Ricky Rudd's run on Friday marked the 119th all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series pole for the Wood Brothers, but it was the first for brothers Eddie and Len Wood since taking over the day-to-day operations in 1985. Both spoke about this ...
Ricky Rudd's run on Friday marked the 119th all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series pole for the Wood Brothers, but it was the first for brothers Eddie and Len Wood since taking over the day-to-day operations in 1985. Both spoke about this milestone before Saturday's practice and happy hour session.
LEN WOOD , Co-Owner - No. 21 Keep It Genuine Taurus
THIS IS YOUR FIRST POLE. HOW DOES IT FEEL? "I said that yesterday, but it feels good. It's been too long in coming. We were second with Kyle Petty at Daytona one time on the Fourth of July and we were second at Wilkesboro on the first when you used to have two-day qualifying. We wound up worse than that. We had a second with Morgan Shepherd at Pocono, a second at Texas and a second at Charlotte with Elliott Sadler. We've been so close and you had to wonder if it would ever come."
YOU DISAPPEARED FROM THE HAULER WITH FIVE CARS TO GO. WHERE WERE YOU? "I heard that the car was on the way back to the garage and I'm supposed to take the restrictor plate off, so I wound up beside the NASCAR trailer watching the monitor by myself. Once I saw Earnhardt go, I felt we had it."
IS THERE PERSONAL SATISFACTION? "Five years ago we missed this race and that was a wake-up call. We turned to some others for help - Jack Roush in particular - and he helped us with the car and we've kind of turned this around. Now when you add Doug and Robert's (Yates) help to this, that's kind of what has made the difference. We didn't do this alone - a lot of people helped."
DID YOU TALK TO YOUR FOLKS LAST NIGHT? "Yeah. Kim actually called while we were in victory circle and momma and daddy were with her. They were all tickled because it had been a while for everybody (laughing). That's not a win, but it's pretty close."
EDDIE WOOD , Co-Owner - No. 21 - Keep It Genuine Taurus
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS BEING YOUR FIRST POLE? "I hadn't really thought about it like that. To me it just means that what we're trying to do by reorganizing is starting to come together. We basically started over on December 22nd and drew a line in the sand by moving and reorganizing completely. It's just like a brand new race team and we've struggled quite a bit. This is the first real accomplishment that we've had since we moved and made the commitment to go for all of it. To me, that's what's good about it. Ben Leslie came on board and worked really hard. This is a completely new race team and he's really done a good job with what we've done. I credit the whole deal to him. He came in and took over and did what he thought was right and it's working out now."
RICKY SAID YOU WEREN'T LETTING PEOPLE LEAVE THEIR SPOTS IN THE HAULER YESTERDAY WHILE QUALIFYING WAS STILL GOING ON. WHY? "I'm one of those people that if you're sitting down while your team is winning a ball game, you don't get up. You don't change anything. You don't change the air around you. You don't change the environment. You don't change the atmosphere. With the group of people we had up there watching on TV, we hadn't gotten bumped off at that time so I didn't want anything changed. I'm just a little superstitious about stuff like that. I know it doesn't mean anything, but it does to me."
IF YOU KNEW ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS MAKE A BET INVOLVING A PINK HAT, WOULD YOU HAVE DONE IT A FEW YEARS SOONER? "Yeah. That's what I'm gonna wear from now on. I like pink (laughing)."
IT'S BEEN A ROUGH START. HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED YOUR WAY THROUGH IT? "We've kind of struggled the last few years so struggling is something that's not really new to us and you just learn to deal with it. You keep on working and there's just enough hope and light at the end of the tunnel from time to time that keeps you going. There's just enough good stuff that happens to make you feel that this will work out and you just keep at it. If you work hard enough long enough, it'll finally be your turn."
HAS IT BEEN HARDER THAN YOU THOUGHT WHEN RICKY CAME ON BOARD? "I don't know. It's always hard. It's really no harder, but there's probably more pressure just because there was such an emphasis put on what we tried to put together. When Elliott (Sadler) was driving for us that was starting to work out also, but we didn't get to finish it. I guess it's worked out for everybody, but sometimes you put things together and they don't fall into place like you think they will. Just because you've got the right people and the right parts and pieces doesn't mean it will work. You have to just keep honing on it and filing on it until things fall into their little spots. Then, all of a sudden, it's working."
