Category Archives: 2016

Pit Road Woes Relegate Blaney To a 20th-Place Finish in Coca-Cola 600

2016 NASCAR Charlotte 600Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team started strong in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but a series of misfortunes led to a 20th-place finish.

Blaney started 18th and drove his way into the top 15 in the opening laps, only to have to go to the rear of the pack after being nabbed for speeding on pit road. Back on the attack again, Blaney rallied back to 16th before more troubles on pit road sent him back to the rear on two more occasions, once because of a loose wheel.

“It was a long night, man, a really, really long night,” Blaney said in his post-race interview. “Nothing could go right for us. That was the frustrating part.”

Despite the troubles, Blaney remained on the lead lap for most of a Coca-Cola 600 that saw the caution flag displayed just four times for 19 laps. And he maintained that position in spite of body damage his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion sustained over the course of the race.

That body damage likely led to a cut tire with two laps remaining, but the Motorcraft crew got Blaney back on the track in time to salvage a 20th-place finish, which allowed him to remain in a tie with Ryan Newman for 15th place in the Sprint Cup standings.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that considering all the setbacks in the race, he’s happy to leave Charlotte with the final result, which is the ninth time in the 13 races this season that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion has finished in the top half of the running order.

“For a night when we had to go to the rear a couple of times, it could have been a lot worse,” Wood said. “We got a good bit of body damage throughout the night. The car was already a little on the tight side, and that damage just made it worse.”

Wood also said he appreciates his team pressing forward after some early miscues.

“The pit crew redeemed themselves with some good stops later in the race,” he said. “[Crew chief] Jeremy [Bullins] made a good call at the end to put on two right-side tires and get Ryan out there and preserve a 20th-place finish.

2016 NASCAR Charlotte 600 “Ryan hung in there all night, and we were able to honor Signal Seaman Cherone L. Gunn, who lost his life in an attack on the U.S.S. Cole and in doing so helped make it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms all of us in America enjoy.”

For his part, Blaney said his car never was as good once the sun went down. And he said he had some room for improvement too.

“There’s some stuff we have to work on with the race car,” he said. “I probably didn’t do the best job [Sunday night].”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to action this week at Pocono Raceway, where Blaney has never driven a Sprint Cup car but back in 2013 drove Brad Keselowski’s truck to victory in a Camping World Truck Series race.

The Wood Brothers have two wins at Pocono, one apiece with David Pearson and Neil Bonnett, but have not competed there since 2008.

Glen Wood Looks Back On The 1976 World 600

Of all the 600-mile races run at Charlotte Motor Speedway, few can measure up to the 1976 World 600 (now Coca-Cola 600), run 40 years ago this weekend.

That was the year that track owner Bruton Smith and his wily promoter H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler finally regained full control of the track originally built by Smith and Curtis Turner, who lost control of the speedway due to financial issues.

Smith and Wheeler scored a PR home run that year in the 600 when they hastily arranged to have Janet Guthrie in the starting field. Guthrie had made headlines at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that year as a pioneering female driver but failed to win a starting berth in the Indianapolis 500.

Media interest in the 600 ramped up even more after the Indy 500; also run on May 30, struggled with weather issues and was called because of rain after just 255 miles.

Pole-sitter Johnny Rutherford was declared the winner of the shortest official race in that event’s history.

Wheeler, in his efforts to leave no promotional stone unturned, also arranged for a young North Carolina dirt track driver to race in the 600. Wheeler paired Dale Earnhardt with car owner/driver Walter Ballard.

Earnhardt, who made his Sprint Cup debut in the 600 the year before, wrecked Ballard’s car in a practice session. Then he blew an engine after 156 laps of the race and finished 31st in Ballard’s Army Special No. 30 Chevrolet.

Although no one realized it that day, the 1976 Coke 600 also would be the final start for future NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Isaac.

Isaac, who won 37 races and the 1970 championship, drove his final race in Neil Castles’ Chevrolet sponsored by Howard Furniture. His engine blew after 39 laps and he finished 38th. A little over a year later, he died of a heart attack after competing in a race at Hickory Motor Speedway. He was just 45 years old.

Likewise, few realized that day, the significance of the finish by rookie driver Bill Elliott, who also drove the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford from 2007 to 2010 and is now in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In the ’76 World 600, Elliott, driving his father’s blue No. 9 Ford Torino, ran the most laps he’d run to that point in his Cup career. The 20-year-old redhead ran 343 of the race’s 400 laps, finishing 23rd despite engine troubles late in the race. Previously, the most he’d run was 32 of 492 laps at Rockingham.

