Monday, February 15, 2016

COMMENTARY: Don't Worry About The Wood Brothers

Leonard and Glen Wood, NASCAR pioneers
Wood Brothers Racing is as much a part of the NASCAR landscape as gasoline fumes, trophy queens and the checkered flag. The Stuart, Va.-based Woods pre-dated the arrival of NASCAR, fielding potent modified racers for elder brother Glen Wood, wrenched by younger brother Leonard.

Their legendary partnership with driver David Pearson produced nearly 100 wins, and their lifetime driver roster reads like a Who’s Who of NASCAR racing. Pearson, Curtis Turner, Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Marvin Panch, Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, AJ Foyt, Neil Bonnett and Buddy Baker all spent quality time at the wheel of their No. 21 Fords over the years, making Wood Brothers Racing the equivalent of NASCAR royalty.
At 90 and 81 years of age, respectively, Glen and Leonard Wood shoulder a lighter load these days, leaving the day-to-day operation of Wood Brothers Racing to the second and third generations of their racing family.
Faltering sponsorship has forced the team to compete only part-time in recent seasons, but when they do race, they race competitively. They won their fifth Daytona 500 with rookie Trevor Bayne in 2011, and they’re back with another freshman driver – third-generation wheel man Ryan Blaney – in 2016. Unfortunately, the Woods returned to Daytona Beach this week with a decided handicap. That part-time status resulted in them being left off the list of Sprint Cup Series charter holders; an omission that will require them to race their way into the final four spots of the field for the next nine years, while teams with a small percentage of their tenure enjoy guaranteed starter status.
Ryan Blaney
NASCAR’s decision to leave WBR off the charter list has been controversial, to say the least. While their omission is perhaps justifiable by the sheer numbers, NASCAR Nation has been vociferous in its belief that something should have been done to guarantee the Woods a place at the table on race day .
I’ll leave that debate to others, focusing instead on the competitive challenges that now face NASCAR’s longest-tenured team.
Yes, Wood Brothers Racing must qualify for every race from now on, just as they have for most of the past decade. To do so, they need only to be one of the four fastest “open” teams in time-trial qualifying. Only eight “open” teams turned out to seek a spot in NASCAR’s richest race this week, and fewer still are expected to compete on a weekly basis, going forward. Many of those teams are small, understaffed and unsponsored, struggling to gain a foothold in the sport. With all due respect, those teams present little threat to an operation like the Woods, which enjoys enthusiastic monetary and technological support from both Ford Performance and Team Penske, as well as full sponsorship.
Evidence of that support came in the final two minutes of Saturday’s final practice, when Blaney rolled onto the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway tri-oval in hot pursuit of Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. On a day when no one else tempted fate with multi-car drafts, Blaney, Keselowski and Logano joined forces and sped to the very top of the speed charts, giving the Wood Brothers an iron-clad insurance policy in the event of inclement weather on qualifying day.
The tradition continues in 2016
“We had a plan,” admitted Blaney to afterward. “That was kind of the plan, to line up there at the end.”
Their backup plan was ultimately not needed, as Blaney qualified solidly in seventh place yesterday. It showed, however, just how far Team Penske and Ford are willing to go to ensure the Woods a spot on race day. Blaney will start fourth in Thursday’s first Can-Am Duel 150 qualifying race, but no matter where he finishes, a spot in the Great American Race is assured.
“It is nice to be locked into the race,” he said. “The biggest relief for us is to know you are locked in and good to race in the 500. That lets us go race on Thursday… instead of playing it conservative. It’s a load off our shoulders, for sure.”
Wood Brothers Racing is going to be fine for the remainder of Speedweeks. They’ll be fine next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and the week after that in Las Vegas. Barring a complete rainout of practice and qualifying in one of those events, there is virtually no way for a team as good, as fast, as experienced and as well-supported as the Woods to miss the cut. And once we roll into Phoenix International Raceway for the Good Sam 500 on March 13, Wood Brothers Racing will be high enough in the owner’s standings that even a deluge of biblical proportions can do them no harm.
"It's all going to work out," said team co-owner Eddie Wood this week. "I promise. It's going to be OK."
Being shunned for a charter was disappointing for the Woods Brothers and their legions of fans. But it is absolutely not the kiss of death. Wood Brothers Racing will persevere as it always has, overcoming whatever obstacles are placed in its path and proving – once again – why it remains one of NASCAR’s elite organizations.
“This one is for our fans… the people that have supported us over the past week and over the past seven decades,” said Eddie Wood. We’ve never taken the support of our fans for granted, and we’re elated to be able to give them reason to celebrate this week.”

