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Keeping Pace

Wood Brothers’ Drivers Dominate The No. 21’s Rich History

No. 21 Motocraft Ford (Bill Elliott) (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)
No. 21 Motocraft Ford (Bill Elliott) (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)

This is the fifth installment in an occasional series of 2009 releases highlighting some of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ most renowned car numbers and their performance heritage. This installment takes a look at the No. 21.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 11, 2009) – Peruse the entries for Sunday’s LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway and you’ll find a welcomed listing: Bill Elliott, in the No. 21 Ford, fielded by Wood Brothers Racing. That one line has it all: Legendary driver, legendary team – and a legendary number.

The number has visited Victory Lane 90 times in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, a total shared among 17 drivers. No other car number has had so many different winners.

Arguably, no other car number has had so many great drivers behind the wheel. David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, A.J. Foyt, Tim Flock, Marvin Panch and Curtis Turner all drove the 21. Pearson had the most victories in the ride, 43, that total coming in 157 starts, another high for the 21.

Elliott is the latest of the greatest to take over the No. 21, albeit in a limited role. Both Elliott and the Wood Brothers compete part-time these days.

Michigan is a good fit for the team’s schedule, considering the car’s history at the 2-mile track. In 1969, Yarborough was in the No. 21 and won the track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Pearson had eight MIS wins in the 21 during the 1970s. Dale Jarrett drove the 21 in ’91 at MIS, capturing his very first NASCAR Sprint Cup win. And then there’s Elliott, with seven MIS wins in his storied career, although none came driving the 21.

The Wood Brothers first fielded the No. 21 in 1953, with team founder Glen Wood in the seat.

“Somehow along the way we ended up with 21,” said Glen’s son Len, now a part-owner of the team. “The story goes that there was somebody from South Carolina who had 21 and it was really running fast, so we numbered our car 21 in hopes it would be fast as well.

“We always like to do well in front of Ford [people] at Michigan. When you go to Michigan you think of Detroit, and when you think of Detroit you think of the manufacturers and for us it’s Ford. I won’t say we try harder there, but we certainly give it as good a shot as we can.”

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.