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NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood dies at 93

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Wood Brothers Racing patriarch Glen Wood, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012, died Friday. He was 93.

The team announced his passing Friday morning on social media.

Wood was a link to NASCAR’s early years.

A former driver – he won four times at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. – Glen Wood founded the Wood Brothers Racing team with brothers Leonard and Delano. In Wood’s first win at Bowman Gray Stadium in April 1960, he beat a field that included former champions Richard Petty, Rex White, Ned Jarrett and Lee Petty. Wood’s history also includes seeing Tim Flock race with a monkey and having Ralph Earnhardt drive convertible and sportsman cars for the team.

His racing career nearly ended as soon as it started. Wood and a friend paid $50 for a 1938 Ford coupe to go racing. The Stuart, Virginia, native ran his first race at a track near Martinsville. During the heat race, his car was hit and bent the rear-end housing. After the race, Wood and his friend hooked the race car to the vehicle they were driving and headed home.

But on the trip, the axle eventually broke, and the damage caused spilling fuel to ignite. The fire engulfed the back of the race car.

“Every once in a while one of them (gas cans) would blow up, and we would be afraid to get close to it because of that,” Wood recalled in a 2011 interview. “Finally we got it unhooked and got the car away from (the one pulling it) and let it burn because we couldn’t do anything about it.”

They salvaged the engine and repaired the car. A few weeks later, Wood was back racing.

While Leonard is often credited as the father of the modern pit stop, Glen was equally as responsible. The two developed a communication and strategy plan that was one of the best in NASCAR for several decades.

Wood Brothers Racing, which has 99 Cup victories, remains the oldest continuous racing team in NASCAR. Among the drivers that have raced for the team are Hall of Famers David Pearson, Curtis Turner, Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough, Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott.

Born on July 18, 1925, Glen retired as a driver at the age of 39, assuming full-time duties as the team’s chief administrator, a role that he handled for nearly 30 years before relegating the role to sons Eddie and Len.

Through the years, Wood’s name mysteriously changed. His birth certificate lists his first name as Glenn, but somewhere along the way the last letter was dropped.

Wood received the colorful nickname of “Wood Chopper” early on for how he used to cut timber at a Virginia sawmill. But when Glen started racing, that nickname followed him and became somewhat of a calling card for his winning ways.

“When he pulled into a racetrack, and the announcer would say, ‘Here comes the Wood Chopper from Stuart, Virginia,’ you knew you had a challenger that night,” Ned Jarrett, a fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, said of Glen Wood in a 2012 NASCAR Hall video of Glen Wood’s career. “Glen Wood, he was the master.”

Kyle Petty, who drove for the Wood Brothers during his career, was a Hall of Fame voter when the group discussed who to induct in the 2012 class. Behind the closed doors, Petty made an impassioned speech for the voters to select Wood for induction.

“I think people forget the breadth of somebody’s career sometimes when it spans as long as his,” Kyle Petty said that day in 2011.

In a statement, Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors for Ford Motor Company, said of Wood’s passing:

“This is a difficult day for all of us at Ford Motor Company. Glen Wood was the founding patriarch of the oldest continuously operating NASCAR Cup Series team and we consider Wood Brothers Racing a part of our family, the Ford Family. The Wood Brothers race team, by any measure, has been one of the most successful racing operations in the history of NASCAR. Most importantly for our company, Glen and his family have remained loyal to Ford throughout their 69-year history.

“Glen was an innovator who, along with his family, changed the sport itself.  But, more importantly, he was a true Southern gentleman who was quick with a smile and a handshake and he was a man of his word.   I will cherish the memories of our chats in the NASCAR garage, at their race shop in Mooresville or the racing museum in Stuart.  My most memorable moment with Glen was with he and his family in the #21 pit box watching Trevor Bayne win the 2011 Daytona 500 and the celebration that followed in victory lane.”

In a statement, NASCAR’s Jim France said: “In every way, Glen Wood was an original. In building the famed Wood Brothers Racing at the very beginnings of our sport, Glen laid a foundation for NASCAR excellence that remains to this day. As both a driver and a team owner, he was, and always will be, the gold standard. But personally, even more significant than his exemplary on-track record, he was a true gentleman and a close confidant to my father, mother and brother. On behalf of the France family and all of NASCAR, I send my condolences to the entire Wood family for the loss of a NASCAR giant.”