“It’s been awkward for us the past few days, and I’m sure it’s been that way for our fans, as well. Now we can all focus on something positive, a great run in the Daytona 500.”


  1. Anonymous1:24 PM

    I still would like to know what happens if they get in the chase and compete for the championship. next year will they have a charter

    1. They will not. The only Way to get a charter is to purchase one.

  2. Thank you for this, Dave. I've been talking to people about this all week. With their alliance with Penske and a fully funded operation, I just don't see any of the current open teams knocking them out of many races going forward.

  3. Dwayne in Memphis2:01 PM

    "It showed, however, just how far Team Penske and Ford are willing to go to ensure the Woods a spot on race day" It's nice to see somebody still understands some measure of loyalty and respect for one of the most-respected teams and one of the Day 1 teams of NASCAR.

    But just because they'll be ok doesn't mean they didn't get cheated royally by Brian France and Rob Kaufman. Wood Brothers didn't get a charter because they haven't run full time lately. Rob Kaufman just shuttered MWR and sold the property...but made sure that he got HIS two charters. Bet those MWR cars will have a strong showing this weekend.

    That whole scenario is absolute nonsense.

    1. Anonymous2:21 AM

      Amen! Who can not see who benefited the most from this? All under the guise of caring for others of course and wanting things better for owners. Lol.

  4. Anonymous2:24 PM

    The financial repercussions can't even be calculated at this point, though safe to say they will be worth significantly less than chartered teams. It will hurt them in sponsors negotiations, driver recruitment, employee recruitment etc. It will hurt them when applying for business loans, negotiating existing debt and more.

    My question is what is the way forward? Can they obtain a charter from NASCAR after they run full-time?

    1. I believe they will only be able to obtain a charter if/when a current charter team chooses to sell/lease one. I imagine that will probably happen considering some of the start/park teams actually did obtain charters. Once someone loses a primary sponsor, they will potentially not have the funds to continue or not want to continue out of their own pocket...and can recoup some of their investment by selling the charter.

  5. If the only way the Woods can get a charter is to buy one, this program is nothing but a form of crony capitalism. It will only allow the wealthiest investors to start teams further pushing out startup programs. NASCAR could have came up with some kind of deal for a team that has been in NASCAR racing for 60 years.

  6. Anonymous12:00 AM

    NASCAR should be ashamed of themselves for treating the Wood brothers like this. They have been part of the back bone of stock car racing since they started racing. I'm embarrassed to say i'm a NASCAR fan. It's just not right.

  7. Anonymous9:43 AM

    I would hope that Ford is trolling the garage and sniffing out one of those lesser teams with two charters that might be open to an 'offer-they-can't-refuse !!!

  8. It's certainly going to make qualifying much more interesting for me this season. While theyve never been my favorite team, Ive always admired them and enjoyed it when they won. I have to believe that the #21 will have most NASCAR fans pulling harder for them this year during qualifying. At least I know I will.

  9. Anonymous12:42 PM

    So why did they leave the RTA? I assumed it was as a form of protest but maybe you know another reason.

    1. Anonymous2:19 AM

      No doubt, who can blame them, what use is the RTA to them? Not worth the muck on their work boots.

  10. The Wood Brothers ARE stock car racing. They are a salt of the earth family team that has raced with class and dignity always. To be shunned by Nascar and the alliance because of the almighty dollar (make no mistake, that is what is always about) is absolutely heartbreaking. I was a Petty fan growing up, but always admired and respected the Wood Brothers. Go get 'em guys!