The grind of the 600 left Elliott so sore he could barely move the next day, but he soon was in much better condition and by 1982 finished second in the 600 to Neil Bonnett, who was driving the Woods’ No. 21 Ford T-Bird.

Besides all the accompanying storylines, this World 600 turned out to be one of NASCAR’s classic battles among titans.

The top two teams in NASCAR at that time, the Wood Brothers and Petty Enterprises, dueled for the win, with the sport’s top two stars doing the driving.

David Pearson, driving the Woods’ No. 21 Mercury, scored the victory over Richard Petty in his team’s No. 43 Dodge.

The Wood Brothers and Pearson were enjoying one of their best seasons ever, as Pearson won 10 races and eight poles in 1976. The victories came in some of NASCAR’s most prestigious races, among them the Daytona 500, both races at Charlotte, Michigan, Darlington and Riverside, as well as victories at Ontario and Atlanta. Pearson also scored three runner-up finishes, all in just 22 starts.

The winning Mercury Montego from that 600 won for the final time with Neil Bonnett in 1980 in the Talladega 500. It was retired when it became obsolete due to a rules change that reduced the wheelbase for Cup cars from 115 to 110 inches.

That car, which also won the 1976 Daytona 500 when Pearson and Petty crashed coming to the finish line, was then turned over to driver/owner Richard Childress who turned it into a show car for series sponsor R.J. Reynolds. Eventually, the frame and body were returned to the Woods, who sold one of the sport’s most historic cars to a junk dealer for $200.

After spending some time in a Florida junkyard, the car was rescued and restored by Donnie Gould. It now resides at the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska, although the original seat is in the Wood Brothers Museum in Stuart, Va.

Team owner Glen Wood said that looking back on the 1976 season, and the Coca-Cola 600 that year, he sees few similarities with today’s NASCAR world, where his family’s No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion is driven by rookie Ryan Blaney, who will start Sunday’s race from the 18th position.

“There’s nothing much the same today as it was then,” Wood said. “The cars still have four wheels, even though you’ve got a lot of people that aren’t tightening all the lug nuts on them.”
Wood did say it’s not the first time he’s seen teams try to race without a full set of lug nuts on a car.

“In the 1950s, Herb Thomas said you didn’t need five lug nuts on a wheel, so he ran a race with just three on each wheel in a triangle pattern. He ran the whole race and finished with no problems, but was probably lucky to have done so.”

Wood said the expectations placed on drivers are much different than the 1970s, when top stars like Pearson and Isaac were reluctant to speak at length with fans or the media. Isaac was a lot like David [Pearson] when it came to talking in public. “At that time Richard Petty was the best at talking. He’d talk to anybody about anything. He’s still the best that’s ever been at that.”

But today, Wood said, all drivers have to try to be like Petty. “Now it’s a given that drivers have to talk. It’s part of the job.”

When Janet Guthrie entered the 600, becoming the 11th woman to compete in a major NASCAR race and drawing attention to NASCAR much like Danica Patrick does today, many of Guthrie’s fellow drivers were none too complimentary about her driving skills.

Pearson, the race winner, was one of the few who had kind words for her after her 15th place finish.

Pearson is quoted in Greg Fielden’s Forty Years of Stock Car Racing as saying “She got in my way a couple of times, but I think she did a pretty good job for a rookie,” Wood has a similar assessment.

“Everybody wondered what she would do, but she did pretty good for a woman who hadn’t done that much racing,” he said.

Either way, Guthrie’s participation in that 600 was a coup for Wheeler and Smith as they set about to build Charlotte Motor Speedway into a major sporting venue.

Smith had been trying to regain control of the track he’d lost by buying up stock for several years prior to late 1975, when he finally regained control.

Among the former shareholders who sold to Smith was Wood himself. He estimated he held 400 to 500 shares, which he and his brother Leonard had taken as pay years earlier for fielding cars for Curtis Turner and Bob Welborn. Glen paid Leonard for his part of the shares early on. He eventually sold the entire lot to Smith when he was buying up stock to regain control of the track.

“Bruton paid me a fair price, but I didn’t make much money on those shares,” Wood said.