In a statement, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said: “Everyone at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is saddened by the passing of Glen Wood. The word ‘legendary’ sometimes is overused, but it absolutely fits Glen and the team that he and his brother, Leonard, founded and built into a powerhouse in NASCAR. Wood Brothers Racing has such a deep, rich connection to IMS through its multiple entries in the Brickyard 400 and by serving as the pit crew for the Lotus/Ford that Jim Clark drove to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. Glen’s legacy as a fine driver and motorsports innovator will be matched only by his enduring status as one of racing’s true gentlemen and class acts.”

Jerry Bonkowski contributed to this report

Hall of Famer Bill Elliott to drive at Road America for GMS Racing

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – GMS Racing announced Saturday that 62-year-old Bill Elliott will drive the team’s No. 23 Xfinity car Aug. 25 at Road America.

It will be the NASCAR Hall of Famer’s first race in NASCAR since July 2012 at Daytona International Speedway. His last Xfinity race was October 2005 at Memphis.

“When this opportunity came up … I had to jump on it,” said Bill Elliott in a statement from the team. “Chase (Elliott) has ran a handful of races for the team so I figured I would give it a shot at Road America. (GMS President Mike) Beam and I have worked together in the past, so it will be exciting to get back behind the wheel and bring back some old memories.”

Elliott, the 1988 Cup champion, is a part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015, joining Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White. Elliott had 44 Cup wins and 55 poles in his career. His lone Xfinity win came in 1993 at Watkins Glen International.

Beam was Elliott’s crew chief in 1990 and 1993-94 and for numerous races in 1995, ’96 and ’97.

“We are thrilled to welcome Bill (Elliott) to the GMS Racing family,” said president of GMS Racing, Mike Beam in a statement from the team. “Bill has many years in NASCAR and it’s going to be great to watch him come back, especially in GMS equipment. Bill and I worked together back in the day and had a lot of success so hopefully we can pick up where we left off and create some more great memories.”

Because Elliott has never raced in NASCAR at Road America, the Hall of Famer will need to attend the rookie meeting that weekend.

Asked if he had any advice for his dad, Chase Elliott said with a smile: “No.”

Chase Elliott said he’d like to attend that weekend. It is an off-weekend for Cup, so will Chase try to find a ride to race his dad?

“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest with you,” Chase Elliott said. “The tough thing is you want to go and put a real solid effort together and you just hate to throw a car and a team together up there to go do it. I’m not sure, you never know. There’s still a few weeks out. No plans right now.”

Chase Elliott said he and his dad have raced against each other in late models but not recently. Chase said that his dad has done some vintage racing. He ran at Road Atlanta in March. He participated in a test day at Road America but mechanical issues prevented him from competing.

Fellow Georgia racer David Ragan is excited to see Elliott back in a car in NASCAR.

“Bill Elliott is timeless,” Ragan said. “That’s awesome … Bill’s obviously a hero for a lot of Georgia racers, including myself. It’s crazy to think that he has had a NASCAR license longer than I’ve been alive. That’s cool. I’ll definitely tune in and be watching.”

The Road America Xfinity race will air on NBCSN. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green on Aug. 25. Race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET.

 

 

Cole Custer, Jeremy Clements reveal Darlington Xfinity throwback schemes

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Cole Custer and Stewart-Haas Racing will honor A.J. Foyt with a special throwback scheme for the Sept. 1 Xfinity race at Darlington Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Custer’s car will pay tribute to the car Foyt drove and flipped in 1965 at Riverside International Raceway. With his brakes failing, Foyt had no way to stop. To avoid hitting Junior Johnson’s car, Foyt drove off the track and down an embankment, flipping several times. Foyt was knocked unconscious and declared dead by the first medic on the scene. Parnelli Jones, who had fallen out of the race, saw Foyt move and removed mud from Foyt’s mouth to allow him to breathe.

Two months later, Foyt won the pole at Phoenix for the USAC Champ Car Series. He won the won that year for the Indianapolis 500 and then won the NASCAR race at Daytona in July.

Just like Custer, Foyt ran a No. 00 car in that Riverside race.

“I said after that wreck that I’d never run a number that reads the same way when it’s upside down. I only ran it a couple times, but after Riverside, that was it,” Foyt said in a statement from SHR. “Cole seems to have had a lot more luck in the No. 00 than me, or at least more starts where all four wheels stayed on the ground. But I do appreciate the tribute. I remember all my racecars, and I remember that No. 00 Ford being fast before the crash.”