WERE EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH AT THAT POINT? SOME PEOPLE HAD YOU CONTENDING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP RIGHT OFF THE BAT? "Yeah, they probably were, but that was OK. It's just taken a little longer to get going and that's OK, too. Now that we can look back on it, we're probably all better for it. Once things get like you want them, where you can be competitive every week, in this business that's all you can ask for."
CAN YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS YEAR'S SLOW START TO THE MOVE? "The move certainly didn't help us as far as starting off and getting going because we lost quite a bit of time in the move. Now that the move is completed we're starting to get caught up as far as cars. When we moved, the key to moving and getting through it as well as we did was Ben. He just had a plan and we stuck to it. It's just like the last five weeks, we've built two road race cars plus we're building other cars. He's done a really incredible job organizing the people and getting everything going. We're going to Sonoma next week to test and then on to Fontana, so it's been a really busy time. There is a lot of stuff that's been going on that you wouldn't even think about. The best way I can describe it is to say it's almost like something you're trying to catch all the time. You're never really ever seem to pull even with it, you're always trying to catch the next thing you need to be doing. Hopefully by mid-summer there will be some normalcy to what we're trying to do at the shop and have our fleet of cars built up. We're still experimenting with different body configurations. We think we've settled in on what we like, but we haven't done it for sure. The car we're taking to Fontana, in our eyes, is the best car in our fleet. The one we ran at Texas was a little different and they've all been a little different. We've been searching for the magic and when we find it, that's what we'll build all the time."
WHILE THIS POLE IS NICE, IT'S THE SAME CAR THAT RAN WELL AT DAYTONA. WHAT HAPPENS ON THE DOWNFORCE TRACKS FROM HERE ON OUT IS KEY, RIGHT? "It's not a quick process. You've got to build the cars and even though you can go and test them until you're blue in the face, you don't really know until you race them. When you go and test the track conditions are so much different. There's no rubber on the track and usually when you go back the stuff you learned is somewhat helpful but not a lot. Let's say we go to Fontana next week. We had a bad race at Fontana last year and didn't run well at all, but if we're competitive then that's what we'll build. We'll cut up everything in the shop and start over. That's what we'll build. That's what we'll run. When we build cars we're not talking about moving stuff around a lot. We're only talking quarter-inch stuff, but a quarter of an inch with noses, roofs and tails is a big deal. That's all of it right there, but I think we're getting close to finding what we want."
CAN YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE WITH THE GUYS THIS MORNING? "I notice a difference in me (laughing). It's really good for all the guys because it's the first good thing we've done as the new group to show improvement and that's the good part about it. It gives you the feeling that, 'OK, this just might work.'"
WHAT WAS THE PERCENTAGE OF TURNOVER FROM STUART TO CHARLOTTE? "We probably brought half the people with us that wanted to come and then another half that are new people. I would say it's 50-50."
IN ADDITION TO THE PINK HAT, MAYBE YOU NEED TO KEEP THIS VINTAGE PAINT SCHEME. "Running that paint scheme is like remembering something good about when you were a kid - a place to go or something to do or something you had and you get to go back there. It's almost like taking you back to a better time and that's kind of the way I feel about it. We're really fortunate that Motorcraft is gonna let us do that for a while. We're gonna run it quite a few times this year and it's us. That's just like the 43 still having Petty blue on it. That's the Petty's. It's supposed to be that way. I guess the Petty's and us are really the only ones that can say that in here - that have ever had an identity with a paint scheme that had nothing to do with the sponsor. In the beginning when that paint scheme started, that was the color of the car. Whoever sponsored it, their name went on it but it still stayed the same color and the Petty's were the same way. I'm a Petty guy anyway. I can't help it. If we had a problem during the race in the old days, Len and I would go down and stand in the pit with Dale (Inman) in Richard's pit. That's just the way we are and that's the way it was. I'm big on tradition. I like the Yankees and the pinstripes. I remember when the NFL about five years ago went back to the nostalgia uniforms and I loved that. I think it's part of what makes NASCAR special and it's cool. I like to run that paint scheme because I feel better with it."