“Today, they’d be worth a lot more.”

Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Bobby Isaac, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Bruton Smith, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Glen Wood and Leonard Wood are now all Inductees in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion Pays Tribute To Cherone Gunn and Christoffer Auderer in Coca-Cola 600

2016 NASCAR Charlotte All-Star ShowdownMemorial Day weekend has many meanings for the American public. The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend is one of auto racing’s greatest days, beginning with the Grand Prix of Monaco, followed by the Indianapolis 500 and then the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Then comes Monday, one of the most somber days on the calendar. It’s a day when the nation pauses to honor those members of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their fellow Americans.

For several seasons, teams participating in the Coca-Cola 600 have used their cars to honor fallen servicemembers. This year, the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will honor Signal Seaman Cherone L. Gunn, from Norfolk, Va., as part of the sport’s “600 Miles of Remembrance.”

FullSizeRender SMSN Gunn was one of 17 crew members killed in a terrorist attack on the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, while the ship was being refueled in the port of Aden in Yemen.

His name will appear on the windshield of the No. 21 Ford Fusion in the position usually used to display the name of driver Ryan Blaney.

Gunn, who followed his father into the U.S. Navy, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in a grave next to one of his shipmates, who also died in the attack on the Cole.

The Washington Post reported that at the graveside ceremony, Gunn’s brother Anton said there was a message in the deaths of his brother and the other 16 sailors who perished aboard the Cole.

“Remember, they died for the country,” he said. “They died defending a country we love. They died for us. That’s what’s important.”

Cherone Gunn, who had dreams of later becoming a police officer, was 22 years old.

IMG_4454The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion also will carry a decal in memory of Ryan Blaney’s cousin Christoffer Auderer, who served three tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps and later died as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. He was just 24 years old.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said placing the fallen service members’ names on the No. 21 brings home the real meaning of Memorial Day.

“It’s a privilege to be able to use our car and our sport to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Seeing the images of these young service members and having their family members at the track with us on Sunday really puts the weekend in perspective for us.”

Wood and his fellow members of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team also look at the Memorial Day tributes as motivation to be at their best in the Coca-Cola 600, the final race on a day in which the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the 100th Indianapolis 500. That race has special meaning for the Wood Brothers, as they served as the pit crew for Jim Clark when he won the 49th running of the 500, back in 1965.

Crew chief Jeremy Bullins said he’s anxious to get back to work at Charlotte Motor Speedway after an impressive run in last week’s Sprint Showdown.

“I think it’s safe to say everyone involved with our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion is excited for the weekend after our performance in the Sprint Showdown,” Bullins said. “We might not have transferred into the All-Star race, but after having a shot to win the first segment and driving from the tail to finish third overall after getting a restart penalty we feel like we had great speed in our car.”

That speed means Bullins and Blaney can focus on qualifying on Thursday and save race practice for Saturday’s sessions.

“The 600 will be a long race, and with the tire fall off we saw this past weekend, a good pit stall will be critical,” Bullins said. “We feel like the car we are taking this week is even better than the Showdown car, and that’s exciting as well.”

“It’s also another track we are running for the third or fourth time as a team, and we keep getting better.”

“Between Monaco and the 100th running of the Indy 500, our race concludes a great day of racing, and we’d like to end it with a strong run and feel like we are ready to do just that.”

Qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 is set for Thursday at 7:15 p.m., and the race scheduled to start Sunday at 6 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX.

Blaney Battles Hard But Comes Up Short In Sprint Showdown

Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team missed out in their quest to earn a starting spot in the Sprint All-Star race, but they can leave Charlotte Motor Speedway with their heads held high after a strong effort in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown.

Rains in the Charlotte area on Friday meant that Blaney and his fellow Showdown participants had to start the race without a single lap of practice, something rarely – if ever – seen on the Sprint Cup circuit.

With the line-up for the first of three segments set by car owner points, Blaney rolled to the green flag in third position, but was soon battling fellow rookie Chase Elliott for the lead.

On a restart with one lap remaining in the opening segment, Blaney was ruled by NASCAR officials to have jumped the restart.

“[Elliott] was spinning his tires on the bottom and [Trevor Bayne] was pushing me, and I was half-throttle on the brakes, and I didn’t know what to do,” Blaney said. “I’ve got someone driving me forward and [Elliott] is spinning his tires.”