Said car owner Tony Stewart in a statement from the team: “A.J. is my hero, and a great friend who I’ve known for a long time. It didn’t matter what it was, but if it had four wheels and went fast, A.J. would drive it. NASCAR stock cars, USAC stock cars, sprints and midgets, Indy cars, IMSA sports cars – A.J. won in all of them. We both kind of came up through the racing ranks in the same way. He just did it in a different era.

“I think it’s pretty cool that Cole is paying tribute to A.J. with this throwback paint scheme at Darlington. It obviously has some history behind it, and it’s probably the best example of how tough and resilient A.J. is.”

Also Wednesday, Jeremy Clements‘ throwback scheme was revealed for the Darlington Xfinity race.

His’ Xfinity car will pay tribute to 1960 Cup champion Rex White, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013.

Former NASCAR driver James Hylton, son killed in auto accident

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — James Hylton, the 1966 Cup rookie of the year, and his son were killed in an auto accident in Georgia, NASCAR confirmed Saturday afternoon.

Hylton was 83. His son James Harvey Hylton Jr. also was killed in the accident on I-85 in Franklin County, Georgia. No other details were available. Georgia State Patrol declined to provide details to NBC Sports about the incident, stating a report would be available Monday.

The Roanoke Times reported that Hylton and his son and crew chief Terry Strange were traveling back to South Carolina after Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway when the accident happened around 6 a.m. Saturday, according to Hylton’s ex-wife Evelyn Hylton.

MORE: Racing community reacts to death of James Hylton

She told The Roanoke Times that a police officer came to her door Saturday morning and informed her what happened.

“[The officer] said Terry … told them that he thought James was having a heart attack and he looked over at him and lost control of the truck and went across the median and then across the other lane of traffic and hit an embankment,” Evelyn Hylton said in a phone interview with The Roanoke Times. “The truck, towing a big trailer with a race car on it, thousands of pounds, you have to be really careful.”

NASCAR and ARCA issued a statement on Hylton’s death.

“Racing competitively in parts of six decades, James Hylton’s dedication, passion and longevity in motorsports is virtually unmatched. Hylton won the rookie of the year at NASCAR’s highest level, the 1972 race at Talladega Superspeedway and regularly contended for championships during the early years of his career. His racing influence continued into the ARCA series, where he competed as a driver and, most recently, a car owner. We have lost a truly special member of the racing family and a beloved figure among generations of competitors and race fans alike. We extend our deepest condolences to the Hylton family on the tragic loss of James Hylton and his son James Jr.”

Hylton was born on his family’s Virginia farm in 1934 and learned to drive on his father’s Ford Model T. During his motorsports career, he worked as a mechanic for NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White and as a crew chief for Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett before becoming a driver.

Hylton, an independent driver, won two Cup races in 602 career starts. He won at Richmond in 1970 and at Talladega in 1972. He last drove in a Cup race in 1993 at Darlington Raceway. Hylton finished second in points in 1966, ’67 and ’71.

He made his NASCAR Premier Series debut in the 1964 Old Dominion 400 at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia. Hylton finished 19th in a 20-car field. Jarrett won that race and was among four NASCAR Hall of Famers in that race (David Pearson was second, Richard Petty was eighth and Wendell Scott was 18th).

Hylton made his first start in ARCA in 1986 and climbed out of the car for the final time in that series in 2013 after running the entire schedule. He competed in 175 ARCA races with a best finish of 14th three times. Hylton was a car owner in ARCA. Brad Smith finished 31st in Friday’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

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Friday 5: Questions about size of future Hall of Fame classes

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After NASCAR celebrates the ninth Hall of Fame class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), questions may soon arise about how many inductees should be honored annually.

NASCAR inducts five people each year. When NASCAR announced eligibility changes in 2013, a former series executive said that the sanctioning body would “give strong consideration” to if five people should be inducted each year and if there should be a veteran’s committee “after the 10th class is seated.’’

The 10th class — which Jeff Gordon will be eligible for and expected to headline— will be selected later this year and honored in 2019. That gives NASCAR a year to determine what changes to make if officials follow the schedule mentioned in 2013. NASCAR has discussed different scenarios as part of its examination of the Hall of Fame.

Among the questions NASCAR could face is should no more than three people be inducted a year? Should only nominees who receive a specific percentage of the vote be inducted? Should other methods be considered in determining who enters the Hall? 

Only one of the last five classes had all five inductees selected on at least 50 percent of the ballots. Five people in the last three classes each received less than 50 percent of the vote.

The challenge is that if NASCAR reduced the number of people inducted after the Class of 2019, it could create a logjam in the coming years.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (provided Edwards does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2020.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (provided Kenseth does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2021.

