The Wood Brothers, NASCAR’s oldest active team, returns to fulltime racing this season in the Sprint Cup Series and it’s a good thing because team co-owner Eddie Wood said running part-time “never felt right.”
Wood Brothers has fielded entries in the Cup series since 1950 but due to a lack of financial support, the organization hasn’t competed throughout an entire season since 2006.
The brothers are back
With assistance from Ford Motor Co., the Woods will return to fulltime competition this season, fielding the No. 21 Ford with rookie of the year candidate Ryan Blaney.
“When you stop racing fulltime it’s like, ‘Yeah, OK, you were at home or whatever,’ but it never felt right. It just felt like you were supposed to be doing something else,” Wood said Wednesday during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.
“You’re just not supposed to be at home when everybody else is racing, so this is just a great opportunity for us.”
It was tough. I think the hardest part for me (was) watching it on TV ... It does feel a little different (starting back fulltime). There is a lot of anticipation and a lot of positive feelings about it.
The original Wood Brothers, brothers Glen and Leonard, don’t participate with the team like they once did – Glen is 90 while Leonard is 81 – but Eddie Wood said they are just as excited as anyone about the organization’s return to the racing each week.
Glen has been attending only the Daytona 500 in recent seasons but Leonard still works in the shop each day and has been attending all their races.
"Missing something" when running part-time
The entire family has felt like something was missing when it wasn’t competing each week, Eddie Wood said.
“It was tough. I think the hardest part for me, watching it on TV, is when they do the introductions and the national anthem – it hits you. ‘I’m not there.’ The anthem to me is the coolest part of the show,” he said.
“It feels new. It does feel a little different (starting back fulltime). There is a lot of anticipation and a lot of positive feelings about it.”
The Wood Brothers return to fulltime competition in many respects better than ever before. The organization now has a technical alliance with Team Penske, which in recent seasons has been the top performing Ford team in the series.
Rookie Ryan Blaney honored to drive the No. 21
Blaney, the 22-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, has already amassed an impressive racing resume and is one of the Cup series’ top rising stars. He has four wins in both the Xfinity and Truck series, all since 2012.
“It’s just cool to have such a historic team to be driving for, and they’re such great people. They’ve been amazing to me and my family and we’re just racers. I think that’s what bonds us so well,” he said. “They grew up racing and it’s all they cared about, and that’s really all I knew growing up.”
If Blaney didn’t already have an appreciation for the Wood Brothers’ history, he certainly got a reminder in November when the announcement was made of the team’s plans to return to fulltime competition.
“I had a lot of other drivers and teams come up to me to congratulate me, and that makes you feel good,” Blaney said. “And it wasn’t them just saying to me, but to the Wood Brothers themselves and every crew member on the team.
“It’s really cool to see the support every other team gives when a historic team like this can get support and go fulltime racing. That was so neat to me when we made that announcement – the positive support we got.”