“I don’t know what I could have done to stop. I really don’t, and we maybe beat him by two feet.”

2016 NASCAR Talladega “It’s such a weird and tricky call to make. It’s a judgment call and it’s unfortunate it bit us, but I think one thing we can look back and be proud of is how fast our car was. It’s a shame we won’t be racing tonight, but it’s definitely something to look forward to next week.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s proud of Blaney’s run back to the front. “The one thing you don’t have to worry about is the effort Ryan puts forth. You get it all from lap one to the finish.” Wood said. “Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.”

After being sent to the rear of the pack, Blaney and his Jeremy Bullins-led team really made Wood and the team’s fans proud as he drove his way from 23rd to fifth place in the second 20-lap segment. Blaney continued the charge in the 10-lap finale and finished third.

With only the three segment winners advancing to Saturday night’s All-Star race, Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team now turn their attention to next week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

“The way this team unloaded and ran so well without any practice shows just how strong these Ford Fusions are and how much we’re benefiting from the technology we share with Team Penske,” Wood said. “In all my years, I don’t remember starting a race without any practice. We came close in Atlanta back in the 70s, but the weather cleared and we got in a few laps of practice.”

“As good as this worked out today at Charlotte, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen again when rain is a problem.”

Wood said that while he’s disappointed that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team won’t be in the All-Star race, the positives of Saturday morning have him optimistic about the upcoming Coca-Cola 600.

“It would have meant a lot to be in the All-Star race, but knowing we have a good car for the 600 means a lot too,” he said. “And I’m really proud of Ryan, Jeremy and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team for their efforts in the Showdown.”

“Everybody knew we were here.”

Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be back on track at Charlotte next week, with qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. and the race scheduled to start Sunday at 6 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX.

The Wood Brothers’ And Michael Waltrip’s All-Star Victory

Winston Select 1996Through the years, NASCAR’s All-Star race has produced some of the sport’s most dramatic moments, and almost every “Top 10” list of best races includes the race that occurred 20 years ago this month. That’s when Michael Waltrip barely squeaked the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford into the starting field, then went on to score a dramatic victory over Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte and Rusty Wallace.

It was Waltrip’s first major win in the series now known as Sprint Cup, and the Wood Brothers’ most lucrative victory up to that time.

Waltrip and the Woods joined forces at the start of the 1996 season, a pairing engineered in part by the late Dale Earnhardt, who recommended the younger of the two racing Waltrip brothers to the Woods.

The signing of the contract between the two parties was also signed by Earnhardt, who was the lone witness.

The team came into the All-Star race, then known as The Winston, much like this year. Waltrip had scored four top-10 finishes in the points-paying races leading up to the All-Star race, while rookie Ryan Blaney has five top-10s so far in his first full season behind the wheel of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion.

“When we were getting ready to start the 1996 season, I felt a lot of responsibility to do well because that was the Woods’ family car,” Waltrip said. “It wasn’t like some corporation owned it or some big business. It was a family ride, and they entrusted me with their car.”

“When we got to Charlotte, things had gone well. I was looking forward to the All-Star race.”
Since he hadn’t yet won a points-paying Cup race, Waltrip had to first run the Winston Open to earn a starting spot in the All-Star race.

“I had won it a couple of times before, and I felt good about transferring into the All-Star race,” he said.

But as the laps of that last-chance race began to wind down, he found himself struggling to hold on to fifth place, the final transfer spot to the main event.

“When we started that race our car wasn’t good at all,” Waltrip said. “It didn’t handle well. I vividly remember Johnny Benson was on my bumper chasing me down. He was driving my old Pennzoil car.”

At that point, Waltrip made a bold gamble.

“With five or six laps to go, I made a decision to go to the very bottom of turn three,” he said. “I had been sort of running in the middle in that corner, and the way my car was handling it was really tight.”

“I didn’t know what would happen if I went to the bottom, because it could have pushed and messed me up. But I did it, and I was able to make it stick, and when I came off turn four I noticed I had put a couple of car lengths on [Benson].”

“I did that again another lap and it got better. I found something battling with Johnny late in the Open that I used the rest of the night.”

Waltrip and his crew, led by brothers Len and Eddie Wood, made adjustments to the car and started the All-Star race from the rear of the field.

“I started passing people, and passed my way up to 10th,” Waltrip said. “On my way up to 10th, Eddie reminded me that I was going to have to pass back everyone we passed because they were going to invert the field.”

