Tradition is a big part of the culture and heritage of the Wood Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane race team, the family-owned outfit that has been a bedrock of NASCAR for the past 60 years.
The No. 21 team, throughout its existence, has been known for having hard-working, enterprising and dedicated people preparing their race cars. For many years, Leonard Wood, the brother of team founder Glen Wood, was the one leading the car-preparation effort. Today, that role is filled by David Hyder, who in many ways is like a modern-day Leonard Wood, only with some short-track driving experience on his resume.
Just as Leonard Wood once was known for working day and night to gain his team a mechanical advantage, Hyder is similarly driven to make his race cars the best they can be. Both are known for their careful attention to even the smallest details.
Even though Hyder and the Wood Brothers crew are running a limited Sprint Cup schedule, he and his crew put in a full-time effort.
On a recent night, while other Cup teams were traveling to Watkins Glen, Hyder was working late, spending time on the seven-post test rig, trying to wring a few more miles per hour from the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion that Bill Elliott will drive this weekend in the Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
It’s the car that the team debuted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago, one that showed great promise in the Brickyard 400 as Elliott was among the fastest in practice and drove from 31st to 18th in the race.
Hyder said he’s been working to find a good balance on the car’s handling and likes what he’s seen so far.
“It’s a good car,” he said. “We changed some things around for Indy, and it reacted as we expected to the adjustments we made during the race,” Hyder said.
The track at Michigan will pose different challenges than Indianapolis, but Hyder is preparing to conquer them. He said the sweeping turns require a chassis set-up that will allow Elliott to have plenty of rear grip when he takes off down the long, fast straightaways. And those straights will give Elliott a chance to put his FR9 Ford engine, a winner two weeks ago at Pocono with Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle at the wheel, to good use.
Hyder also is aware that many Michigan races over the years have boiled down to fuel mileage, and he’s got that aspect covered too. Team co-owner Len Wood generally figures fuel mileage and plans strategies as his father Glen Wood once did, and Hyder is plenty confident in his abilities.
“I’ll put Len up there against anybody on pit road as far as fuel mileage calculations,” Hyder said.
“We’re trying to get better and better, and we’ve got to keep moving forward,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ve got a lot of good people working for us, and we’ll have better results before the end of the year.”
He’d like nothing better than to kick things off with a strong run at Michigan, in the backyard of the headquarters of Ford Motor Company.
“Working for the Wood Brothers, we all bleed Ford blue,” he said.
Qualifying for the Michigan is set for 3:40 p.m. on Friday, and the race gets the green flag on Sunday just after 1 p.m. with TV coverage on ESPN.