BUFFALO RIDGE, Va. – Ray Lee Wood, a member of the famous Wood family that has participated in the NASCAR Cup Series since 1950, died May 5 at the age of 92.
Wood was the third son of J. Walter and Ada Wood and the brother of Wood Brothers Racing founders Glenn and Leonard Wood. He also had two other brothers, Clay and Delano, and a sister, Crystal.
Wood spent the last years of his life as the caretaker of a giant beech tree that his brothers Glenn and Leonard used for shade and as an engine hoist during their early years in motorsports.
When Wood Brothers Racing entered NASCAR, Ray Lee Wood worked as a tire changer on a number of race cars driven by some of the sports biggest names.
the measured mile in a hopped-up street car, topping the speed chart for that day. When the team won the 1963 NASCAR Cup Series owner’s championship, Ray Lee Wood was the car of owner of record and the trophy the team received bears his name.
He was also an important part of the team’s first victory in the Daytona 500, which came in 1963. The team utilized a unique pit strategy that included the team running the entire race on one set of tires. When questions arose about the wear of the tires during the final pit stop, Ray Lee Wood advised his brothers the tires were good to go.
His advice resulted in a trip to victory lane at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Two years later Ray Lee Wood would serve in a similar role for the Lotus Ford team and driver Jim Clark at the Indianapolis 500. He checked the tires on each pit stop and advised the race team to continue, resulting in a victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500.
Shortly after the triumph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ray Lee Wood made the decision to leave motorsports. He finished the season with the team, which ended with a victory at North Carolina Motor Speedway with his friend Curtis Turner at the wheel of the Wood Brothers entry.
He never attended another NASCAR race following the conclusion of the 1965 season, instead choosing to spend his Sunday’s at home and at his local church.
“He started a rose garden, and the next thing you know he had 500 of them, and then a thousand,” said Eddie Wood, one of the current owners of Wood Brothers Racing. “He bought two expensive Persian cats, Sam and George, and kept getting more until he had 50 show cats.
“He got into Siberian Huskies and had giant goldfish… Whatever he did, he went at it 100 percent.”