Waltrip took another chance and kept pushing forward rather than playing it safe, as Wood had hinted.

“I couldn’t just lay back,” he said. “I needed to know what my car would do, how it would handle if I tried to push it.”

“I kept on pushing and got 10th.  In the second session I got up to fourth, and that set us up for fourth place on the final restart.”

When the green flag was displayed to start the run for the big paycheck, Dale Earnhardt jumped the start, forcing another try.

WaltripThe second start was clean, and while Earnhardt and Terry Labonte battled at the head of the pack, Waltrip made an important pass, thanks to some big horsepower provided by the Wood Brothers’ engine builder Danny Glad.

“The key move I made was I was able to get around Rusty [Wallace] on the back straightaway,” Waltrip said. “I cleared him on the back straightaway and got right to the bottom in turns three and four.”

“Going into turn one, Dale got a little bit loose, and he and Terry bumped. As fast as I could, I turned left and held it on the bottom and passed them both.”

From then on it was Waltrip’s race to lose, but he never bobbled.

“I ran the best eight and a half laps of my career at that point,” he said. “I hit it perfectly and was able to hold Rusty off and win.”

What followed was a Victory Lane celebration that was especially meaningful for all the participants.

“It was huge,” he said. “My mom and dad were there. Dale came to Victory Lane to congratulate me.”

1996 Michael Waltrip“Being in Victory Lane with the Wood Brothers was really important for me. To be able to take care of their car and win for them was a big night, and it’s still a big night.”

The win proved to have a lasting impact for all the Victory Lane participants, especially Waltrip’s parents. During the celebration, he promised to spend his share of the $211,000 paycheck to build them a home in North Carolina.

“That’s where all my money went,” he said. “I came up a little short having enough to pay for the house, so I didn’t come out too great on the money deal, but in life I did because Mom still lives in her house in Sherrills Ford, N.C.”

“She loves it and always jokes about getting to live there because I can drive a car.”

Waltrip drove for the Woods through the 1998 season and remains friends with the family today.

“The Woods are good, kind people, the whole family is,” he said. “Our time together was special. I’m thankful they let me drive their car.”

2016 NASCAR TexasWaltrip said he now enjoys watching Blaney find success in the iconic No. 21.

“I’m happy for them,” he said. “He’s a great driver and a really great kid, and I’m thankful for the success they’re having.”

The Sprint Showdown, which will include Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in the starting field, is set for Friday at 7:15 p.m.

If Blaney were to win one of the three segments, or win the Fan Vote, he will advance to the All-Star race, which is scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.

Blaney Dodges Dover Crashes To Score Third-Straight Top-10

2016 NASCAR DoverRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team avoided the pitfalls that can come from racing on the Monster Mile, the one-mile concrete oval that is better known as Dover International Speedway, and brought home an impressive eighth-place finish.

It was the team’s third-straight top-10 finish, its fifth top-10 of the season and its fourth finish of 11th or better in the past five races.

Blaney started the race from the 18th position after qualifying was rained out. He soon began working his way forward and was in the top 10 for the first time by Lap 145.

He ran either inside, or just outside, the top-10 until a multi-car crash on Lap 356. By avoiding being involved in a wreck that damaged 18 cars, Blaney was able to move up to seventh place for the start of a 40-lap run to the finish.

He lost one spot on the final run to the finish, and his eighth-place effort moved him up one spot in the Sprint Cup standings to 15th after 12 races.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said Blaney and his spotter, Josh Williams did a great job missing all the wrecks on the way to a top-10 finish on a day that could have easily ended with a Did Not Finish.

“Ryan was close to every big wreck that happened,” Wood said. “He missed them all, and Josh did a great job helping him navigate through them.”

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Dover “Ryan did a heck of a job from start to finish. He stayed calm all day, and would up with a great finish at a place that can eat you up.”

Wood also had praise for crew chief Jeremy Bullins and all the members of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

“Jeremy made some great calls, including a call for two tires on an early stop that put us in the top-10 for the first time and set us up to stay right there for the rest of the race,” Wood said. “And the crew did their usual great job on pit road.”

Blaney said he hoped the Dover finish will allow him and his Motorcraft team to build on the momentum of the past few weeks.

“It was a good solid run and hopefully we can start stringing together some of these good finishes,” he said, adding that it was an eventful race from his point of view.

