Midway through a press conference announcing his team’s return to full-time Sprint Cup racing, Eddie Wood heard cars running on the track, and it occurred to him that his team had finally weathered the storm – literally and figuratively.
The clearing skies at Homestead-Miami Speedway meant that his Wood Brothers team would get to qualify for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. Something that hasn’t been a given this season, and because of his team’s part-time status, they have missed three races when weather issues led to cancellation of qualifying.
And in the bigger picture, the words being spoken at the announcement meant that a years-long rebuilding program for the iconic Wood Brothers team had been a big success.
It all happened thanks to the Wood family’s long-time friends and associates at Ford Motor Company, the only manufacturer the Woods have ever raced for in their 65 seasons in the sport.
Being able to share the day with their friends at Ford made the moment even more special, Wood said.
“I have to thank Ford’s Dave Pericak, Raj Nair, Edsel Ford, our technical alliance partners Team Penske and Roush Yates Engines, as well as everyone at Ford Motor Company for working with us to make this day possible,” Wood said.
Wood’s brother and team co-owner Len Wood pointed out that Edsel Ford, among others, stood by the team through its struggles, and was on hand to celebrate the return to full-time racing. “In 2008 we stood here with Edsel Ford and Brian Wolfe, who was the Ford Director at the time, and talked about how our performance was not where we wanted it to be. The suggestion was made to go to a limited schedule and get our performance back and then try to get back full time. I think this past year our performance has been where it needed to be, and I think we are ready to make the next step with Ryan Blaney and Jeremy [Bullins] as our crew chief.”
Given the Woods’ confidence in Blaney and Bullins, it was no surprise to them that Blaney made it through all three rounds of Friday’s qualifying session and ended up with the sixth starting position. It was his sixth top-10 start of the season and his third in his past four starts.
“We made really good adjustments between each round and that’s really all you can ask for,” Blaney said. “They did a good job adjusting and accounting for tire fall off. We improved every round. That’s all you can ask for besides getting the pole. It’s a good way to start off the weekend. I’m excited to get into practice mode tomorrow.”
A good qualifying effort also gives the team an advantage in Sunday’s grand finale of Ford Championship Weekend.
“You get a better pit stall,” Blaney said. “You get better everything when you start up front, better air to start with and you can get a lot better read on your race car when you start up front. Hopefully we have a good race on Sunday and have good momentum to carry over into next year.”
For Eddie Wood, one of his team’s biggest days ever couldn’t have ended much better.
“It’s always good to have success on the race track,” Wood said. “But it means a lot more to be doing it at Ford Championship Weekend.”
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.