If not for Edsel Ford, Wood Brothers might have folded
While everyone — rightly so — were singing the praises of 20-year-old Trevor Bayne on his Sunday afternoon drive that made him the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, not enough was said about the Wood Brothers team that got him to the big race in the first place.
|Edsel Ford came to the rescue of Leonard (above) and the rest of the Wood Brothers family|
The Wood family have been around NASCAR since stock cars were being raced on the sand of Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach.
Through the good times and the bad times, the family endured with such championship drivers as David Pearson and Bill Elliott.
But over the past few seasons Wood Brothers Racing had fallen on hard times and Bayne winning in the No. 21 Ford at Daytona was something of a fairy tale ending to a story that was told after the race by second-generation family member Eddie Wood.
In involved another famous automobile family — the Fords — and current company chairman Edsel Ford, and how he helped the team survive when it was having trouble even qualifying for NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
“Probably the lowest point was missing (the Daytona 500) in ’08,” Eddie said. “Our family had been coming down here since the ‘50s and had never missed one until we missed that one.
“I think that’s probably the lowest point for me was that day.
“It’s almost like when you miss a race, especially the Daytona 500, it’s like somebody died. Until you go through it, you can’t put it into words, but when you walk through the garage and you see people you see every week, they’re afraid to look at you.
“It’s like they don’t know what to say. Like you walk up to them and say, ‘Hey, we missed the race, OK.’ But it’s tearing you apart inside.
“Len and I dug in and we visited a lot of people. We got with our friends at Ford Motor Company. We were at Pocono that year and Edsel Ford was looking for a phone number for a four-star general that we were friends with and he called me.
“He said, ‘Why haven’t you called me? What’s going on?’ And I said, ‘Mr. Ford. I’m just ashamed to. We’ve run so poorly and we’re missing races.’
“He said, ‘We’ve got to fix that. I’m going to have someone call you in the morning.’ So the next morning, which was Wednesday, I think, Mr. Jim Farley from Ford Motor Company called us and he said, ‘We’ve got to fix your program. Why don’t you come up here?’ (to Detroit).
“So within two hours we had no clothes, we wore what we had on and headed to the airport and left just like we were.
“We went to Michigan and bought clothes to go visit Mr. Farley — stayed up there two days to get to him and we met with him and told him our problems and it was just like talking to someone you’ve known for years and he said, ‘OK, we’re gonna fix this.’
“There’s a lot of stuff in between that and now, but that’s how we started to come back.”
That is how Edsel Ford helped the Wood Brothers get back into Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway. Canoe Motorsports/QMI Agency