“It got wild there for a while, and there were a couple big wrecks,” he said. “We missed the big one. I don’t know how we missed it, but somehow we did. It was definitely a strange day and definitely a strange first Dover Cup race for me.”

Next up for Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are two weeks of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, beginning with the Sprint All-Star race on Saturday night and the Coca-Cola 600 the week after.

Eddie Wood Recalls A Dover Race Lost Because Of A Lug Nut

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, KansasThe Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, with rookie driver Ryan Blaney now at the wheel, will be back on the track at Dover International Speedway this weekend for the first time since 2008, when the team cut back to a partial Sprint Cup schedule.

For the Wood Brothers, it’s a return to one of the tracks where they had great success in years past.

The Woods won seven times at Dover over the years, beginning with their first trip there in the fall of 1972.

David Pearson led 350 of that race’s 500 laps to win by three laps over second-place Richard Petty. Pearson swept the Dover races in 1973, beating Cale Yarborough in the spring and Bobby Allison in the fall.

Pearson won two more, in the spring of 1975 and the spring of 1978.

The late Neil Bonnett took the No. 21 Ford to victory in the spring of 1979 and fall of 1981.

But for Eddie Wood, a current co-owner of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, of the team’s 73 races at Dover, few bring back the memories quite like the Budweiser 500 in the spring of 1992.

Wood was a crew member at that time, working as a mechanic on the car and changing front tires on pit stops.

Morgan Shepherd was driving the No. 21 Ford. At that time, Shepherd and the Woods were pioneering a tire strategy that eventually became commonplace. They would start a green flag run with air pressures much lower than the ones recommended by Goodyear. Morgan would sacrifice some speed early in a run as the tire pressures grew, but soon he would motor past any driver who had passed him and then maintain good speed for the remainder of the run.

Shepherd, who led a total of 52 laps that day, was out front when he drove onto pit road with 100 laps to go, for what was expected to be his final pit stop, the “money stop” as it’s often called.

Eddie Wood scrambled around to the right side of the car and began hitting lug nuts with his air wrench held wide open.

The first two popped off as expected. The third one wouldn’t budge. Wood knocked off the fourth and fifth lug nuts and went back to the third.

It still wouldn’t budge.

Eddie0004 “The unthinkable had happened,” he said. “Getting the lugs off quickly is the key to getting started on a good pit stop. Back then you had to be careful not to round off the corners of the nuts and make sure they all came completely off the studs. Every now and then one nut would hang by a thread keeping the tire from coming off.

“Those are the things you always worry about.”

Unable to remove the wheel, Wood picked up four lug nuts and retightened them. (At that time, the tire changers removed and reinstalled their own tires, a chore handled today by the tire carrier.)

Shepherd returned to the track with his well-worn right-front tire and circled the track while crew chief Leonard Wood came up with a plan to change the tire. It was the opposite scenario of many a race today in which teams lose races because of lug nuts being too loose.

“We’d lost our chance to win the race at that point,” Eddie Wood recalled. “We brought Morgan back in, and Leonard took a four-foot breaker over the wall and broke the nut loose.

“It was the one of the sickest feelings I had ever had after a race. I thought I’d tightened the lug too tight on the stop before.”

“Mistakes on pit road happen a lot today, but I guess it really hasn’t changed that much.”
Shepherd wound up 10th that day, two laps behind winner Harry Gant.

Wood was still beating himself up the next day as the team was returning home from the race. They were listening to a race on the radio, now known as the Xfinity Series, which was being run on that following Monday after being rained out the weekend before.

“We heard two teams experienced the same problem we had with lug nuts,” Wood said. “I knew then that maybe it wasn’t all my fault.”

At that time, teams bought lug nuts by the box, then ran a tap through them to be sure the threads were OK.

But it seems that a batch of lug nuts had been made with a defect on the surface of the nut that contacts the wheel. When tightened, the nut acted like a cam and locked itself against the wheel.

“We still lost the race, but I felt better about it after finding out about the problem with the lug nuts,” Wood said. “But still, every time I think about Dover, I think about that day.

“I changed tires for several years after that, and I always had a fear that the same thing would happen again.”

As Wood and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team return to Dover this weekend, the retired tire changer is hoping for another strong run by Blaney and comapny, which is fresh off a season-best fifth-place finish at Kansas Speedway last Saturday night.

