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Glen Wood extends Speedweeks streak to 71 years

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

When it comes to accomplishments in the NASCAR world, Glen Wood has run up quite an impressive list.

His race teams have run 1,474 races in the series now known the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and won 98 of them along with 116 poles. His drivers have led 24,580 laps, and back in the day he posted many of those numbers himself, when he was the team's main driver.

He's in numerous Halls of Fame and has been the recipient of many an honor over the years.

But Wood also holds another record, an unofficial but undisputed one that he manages to extend each year, even at 91 years old. When Wood arrived in Daytona Beach this week, it marked his 71st consecutive appearance at Speedweeks.

He made his first trip in 1947, riding in a 1940 Ford along with his future father-in-law, Leonard Moricle and his future brother-in-law Lane Moricle.

This year rode in a 2014 Ford Flex. "It's a good vehicle to travel in," Wood said. "It's got plenty of room, plenty of power and it gets great gas mileage."

Back in the day, the trip to Daytona Beach meant following two-lane highways such as U.S. 1 and U.S. 301 through small towns in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. That meandering route often took a day or more. Today, with interstate highways streamlining the way, it's a 10-hour ride, give or take.

Over the years, the combined trips from the Woods' home base in Stuart, Va., to Daytona have amounted to more than 85,000 miles. Glen Wood says he's made every trip in a Ford vehicle and has yet to suffer a breakdown along the way.

"I guess I've been lucky about that," Wood said.

He did get one speeding ticket.

"They had a trick traffic light in Ludowici, Georgia," he said.

Wood isn't the only one to have suffered that fate. Ludowici was a notorious speed trap. Officials there used a switch inside a local barber shop to turn the traffic light to red just as an unsuspecting motorist approached it.

The locals knew a shortcut by that intersection, so only unsuspecting outsiders fell victim to the trickery.

The practice finally ended when city officials in other towns complained that motorists were avoiding the entire area. Then-Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox intervened and put a stop to the speed trap, prompting an enterprising local songwriter to pen the ballad: "Lester Goes to Ludowici."

Getting through Ludowici wasn't the only part of the early trips that gave Wood reason to be up on the wheel.

"In south Georgia and north Florida, there were long stretches of wooden bridges, built like piers in the ocean, that went over miles of swamp," he said. "I'd never seen anything like that."

Those boards rattled as cars passed over them. Some occasionally cracked under the load.

There were good times too, like in 1951, when Glen and Bernece Wood spent their honeymoon traveling to Speedweeks. It was like a double date as Wood's partner Chris Williams and his bride Carolyn, joined them on the honeymoon trip.

"We were about the same age," Wood said. "Bernece and I got married in Stuart, but Carolyn was going to school in Richmond, so Chris picked her up and we met them in Danville, and they got married in South Carolina."

"It took a while to find a preacher, and we spent that night in Augusta, Georgia."

Wood said he and Bernece recently looked at the photos from that trip.

"We all looked kind of slim, and even today I'm not very big," he said.

Wood says he's never been one to spend a lot of time off the road in his travels. He prefers to grab a quick bite to eat and get back on the road. He says his brother Leonard Wood often complained that he was in too big a hurry.

"Leonard says I wait until I cross the Florida line before I stop to get anything to eat," he said. "At least that's what they tell on me. They call me 'the camel' for doing that."

Wood has made several runs to Daytona in his 2004 Jaguar XJ, which is perfectly suited for a man who can go a ways between stops.

"That car will go all the way to Florida without filling up," he said. "It's the only car I've ever had that will go 600 miles on a tank of gas. It's probably the fanciest car we ever had, and we wouldn't have gotten it had it not been a Ford-owned company at the time."

Besides the trip down and back, there have been some great memories from the races at Daytona. Wood was one of the better drivers on the old Beach/Road Course that preceded Daytona International Speedway. He won the final three Sportsman races there, all from the pole.

At the speedway, his drivers have won 15 points-paying races, including five Daytona 500s.

"It would be nice to get another one," Wood said. "But it ain't easy these days.

"It also would be nice to add to my streak of Speedweeks appearances, but that ain't easy either," he said. "It's hard to believe that for 71 years I haven't been sick or injured or something," he said. "It's quite a feat to do that for so long. I'm not going to say this is the last time, but it's getting harder every time.

"It's a little bit of a chore to get around, but for the sake of keeping the streak going, I'll manage."

(Wood Brothers Racing)