One of the reasons the Wood Brothers have endured for 60 years in the tough business of NASCAR racing is their ability to keep their heads held high and their focus on the future even when race day results don’t meet their expectations. Bill Elliott drove the team’s FordParts.com Ford Fusion to a 29th-place finish in Sunday’s Heluva Good Sour Cream Dip 400 at Michigan International Speedway, which was far from the Woods’ and Elliott’s usual standards for Michigan. But team co-owners Eddie and Len Wood still were able to find bright spots as they looked forward to applying the lessons learned at Michigan to the car they’ll run at Chicagoland Speedway on July 10.
For starters, the Wood Brothers crew was able to file away some valuable data on the suspension of their car, particularly in regards to the rear sway bar. After struggling with a loose-into-the-turns condition for much of the race, the crew unhooked the rear sway bar, and the car’s performance improved dramatically. “We started 35th on that last restart and were able to drive up to 29th,” Eddie Wood said. “We weren’t running race-leading speeds, but we were a lot faster.” The chassis lessons learned on race days are invaluable, since NASCAR doesn’t allow testing at tracks where the sanctioning body’s major series compete.
The only other way to fine-tune set-ups is through computer simulation, and gathering good data for simulation is particularly difficult regarding the rear sway bar. “The simulation package we use isn’t modeling the rear bar correctly. We had the same issues at Charlotte two weeks ago. Unless we develop more confidence in it, we may not use the rear bar at Chicago.” Wood said.
The Woods also were encouraged by the performance of their over-the-wall pit crew, which churned out consistently good stops throughout the race. “It looks like we were back on track there,” Wood said.
The new FR9 Ford engine offered another check mark on the positive side of the ledger. The Woods have run the FR9 all season, but it was under the hoods of all the Ford entries this weekend. It was no surprise to the Woods that the FR9 cranked out horsepower without a problem in all the Fusions, including the No. 21. “The engine performed really well,” Wood said. “It ran cool all day with a lot of tape on the grille.”