“Dover is a fast track, and things happen quickly there,” he said. “The race is 400 laps, unlike back in the day when it was 500, so you have to go hard all the time.

“That makes it more exciting.”

Qualifying for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism is set for Friday at 3:45 p.m. and Sunday’s race should get the green flag just after 1 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.

 

Blaney Finishes A Season-Best Fifth At Kansas

2016 NASCAR KansasRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team put together their strongest effort of the season on Saturday night in the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Blaney started seventh, and from the drop of the green flag until the checkered flag, he was rarely out of the top-10, and inside the top five for much of the race before finishing a season-best fifth.

His pit crew, led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins, was virtually flawless throughout the race, with Blaney gaining one position on nearly every pit stop.

“That’s the most competitive we’ve been all race long in quite a while,” team co-owner Len Wood said. “Ryan did a great job, and the pit crew was spot-on.”

Blaney said his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion was really fast at the beginning of the race, lost a bit of speed midway through the event and then picked up again at the finish.

“We started off the race really, really good,” he said. “I thought that was when we were strongest, when the sun was up, the track was a little bit hotter.

Then as the night came, it cooled off a little bit, we lost a little bit of speed. I felt like everyone kind of gained grip and got better, and we lost a little bit. It took us a while to try to get that back.”

“We got it closer towards the end there.”
More importantly, he said, he was never far behind the leaders.

“We were up there all day,” he said. “Just a good day for us, good night, something to build off of, for sure.”

One of Blaney’s closest calls of the race came with 25 laps to go when four drivers ahead of him wrecked on a restart. Blaney drove onto the apron of the track to avoid being collected in the wreck, but in doing so did some damage to the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion. “It actually hurt the nose a little bit, which was unfortunate,” he said. “But luckily we were able to get by that and move on.”

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Kansas Blaney was the highest-finishing Ford driver, and his fifth-place finish was a boost for Ford in its efforts to win the Manufacturer’s Championship.

“I like to think we helped make it a good night for Ford,” Wood said.

It also was a good night, points-wise, for Blaney as he moved up two spots to 16th in the Sprint Cup standings.

The team’s performance, its third finish of 11th or better in the past four races, also is a momentum builder heading into the upcoming race at Dover International Speedway, and the following events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which like Kansas is one of the intermediate-length tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.

“We haven’t been to Dover in a while, but Ryan and Jeremy have been there with the Xfinity Series,” Wood said. “We’re looking for a good race at Dover, and we think we’ll have a good package for all the races coming up at Charlotte too.”

Wood and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team also leave Kansas relieved that Blaney’s father Dave Blaney is back at home recovering from a nasty crash in his sprint car at Eldora Speedway Friday night.

“We’re glad Dave’s injuries didn’t turn out to be serious,” he said. “He’s been a big supporter of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, and a big help to Ryan as he adapts to Sprint Cup racing.”

With a night of racing in the books, Wood and his brother Eddie left Kansas on another mission. They boarded a red-eye flight to Concord, N.C., then planned to travel to their hometown of Stuart, Va., for a Mother’s Day cookout with one of the team’s longest serving and most devoted members – their mother, Bernece Wood.

“We’d like to wish our mother, and all the other mothers out there, a very happy Mother’s Day,” Wood said.

Blaney To Start Seventh At Kansas

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, KansasRyan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team equaled their best qualifying effort of the season on Friday at Kansas Speedway by earning the seventh starting spot for Saturday’s Go Bowling 400.

It follows seventh-place efforts at Daytona and Texas, and it was his fifth appearance in the final round of qualifying in 11 races this season.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he hopes the team’s third seventh-place start will be a lucky omen for Saturday’s race.

“Seven three times is 21,” Wood said, quickly adding that the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team isn’t relying on luck this season. “I’m really proud of Ryan, Jeremy Bullins (crew chief) and the entire team. They worked hard today, and they were able to build on the notes they have from running at Kansas before.”

Blaney and Bullins steadily improved their times throughout the day on Friday. Focusing mostly on a race set-up, Blaney posted the 26th-best lap in opening practice then jumped to 15th in Happy Hour.

2016 NASCAR KansasIn qualifying, he was 17th in the first round, fifth in the second and seventh in the final round, with an official qualifying lap at 189.673 miles per hour.

“It’s a good achievement, really,” Blaney said of his qualifying effort on a day in which four Ford drivers were among the 12 making the final qualifying round. “It’s always nice to get to the final round, and it’s cool to get the car faster every single round.”

