For every time that flamboyant Tim Richmond sought the limelight, soft-spoken Glen Wood avoided it. Richmond was most comfortable in front of a microphone, Wood most at home under the hood of a race car. Wood has been married to his beloved Bernice for half a century, while Richmond enjoyed the single life.
Polar opposites? Not really.
There were also similarities. Both men were intense competitors, both were among the best ever to drive a stock car, and both will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on Thursday night, April 18th, 2002.
A native of Ashland, Ohio, Tim Richmond began his career in open wheel cars, racing USAC sprints as well as the Silver Crown Series. He moved up to Indy Cars in 1980, winning Rookie of the Year honors for the Indianapolis 500 that year. The image of Richmond hitching a ride back to the pits on the car of winner Johnny Rutherford made every highlight film.
Richmond’s greatest fame and stardom came in stock cars, however. He drove five races in 1981 for D. K. Ulrich, then gained Rookie of the Year honors in 1981. His first two wins came in 1982 when he drove for J. D. Stacy. Richmond moved to the Blue Max team of Raymond Beadle in 1983, winning twice in a three-year span.
It was in 1986 that Richmond, by now driving for Rick Hendrick and under the wing of veteran crew chief Harry Hyde, emerged as one of the very best. His relationship with Hyde got off to a rocky start before mutual respect set in, and the team began to win. In the last 17 races of 1986, they won seven times.
However, by 1987 a virus had arisen that would claim Richmond’s life two years later. He ran eight races that year, winning at Pocono and Riverside, but raced for the last time at Michigan in August.
Glen Wood, known in his early racing days as “Woodchopper” because he bought the sawmill he had worked in as a teenager, started the famous Wood Brothers team in 1950 to run Modifieds on dirt. Glen was chosen as the driver, and was so good at it that what had started out simply as fun quickly became serious business.
With Glen behind the wheel, the team was gaining recognition all over the southeast. In 1954, he won the North Carolina sportsman championship, and three years later, he finished third in points in NASCAR’s high-profile convertible division. The likeable Wood was chosen as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in 1959. Winston-Salem’s Bowman Gray Stadium was Wood’s favorite track, and he won there three times in 1960. Wood longed, however, to get from behind the wheel and under the hood, and he raced only two times in 1961, winning once and finishing third in the other.
It was then he hung up his helmet for good, and assumed the duties of crew chief for a list of drivers that reads like a “Who’s Who” in stock car racing. In all, 17 of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers have driven a Wood Brothers-prepared car at one time or another. Wood, himself is also on that elite list.
Perhaps the thing that earned the Wood Brothers team their greatest accolades was their lightning fast pit stops. They won many a race by beating competitors out of the pits. And they proved they could work their magic in other venues as well, crewing for Jim Clark when he won the 1965 Indianapolis 500.
Richmond and Wood will be joined in their induction by four other classmates, designer and builder Ettore Bugatti, Formula One and Can-Am champion Denis Hulme, six-time winner of the 24 Hours of LeMans Jacky Ickx and Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki. Also honored on April 18th will be the 2001 Driver of the Year, Jeff Gordon.
Tickets for the formal gala remain on sale at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame office thru Friday, April 12th. Individual tickets are $100 each, and include a reception, a sit-down dinner, the induction ceremony and another reception following the ceremony. For more information, please call (256) 362-5002.