  11. Anonymous1:17 PM

    to give charters to a now defunk team MWR and exclude woods brother raceing is terrible for nascar ,even the die hard chevy and Toyota fans see this was a mistake to leave the oldest team in nascar out ,and with their over 100 wins they don't show up to just be seen like lot a teams,nascar changes the rules to let drivers into the chase why not grandfather this team in , I got my favorite driver but you can bet I will be like a lot of other fans keeping an eye on the 21 hopeing they make every race and win a couple rasces to just to say see nascar you dropped the ball

  12. Anonymous1:19 PM

    Even if everything you say is true, it's still not fair that they will receive less money for finishing in the same position as a "charter" team.

  13. Anonymous2:42 PM

    It is shameful that Nascar did not exempt a pioneer team like this, once again showing loyalty at nascar is a one way street. All brian had to do was say their in because I can...Shameful...Earner

  14. Anonymous9:54 PM

    You probably won't publish this Dave but how many people said weeks and even months ago that why should they even bother with front row qualifying for the Daytona 500 when Chase Elliot had already won the pole. Well I'm here to add to that sentiment that why doesn't NASCAR just give Chase Elliot the ROTY right now too.

    I'm sorry Dave but as NASCAR addict of over 30 years I have to say that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it's probably a duck.

    Go Ryan Blaney and go Wood Brothers. And yes, I will take great delight every time you kick Chase Elliot's ass.

    1. Looks like you were wrong, I published it. And BTW, your aluminum foil hat is slipping.

    2. Anonymous11:17 AM

      Dave if his aluminum foil hat is slipping then help me understand the pole results since 2013:

      2013 Danica's first full-time year at Stewart-Haas and somehow she wins the pole.
      2014 Austin Dillion arrives and starts driving the 3 car and somehow wins the pole.
      2015 Jeff Gordan is going to retire. Doesn't win it via the fastest lap. Somehow wins it via Three-round Formula One-style group knockout qualifying.
      2016 Chase Elliot is in the 24 car. Somehow wins the pole.

      Dave, how is it that the 5 biggest stories NASCAR wants to promote at the beginning of the last 5 race seasons somehow win the Daytona 500 pole? Man, what are the odds of that happening?

      Too good to be true and you know it.

      If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it's probably a duck.

    3. Isn't it funny how the lunatic conspiracy theorists are all named "Anonymous?"

      Answer me this, Mr. Expert. What would NASCAR have to gain from doing something so stupid? The Daytona 500 is going to be well publicized, whether or not Chase Elliott wins the pole. Chase is going to have a great career, whether or not he wins the pole. Seems t me, there's not a lot to be gained.

      On the other hand, what would NASCAR have to lose if such a nefarious plot were discovered? Their multi-billion dollar professional sport goes down the hole in an instant, destroying what it has taken three generations to build. The risk seems to dramatically outweigh the reward, in my opinion.

      We can't keep a new sponsor secret for a week in this sport, yet you believe that NASCAR has been manipulating qualifying results for years, without one single person knowing about it? All it would take is one disgruntled former NASCAR official, one former team owner or driver to blow the lid off the entire sport, forever. And yet, it has never happened in nearly 70 years.

      Why do you think that is? Put on your thinking cap -- concentrate hard -- and explain you all this would work.

  15. Anonymous2:18 AM

    Well, I think the wolf is let in the door, all the praise about charters and the guy who is recouping HIS supposed losses, time will tell now won't it? For all the fanfare and the hard line rules some are saying "tough sheetz" about the Wood Brothers as they did not put in a full season. Well, golly gee, why the heck do you think that is? The most loyal, and every good thing you can say about them..GIVE them a "well deserved waiver" that NASCAR is so fond of throwing around, (all for a feel good story of course). If anybody who has gotten a damn waiver is more worthy than the Wood Brothers, please let me know. I haven't seen that individual.

  16. Anonymous4:12 PM

    Start and park teams get in while the Wood Brothers don't. Welcome to modern day NASCRAP

    1. Start and park teams? The last-place finishers crashed out on Lap 91. No start and park here.

    2. Anonymous4:53 PM

      I am talking about into the charter system not the race.