This Week in Ford Racing The Wood Brothers, owners of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, and driver Bill Elliott are running a limited schedule this year and, after a two-race hiatus, will return to the circuit this weekend for the Kobalt Tools...
This Week in Ford Racing
The Wood Brothers, owners of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, and driver Bill Elliott are running a limited schedule this year and, after a two-race hiatus, will return to the circuit this weekend for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Woods have more wins at AMS - 12 - than any other race team; their last victory there was in 1993 with driver Morgan Shepherd - and with a little help from defending series champion Alan Kulwicki. Co-owner Eddie Wood remembers that day, and talks about the current team's preparation for this weekend.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT WIN AT ATLANTA IN 1993? "That was the spring race, and it had been snowed out from the week before. It was a snowstorm similar to what just went through there this weekend, except bigger. It was cold, real cold, I remember that. [Alan] Kulwicki had had trouble early in the race - I don't remember what happened to him, I think he got into an accident, but something happened to him early in the race. We were down to making it on one stop. Let's say there was 100 [laps] to go, and we were running along there and we had a flat tire, a flat right-front. So, we had to come in under green and change it, and, of course, we got a lap down. And we kept running and running, and it had cycled back through to where we were back leading the race. We were going to make it on fuel with one stop; we had to stop like five or six laps early because of the tire, so that messed up the whole deal - we thought. So, as it went along, we were thinking, 'We might make it. We're going to try.' So, Kulwicki was standing behind me on the box - I stood right beside the tool box, we didn't have the big condominiums we have right now on pit road, I stood on a box that had a welder in it and Kulwicki was standing behind me, and he was like, 'You've got to get him to back off! Save gas! Save gas!' That's what we were doing, but he stayed until the very end of the race, and we made it on fuel and we won the race. It was going to be a one-stop deal and we were going to win the race, if it all played out and stayed under green, then we had to stop early, and it ended up that we made it anyway."
ALAN KULWICKI WAS AN ENGINEER? "Kulwicki was a mechanical engineer, yes."
WITH NO COMPUTERS, HOW DID HE KNOW? "He knew. Kulwicki was a racer. My dad and Len were the ones figuring out the fuel mileage, it's just the way you did it. You just knew. I don't remember the number of laps at the time, but I'm going to guess that it was 65 laps, thats your window, and he began to sense what we were doing. You know, we were just talking as much as you can talk during a race, but he was just standing right there with us. There's a picture in my office of him standing there with us. And, then the next week we went to Bristol and we lost him in that plane crash.
"It's the same schedule we have now, actually. There was a week off after Atlanta; well, that particular week was eaten up with going back to Atlanta and running the race. The next week we went to Bristol."
YOU HAVEN'T BEEN AT THE TRACK SINCE DAYTONA. HOW DID YOU SPEND THE LAST TWO SUNDAYS? "Sunday, I watched the race. I didn't really know how to do that. It's like when you watch a football game - you're kind of up and down and out, halfway paying attention, but I watched the race and I had my computer on with the NASCAR Track Pass, where you can watch the lap times just like you were sitting on the pit box on pit road. And then you could click and listen to anybody's radio and hear what's going on. That was cool. So, I just kind of watched the race. It was different, yeah, but I talked with some of my friends before the race to get an idea of what was going on. Dale Inman called me and talked to me and kind of got me up to speed, you know, all the goings on that you usually know about but wouldn't know about not having been there. It was okay. It was different, though."
WAS IT A LITTLE EASIER TO WATCH A RACE IN WHICH YOU DIDN'T HAVE A CAR? "I missed a race the year that Ricky Rudd finished second at Sonoma to Tony Stewart. I had been to a Busch race and my flight was cancelled from Milwaukee to Sonoma, so I wound up at home and I watched the race. Watching our car, that was probably harder because you didn't know any more than if your car wasn't in it. That was before text messages."
DID THE SUCCESS YOU ACHIEVED AT DAYTONA HELP MOVE THIS TEAM FORWARD - EVEN WITH THE ABBREVIATED SCHEDULE YOU'RE RUNNING THIS YEAR? "Yes. Daytona starts out everybody's year good or bad. We missed the race last year, so that was really bad. But then if you make the race and have trouble in the race and finish in the back or don't get to run at all, that's bad, too. We needed to run the whole race. We didn't need it to rain - the way our car was and the way our pit strategy worked out, we needed about 15 or 20 more laps, at least. It did help the overall program just because we ran well, and all the work that went into that paid off. The same amount of effort has gone into Atlanta, and will go into every race we run. We've been to the shaker rig two or three times since Daytona, they've been to the wind tunnel a couple of times, the pull down. We haven't been track testing anywhere, but every day has been some sort of R&D for the future."
SO, SO FAR, THE PLAN HAS BEEN A GOOD PLAN. "Yes. But, I do miss not going to those two races, don't get me wrong there. That is kind of the hard part of it, but we are rebuilding and hopefully we can get enough sponsorship to go back full time in 2010."
-credit: ford racing