Glen Wood back at the beach, where he belongs

— -- DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Woodchopper is showing off photos of, well, chopped wood.

"I bought this property near home and I've been clearing off this lot. It was all trees and rocks and now look at it. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but it looks good, doesn't it?"

Glen Wood might very well be the only 90-year-old on the planet who can flick his way through an iPhone photo gallery with such ease. He's probably also the only 90-year-old shooting smartphone photos from the driver's seat of a bulldozer that he'd just used to clear that land.

"The only thing that gives me trouble now is walking for a long time. I tend to start doing this a little bit," he says, chuckling as he brings his hands up to demonstrate drifting offline into a sideways direction. "But I'm still here. That's something."

Oh, it's more than "something." It's legendary. It's history. This weekend "I'm still here" represents the extension of a motorsports record that will never be broken. Daytona tradition states that anyone attending the Daytona 500 -- fans, competitors, industry workers or media members -- must at some point declare how many Great American Races they have attended.

They are all playing for second place.

On Sunday, Wood will attend his 70th consecutive Daytona Speedweeks, there to watch Ryan Blaney drive the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. The 22-year-old is the 45th driver to pilot that car and the 22nd in the Daytona 500.

The first was Glen Wood.

"Racing over there at the big track, that wasn't really for me," he recalls about the first events at the 2.5-mile, mountainous-banked Daytona International Speedway.

He was leading the NASCAR Convertible Division two days before the big race headed into the final turns, but a fuel pickup problem caused the 21 car to sputter and he finished fourth.

Later, in the inaugural Daytona 500, he started eighth in the 59-car field but finished 34th with a cracked clutch.

"I could do it," he says now, "But I figured out that my driving style was much more suited to short tracks. I liked sliding in that dirt."

Or sand.

You see, Glen Wood's Speedweeks streak is way older than the Speedway. It's older than NASCAR.

He first migrated south to Daytona in the summer of 1947, traveling from Stuart, Virginia, a tiny town tucked into the hills along the North Carolina border. "We just got on U.S. 1 and drove south. It was two lanes the whole way, you know. And I've never forgotten all those bridges over all that water. Old wooden bridges, like a pier you would see now out in the ocean. They just went on for miles and miles."

Some of those structures spanned the spot where the World Center of Racing now stands. It was nothing more than a swamp that had to be traversed to get to where the racing was. The stock cars were miles to the east, on the beach itself.

The Daytona Beach and Road Course was a 4.1-mile paper clip that ran south along the asphalt of Highway A1A, hanging a hard left off the road, rooster-tailing through some makeshift banking lined with an grandstand fashioned from telephone poles. Then they would rumble onto the beach, the sand flattened and hardened at low tide, rocketing north for two miles and then sliding back out onto the blacktop to do it all over again.

If it sounds insane, that's because it kind of was.

Wood loved it.

"We were friends with [fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer] Curtis Tuner from back home," he said. "We'd watch him come up the beach and he'd start sliding that car a half of a mile before he got to the North Turn. That's what he'd do instead of using the brakes. It was the most amazing thing you'd ever see. We'd sit right here in the grandstand and just be amazed."

As he tells the story, "right here" is actually right here. Wood sits in a corner booth at Racing's North Turn, a bar and grill located atop the very location of where he sat and watched the first races of his seven-decade Speedweeks streak. By 1953, he'd graduated from the grandstand above the North Turn to the racecars bouncing through it.

In total, Wood participated in eight races on the beach, taking turns in all four NASCAR divisions, Sportsman, Modifieds, Convertibles and Grand National, the series that is now known as Sprint Cup. He won the final three Sportsman races, the last of those three coming from the pole position.

"I don't want it to sound like I'm bragging about any of this, because I'm really not," he warns, serious, but with a grin. "To me, it's hard to believe I did that when I did it. But the record says that I did, so I guess that I did."

Munching on a grilled cheese sandwich ("I suppose I should always order the Glen Wood Burger, but that's too big for me today"), he illustrates his stories by pointing to some of the hundreds of photos on the restaurant's walls.

"If you look on that wall over there, you'll see my '54 Ford." Sure enough, in black and white, smiling through the window is a much younger Glen Wood, his name painted over the door as "Glenn Wood."

The car has whitewall tires. It won the pole with a beach record of 139.697 mph and beat a massive mixed field of Sportsman and Modified cars. The guy eating the taco salad with that photo on the wall behind him has no idea he's interfering with a session of show and tell.