Blaney said he made a slight miscalculation on his last run, although he still finished second of the four Ford drivers in the finals.

“The last one we made the right adjustments, and we got through (Turns) One and Two really good, but Three and Four I got tight, and I lost some time,” he said. “That was a bit of my fault because I should have adjusted my tools a little bit to help that out.

“Overall, not a bad day. It’s a good place to start (Saturday) and we get a good pit stall.”

The Go Bowling 400 is set to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.

Motorcraft/Quick Lane Team Hoping The Good Times Continue To Roll At Kansas Speedway

2015 NASCAR KansasKansas Speedway, the brainchild of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy, has been a special place for Ryan Blaney, the Wood Brothers and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

For Blaney, the 1.5-mile track that once was literally out in the corn fields, but now has become the centerpiece of a major commercial development, is the site of his Sprint Cup debut, back in 2014 while driving for Team Penske.

For the Wood Brothers, it’s a place where the team’s Director of Business Development Jon Wood, won the pole for the first-ever race there, a NASCAR Winston West race on June 2, 2001.

At Kansas in 2003, Wood outran his then-Roush Racing teammate Carl Edwards to score his first-ever victory in the Camping World Truck Series. Wood led the final 28 laps and finished 1.176 seconds ahead of Edwards.

Ricky Battles Joe Nemecheck In addition, the Wood Brothers team also has had success at Kansas, with its best run coming in 2004, with Ricky Rudd driving the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford.

In that race, Rudd and Joe Nemechek battled door-to-door for the win with Rudd finishing second by a scant 0.081 seconds. All told, in 12 Sprint Cup starts at Kansas the Wood Brothers have four top-10 finishes, the most recent being a seventh-place by Blaney last fall.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said the opening Kansas race in 2001 is a memorable one for him, thanks to the generosity of the France family, who may have a reputation of being firm in its business dealings, but also has a soft-hearted side that many have never seen.

The #50 Jon Wood Ford TaurusWood said he was having dinner with Lesa Kennedy some months before the Kansas track opened. In the course of their conversation, he mentioned that he wouldn’t be able to join his son Jon and the team at Kansas Speedway because of his duties at the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway the same weekend.

“I told her I would really like to be there with Jon for the first race at Kansas, but our Cup race team came first,” Wood said. “I didn’t think any more about it until I got a call from Daytona Beach a few days before the race.”

Lesa had told her father, the late Bill France Jr. (“Billy” to those close to him.) about Wood’s predicament, and they had arranged for him to fly from Dover to Kansas and back on a NASCAR plane.

“I got to the airport Saturday morning and got on the plane, and there was no one on there but the two pilots and me,” Wood recalled.

Upon arriving at the track, Wood made his way toward the France suite overlooking the track but was stopped because he didn’t have the proper credentials.

“The guy was an FBI agent,” Wood said. “I told him I didn’t have a credential, but that Mr. France had invited me to his suite.

“The guy left, came back in a few minutes and said “Follow me.”

Wood and Billy France watched as the then-19-year-old Jon Wood battled veteran Frank Kimmel for the win. Wood had the lead late in the race, but on the final restart, his third-gear ratio was too high, and that hindered him in getting up to speed. Kimmel slipped past him for the win.

“I got back on that plane and was back in Dover by seven or eight p.m.,” Wood said.

P-WB2-863Wood watched his son’s 2003 truck victory at Kansas on TV in the team’s hauler at Daytona International Speedway. Later that July 5th evening, Rudd drove the Motorcraft Ford to a third-place finish in a Pepsi 400 that saw Ford drivers sweep the top three finishing positions.

“Kansas has always been good to us, even going back to 1956 when my Dad (Glen Wood) finished second in a NASCAR Convertible Division race at Hutchinson, Kansas,” Wood said, adding that he and his fellow members of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are hoping to make some more pleasant Kansas memories this weekend.

There are reasons to be optimistic, among them the fact that Blaney finished seventh at Kansas last fall and is coming off a ninth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. And there are only 40 cars entered, so the team can focus on preparing for the race instead of worrying about making the starting field.

“Being able to concentrate on the race changes the whole outlook for the weekend,” he said.

Qualifying for the Go Bowling 400 is set for Friday at 6:45 p.m. eastern, and the race is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m. Saturday with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1.