Jon Wood's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Debut Continues 57-Year Legacy of Wood Brothers Racing
DEARBORN, Mich., March 7 – It’s been 43 years since a member of the Wood family has driven a Wood Brothers racecar.
That long drought will come to an end as Jon Wood, grandson of team founder Glen Wood, makes his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series debut behind the wheel of the famed No. 21 Ford Fusion this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s the top level of NASCAR,” said Jon Wood. “It’s the place that everybody wants to be and there are only 43 guys that can do it, and to know that I’m guaranteed to start for certain in that race on Sunday is pretty special.”
What also makes it special is that Jon Wood’s grandfather, Glen, not only founded the team, but also served as its driver at the NASCAR level from 1953 until 1964. Glen, and his brother Leonard, are also Spirit of Ford Award winners, an honor given by Ford Motor Company for lifetime achievement in auto racing.
Founded in 1950, The Wood Brothers Racing team is now the oldest continuously operating Nextel Cup Series team in NASCAR with 96 total victories at stock car racing’s highest level. “When you win one, you think, ‘You always wanted to win just one,’ but that doesn’t stop it because you want to win another one,” said Glen Wood. “That’s sort of where it got started.”
While not a driver himself, Jon’s father Eddie, who now co-owns the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing team with his brother Len, has had a front seat to Jon’s career since he began racing in go-karts. “I’m a little nervous, of course,” said Eddie. “Not so much for me, but for Jon.”
Currently competing in his third full season of NASCAR Busch Series racing, Jon knows there is more to advancing to the Nextel Cup level than running additional laps. Not only are the cars different, but also the amount of pressure on drivers and teams to do well. “I’ve tested the Cup car and I know the difference in the way they drive. They’re a little tougher to drive, but I think the biggest thing is handling all the pressure,” said Jon. “It’s just as much mental as it is physical.”
Jon has constantly been eager to move up to the next level of competition throughout his racing career. “He was always ready to move to the next biggest and fastest one and I was always trying to pull him back,” said Eddie. “I think that is what you really need in a racecar driver. You don’t want to have to motivate these guys. You want to have to pull back on them all the time and that’s the way we’ve always been with Jon.”
While watching Jon grow and mature, Eddie never doubted that his son would one day carry the family banner on the race track. “It’s something that’s kind of been in the back of our minds since he was in go-karting like, ‘What if, what if, what if,’ and now it’s here and that makes it even more special,” said Eddie. “No one with the last name Wood has actually driven the 21 since my dad did, so it’s pretty special.”
In addition to his father, Jon also has the guidance of his grandfather, named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers and a racing innovator whose team is credited with creating the modern pit stop. “I guess I’m probably more nervous than Eddie is about it,” said Glen. “But I’m proud he’s accomplished what he has (Jon) and I’m sure he’ll do well.”
As the next generation of Wood Brothers Racing hits the track this weekend, Jon seeks to continue the racing legacy built by his father and grandfather. “Driving for your family’s team – mainly your dad – is a double-edged sword,” said Jon. “Obviously, any young driver and owner-driver for that matter can understand that your biggest fan is most likely your dad but your biggest critic is your dad as well. It’s a lot of pressure. I’m not gonna lie.”
Walking into the team’s racing shop with his last name on the building, Jon is determined to help make what is inside that shop better. “I take a lot of pride in what this family has done.”
The Fusions are prepped, the team is ready to go, and this weekend, Jon Wood will finally have his chance to add a new chapter to his family’s racing history.