As the Wood Brothers and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, their thoughts naturally will be back home in Virginia, where friends and family are celebrating the life of Junie Donlavey, the beloved Sprint Cup team owner and loyal life-long member of the Ford racing family.
Donlavey, who died on Monday at age 90, had much in common with the Woods. Both were from Virginia, with the Donlaveys from Richmond and the Woods from Stuart. Both families made their living in NASCAR with decades of loyalty to Ford Motor Company. And, even though they were competitors at the race track, they also were close friends.
Eddie Wood, one of the current co-owners of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, said Donlavey’s fine reputation in the NASCAR garage was much deserved.
“Anything you needed he’d help you,” Wood said. “He was one of the most well-liked people in the garage ever.”
Wood, who shared a birthday with Donlavey as both were born on April 8, went on say that his family and Donlavey were as close as competitors could be. It was almost a nightly event for the two to talk on the phone.
“You could call his shop any hour of the night and he’d answer on the first ring,” Wood said. “Sometimes we’d talk about racing, but a lot of those late-night conversations were about life in general, just friends talking.”
Wood pointed out that it was Donlavey who helped many young drivers get established in NASCAR’s premier series, including Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader, both of whom went on to drive the Woods’ No. 21 Ford. And like the Woods, he also raced Modified and Sportsman cars.
Fittingly, Donlavey’s lone Cup win, at Dover International Speedway, in 1981, came in a race the Woods dominated with Neil Bonnett driving, and it came with one of Ford’s most loyal short trackers, Jody Ridley, at the wheel of Donlavey’s No. 90 Ford.
“We were as happy for them as if we’d won the race,” Wood said.
It’s also fitting that for this weekend’s race, the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will be decked out in Quick Lane blue, a similar color to the one that Donlavey’s Fords carried for many years.
The paint scheme includes the usual Motorcraft logos but also has prominent QuickLaneTire & AutoCenter markings on the hood. The rear deck lid will feature the Quick Lane tag line “Ready to Serve,” which refers to the company’s factory-trained technicians’ willingness to go the extra mile to provide fast and dependable service with trusted expertise to make a customer’s vehicle ready for the road.
Qualifying for the Quicken Loans 400 is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. eastern, and the race is set to take the green flag on Sunday just after 1p.m. with TV coverage on TNT.