (2012) won the 1968 Daytona 500 from the pole, the victory was not an easy one for the South Carolina native. After leading the first 12 laps, Yarborough had to bring the No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury to the pits twice so that crew chief Leonard Wood could repair a misfiring ignition system. While Wood successfully made the repairs, Yarborough briefly went a lap down.
In the second half of the race, LeeRoy Yarbrough (no relation) was dominant in a Mercury owned by Hall of Famer Junior Johnson (2010). Trailing Yarbrough by 3.2 seconds with just 10 laps to go, Yarborough mounted a late charge, making the race-winning pass on Lap 197 of the 200-lap race. A side note: Attrition was so bad that just 21 of the 50 starters completed the race and two of the pace cars were parked after overheating.
1972, A.J. Foyt
The easiest and most dominant Daytona 500 victory for the Wood Brothers came with IndyCar veteran A.J. Foyt behind the wheel of the team’s No. 21 Mercury. After qualifying on the outside of Row 1, the man known as “Super Tex” put one of the biggest drubbings ever on the 500 field, leading 167 of 200 laps and finishing nearly 2 laps ahead of second-place Charlie Glotzbach and 6 laps in front of third place Jim Vandiver.
“I’ve won at Indy three times and I’ve won at Le Mans,” Foyt said after his victory. “I’ve always wanted to win the Daytona 500 because I feel this is the greatest stock-car race in the world.”
I’ve always wanted to win the Daytona 500 because I feel this is the greatest stock-car race in the world.
— A.J. Foyt
1976, David Pearson
One of the most famous Daytona 500 finishes of all time took place between a pair of Hall of Famers who also happen to be the top two in career premier series race wins. The race came down to the last lap between Richard Petty (2010), who owns a record 200 victories, and David Pearson (2011), who ranks second with 105 victories. The two made contact in Turn 4 and crashed. Petty’s Dodge spun helplessly into the infield, where he sat, his car refusing to fire up. Pearson, meanwhile, was able to restart his Wood Brothers Racing Mercury and limped to the finish line and score a historic victory.
“I’m not sure what happened,” said Pearson. “He (Petty) went beneath me and his car broke loose. I got into the wall and came off and hit him. That’s what started all the spinning, I think.”
“I told David I was sorry it happened,” added Petty. “I didn’t want my boys to get mad at him. If there was anybody to blame, it was me.”
2011, Trevor Bayne
As improbable as Tiny Lund’s Daytona 500 victory was, and as amazing the 1976 finish between David Pearson and Richard Petty was, the triumph by Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers in the 2011 Daytona 500 almost defies belief. Bayne, who had turned 20 years old the day before the race, was making only his second premier series start. As for the team, the Wood Brothers hadn’t won in nearly a decade and was only running a part-time schedule.
And yet the impossible happened. After leader David Ragan was penalized for changing lanes too early on a restart in overtime, Bayne took the lead on Lap 203 of the 208-lap race to score one of the most stunning upsets in all of sports history and not just Daytona 500 history. “Are you kidding me?” Bayne yelled into his microphone after crossing the start-finish line to win NASCAR’s biggest race.
Hall of Famer and FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip (2012) summed it up perfectly: “This is unbelievable,” Waltrip said. “This is fairy tale stuff. Like ‘Once upon a time…’”
Yes, it was unbelievable. And that’s what made it so special.