"Those Modifieds had big Lincoln engines and could run multiple carburetors," Wood said. "I had a little ol' 312 engine and one carburetor. But we still beat them. When you set records in the last ever race somewhere, you know no one's going to ever break those records. That was a good day."

There were a lot of good days on that beach, even when, for a moment, they felt as if they were going to be bad days. He once caught a wet spot in the sand and looped his Ford three times, only to find himself still pointed in the right direction, so he jumped back in the throttle and kept going.

To combat debris, everything from flying sand to oil to seagull droppings, Glen's brother Leonard, also a NASCAR Hall of Famer as a crew chief and technical innovator, installed a vacuum-powered windshield wiper. When the electrical unit caught fire, Glen tried to put it out with the tiny onboard extinguisher, really just a little bottle of sand, but to no avail. So he resigned himself to the fact that his '50 Ford was going to burn to the ground, pulling into the makeshift pits along the sand dunes and climbed out to watch it incinerate.

"All of the sudden, some guy came running through the sand dunes, through the trees and all that, and he had a CO2 fire extinguisher," Wood said. "I don't know who he was, but he put it out. I looked at the car and it wasn't too bad. I still had my helmet on, so I got back in and it started up."

He pulled away just as another man was tumbling down out of the dunes to help. It was Leonard. He was too late. Glen was gone.

"After all of that drama," Leonard recalls, "Brother Glen still won the race."

Then there was the time the Wood Brothers almost did themselves in before they became the WOOD BROTHERS. Leonard was tinkering with the ignition timing in Glen's car and wanted to collect some real-time data. So they took the car way south of the race course for an impromptu test session along a deserted stretch of beach.

Glen dropped the hammer and rocketed north along the shore while Leonard tugged on a tiny chain and watched the tachometer to see what effect his changes might have.

"The biggest danger out there was always the changing sand," Glen said. "Guys would hit these ruts and bumps and the tires would catch and they'd have these wild flips, you know. You also had to keep an eye on the water. When the tide started coming in, it would eat up the course. You'd slide in that water or flip, so you had to watch it."

During their test session, the Woods noticed the first real wave of high tide, that initial low-lying sheet of salt water that dared to advance up the beach and slick down the sand. They both thought it wouldn't reach far ... but it did.

"I was really flying and it started moving under us and then we could feel our feet getting wet in the floor," Glen said.

Sure enough, the back end of the car started coming around. With no helmets and their seat belts unattached, a pair of Hall of Fame careers might be about to end before they'd barely gotten started.

Remembers Leonard: "We were so sideways that I was looking straight up the beach, but I was looking out of my window on the passenger's side. Glen did an amazing job of maintaining control and he got us straightened up and slowed down."

"He always gives me too much credit for my driving there," Glen said. "I was just hanging on."

A stroll through the beaches' North Turn is one continuous volume of amazing stories. Wood remembers the Modified-Sportsman race of Valentine's Day 1954. There were 136(!) cars in the field. He finished seventh. He runs into Donnie Allison, who drove for the Wood Brothers in 1971. He stops and poses for photos with fans. He stops by the storage room door to point out a photo of his car leading the final beach race in '58, taken from the very hill where the restaurant sits. And he pauses to chat with Russ Truelove, another Daytona Beach and Road Course veteran. Truelove's "226" 1956 Mercury Monterrey is parked out front, the one he flipped in what is considered the wildest crash of NASCAR's beach racing era.

"I always love seeing Russ," Glen says. "He's been a friend for nearly 70 years. Nearly the whole time I've been coming down here. There aren't too many of us around anymore, are there?"

No, there's not. And there's only one from that era that still makes the same drive south that he did in 1947, every single year, including this one. On Sunday he'll be back at the track he helped open, his team seeking its sixth Dayona 500 win. But he always looks a little more at home here at Daytona's other racetrack, the one he closed in 1958.

"Every year I always drive from here at the North Turn down to the South Turn. They won't let you drive back up the beach like we used to unless it's for a special parade or something. But you can still go out on the beach and drive south a little bit. It's just a lot slower than it used to be."

Glen Wood smiles and walks out across A1A, the road he used to scorch at 130 mph, and, as he warned, steps a little sideways.

"I'm a little slower than I used to be, too."