Stewart would appear to be a lock for his year and it seems likely Earnhardt would make it as well his first year.

If the Hall of Fame classes were cut to three a year, and Stewart, Earnhardt and Kenseth each were selected in those two years, that would leave three spots during that time for others.

The nominees for this year’s class included former champions Bobby Labonte and Alan Kulwicki, crew chief Harry Hyde (56 wins, 88 poles) and Waddell Wilson (22 wins, 32 poles), car owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs and Cup drivers Buddy Baker, Davey Allison and Ricky Rudd.

A 2019 Class that might feature Jeff Gordon, Harry Hyde, Buddy Baker and two others would still leave some worthy candidates who might not make it for a couple of years if the number of inductees is reduced.

Of course, there are those who haven’t been nominated that some would suggest should be, including Smokey Yunick, Humpy Wheeler, Buddy Parrott, Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant and Tim Richmond. That could further jumble who makes it if the number of inductees is reduced.

Those are just some of the issues NASCAR could face as it examines if any changes need to be made.

2. Hall of Fame Classes and vote totals

Note: NASCAR did not release vote totals for the inaugural class (2010 with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Bill France Sr., and Bill France Jr.). Below are the other classes with the percent of ballots each inductee was on:

2018 Class

Robert Yates (94 percent)

Red Byron (74 percent)

Ray Evernham (52 percent)

Ken Squier (40 percent)

Ron Hornaday Jr. (38 percent)

2017 Class

Benny Parsons (85 percent)

Rick Hendrick (62 percent)

Mark Martin (57 percent)

Raymond Parks (53 percent)

Richard Childress (43 percent)

2016 Class

Bruton Smith (68 percent)

Terry Labonte (61 percent)

Curtis Turner (60 percent)

Jerry Cook (47 percent)

Bobby Isaac (44 percent)

2015 Class

Bill Elliott (87 percent)

Wendell Scott (58 percent)

Joe Weatherly (53 percent)

Rex White (43 percent)

Fred Lorenzen (30 percent)

2014 Class

Tim Flock (76 percent)

Maurice Petty (67 percent)

Dale Jarrett (56 percent)

Jack Ingram (53 percent)

Fireball Roberts (51 percent)

2013 Class

Herb Thomas (57 percent)

Leonard Wood (57 percent)

Rusty Wallace (52 percent)

Cotten Owens (50 percent)

Buck Baker (39 percent)

2012 Class

Cale Yarborough (85 percent)

Darrell Waltrip (82 percent)

Dale Inman (78 percent)

Richie Evans (50 percent)

Glen Wood (44 percent)

2011 Class

David Pearson (94 percent)

Bobby Allison (62 percent)

Lee Petty (62 percent)

Ned Jarrett (58 percent)

Bud Moore (45 percent)

3. Charter Switcheroo

Five charters have changed hands since last season. One will be with its third different team in the three years of the charter system.

In 2016, Premium Motorsports leased its charter to HScott Motorsports so the No. 46 team of Michael Annett could use it.

The charter was returned after that season, and Premium Motorsports sold the charter to Furniture Row Racing for the No. 77 car of Erik Jones for 2017.

With Jones moving to Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing not finding enough sponsorship to continue the team, the charter was sold to JTG Daugherty for the No. 37 team of Chris Buescher for this season. (The No. 37 team had leased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing last year).

So that will make the third different team the charter, which originally belonged to Premium Motorsports, has been with since the system was created.

4. Dodge and NASCAR?

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne excited fans when he said in Dec. 2016 about Dodge that “it is possible we can come back to NASCAR.’’

One report last year stated that Dodge decided not to return to NASCAR, and another countered that report.

While questions remain on if Dodge will return to NASCAR, Marchionne announced this week at the Detroit Auto Show that he’ll step down next year, and that Fiat Chrysler will release a business plan in June that will go through 2022. The company will announce a successor to Marchionne sometime after that.

Marchionne said, according to The Associated Press, that the U.S. tax cuts passed in December are worth $1 billion annually to Fiat Chrysler.

A Wall Street Journal story this week stated that Fiat Chrysler makes most of its profit from its Jeep and Ram brands, writing that those brands “have been on a roll as U.S. buyers shift to these kinds of light trucks and away from sedans, which is a segment the company has largely abandoned.’’

5. NMPA Hall of Fame

The National Motorsports Hall of Fame will induct four people into its Hall of Fame on Sunday night. Those four will be drivers Terry Labonte and Donnie Allison and crew chiefs Jake Elder and Buddy Parrott.

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