This Week in Ford Racing June 8, 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Ford teams have dominated at Michigan Speedway, winning 19 of the last 28 races held. But no team has had more success than the Wood Brothers who own 11 career wins at the two-mile ...
This Week in Ford Racing June 8, 1999
NASCAR Winston Cup
Ford teams have dominated at Michigan Speedway, winning 19 of the last 28 races held. But no team has had more success than the Wood Brothers who own 11 career wins at the two-mile facility, including the inaugural race in 1969 when Cale Yarborough captured the Motor State 500. Leonard Wood, along with former drivers David Pearson and Dale Jarrett, spoke about their success at Michigan Speedway.
LEONARD WOOD, Car Owner -21- Citgo Taurus -- IS THERE A REASON YOU GUYS HAVE HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS AT MICHIGAN? "We've just had a good combination of driver and car. Sometimes you get it all together and sometimes a certain combination and driver gets around certain tracks better than others. Of course, David (Pearson) got around the track no matter what one it was. Cale won for us there too, but like for instance at Charlotte we sat on the pole a bunch of straight times there but we won more races at Atlanta than we did at Charlotte. We sat on the pole more at Charlotte than we did Atlanta, but sometimes you just have the right setup that works."
WHEN YOU SAW MICHIGAN ON THE SCHEDULE WAS IT A CASE WHERE YOU GUYS HAD A LOT OF CONFIDENCE BECAUSE YOU WERE GOING TO A PLACE WHERE YOU KNEW YOU HAD A GOOD CHANCE TO WIN? "No, I never did look at it that way. Sometimes you go to a track and your setup works better there and you seem to work good everytime there. For the last several years, though, we haven't done that well there. It's just a thing where we had a string going and it just seemed to keep going."
COULD YOU IMAGINE HAVING A STREAK LIKE THAT? "I liked it. I just tell people that you do the best you can and everything you know to do and let the chips fall where they will. Fortunately for us, it was in the winner's circle. But just because you work hard doesn't mean you're necessarily gonna win everytime. That's a good start, but working hard and working in the right places and having it pay off."
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT MICHIGAN THAT MADE YOU SO GOOD? "I think it was because the car didn't push as bad as maybe some of the other tracks. If you're pushing the front end, you don't run fast. If you push the front end coming off the corner, that's a long turn to be pushing the front end so you're gonna be losing a lot of speed and you won't get started headed down the straightaway if it wants to push off the corner. David, especially, you could set the car up for him pretty loose. Maybe another driver it might be too loose for him, but it wouldn't be for David. It was just the way he drove."
YOU HAD THREE DIFFERENT DRIVERS WIN AT MICHIGAN WITH THREE DIFFERENT STYLES. "I set the car up for David and Cale, but my nephews and Dale were involved with setting the car up when he won. It was another case of being near the end of them getting a set of tires that ran better than the other sets they had on. Even though they were used, that set ran better than the others so they stuck with that strategy and it paid off."
WHAT ABOUT THAT FIRST RACE IN 1969? "All I can remember about that race is Cale and Lee Roy (Yarbrough) had a hot battle at the end. I also remember it being a new track and when you go to a new track you never know what combination is gonna work the best until you've tried a few. I guess we hit a pretty good one that day."
THEY SAY YOU ALWAYS LIKE THE TRACKS YOU HAVE A LOT OF SUCCESS AT, SO MICHIGAN OBVIOUSLY MUST HAVE BEEN ONE OF YOURS RIGHT? "You always like the ones you win on. It makes you like them a lot better. If you can't ever win, you don't like the track that much."
David Pearson ranks second on the all-time NASCAR Winston Cup victory list with 105 during a brilliant career that began in 1960 and ended in 1986. He won 43 of those races at 12 different race tracks while driving for the Wood Brothers from 1972-78. And while he is considered the master of Darlington, where he won six times for the Wood's, the track Pearson excelled at most in the familiar No. 21 Ford was Michigan, where he took the checkered flag eight times (1972 sweep, '73, '74, '75, '76 sweep, and '78).
DAVID PEARSON -- One of NASCAR'S Top 50 Drivers of all-time -- AS ONE OF THREE DRIVERS FOR THE WOOD BROTHERS WHO HAS WON AT MICHIGAN, WHY DO YOU THINK THEY'VE HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS AT MICHIGAN? "I've always thought of Michigan is kind of a Ford track, just about like Darlington, but I don't know. The first time I went there the track was just so smooth and it was a track you could race on. It was plenty wide enough that you could make a mistake and get sideways, but still correct it before you hit the wall because it's so wide. But I don't know. We always ran good there and I've always liked the track and I think that's one of the reasons. Of course, the Wood Brothers have always been pretty good up there as far as that goes."
WHAT DID THE WOOD BROTHERS DO TO THE CAR THAT MADE IT SO SUCCESSFUL FOR YOU AND CALE YARBOROUGH? "Leonard set up the car different for me than he did for Cale and he always told me that Cale liked the car tighter than I did. Leonard was awful good at setting cars up and stuff like that and we communicated back and forth with each other real good. When we changed something we talked about it beforehand and we just had a good relationship."
DID YOU AND THE WOOD BROTHERS HAVE A FEELING THAT YOU WERE GOING TO WIN EVERY TIME YOU WENT TO MICHIGAN? "Not really because I felt that way just about everywhere I went. I really did. I don't remember a race that I went to, unless it was Martinsville, Virginia, that I felt like I would be lucky to win the race or didn't have a chance to win the race because we didn't have things like short-track cars like they do now. They've got cars for every race track now, but back then all we had were superspeedway cars and I had to run that at a place like Martinsville. But I felt good everywhere I went."
SO YOU ALWAYS BROUGHT YOUR BEST CAR TO EVERY RACE? "The best we had. We didn't have all of those cars, we just had a couple. In fact, that's the way it oughta be now. You should always take the best thing you've got everywhere you go. That's the way I always felt you should do it. Don't save your best car for certain races and wait until the right time comes, run the best you've got everytime you run it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL SEEING THE WOOD BROTHERS TRYING TO COMPETE TODAY AGAINST ALL OF THESE MULTI-CAR OPERATIONS? "You look at teams like Roush and Hendrick, they go out and get all the sponsors because they can put their name on three or four cars. Still, I think it's hurt racing a little bit for one-car teams. When I drove for the Wood's, they didn't even run for a championship because they didn't have the help and the facilities at that time. I wished that we could have run all the races when I was running for them. You can't beat the Wood Brothers. They're good people."
IS THERE ANY ONE RACE FROM THAT STRETCH OF SUCCESS AT MICHIGAN THAT STANDS OUT? "They were all good, no doubt about it. I can remember where we had trouble with a shock one time and I kept coming in under caution. They changed that shock and I eventually went on and won the race."
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, won the first race of his NASCAR Winston Cup career at Michigan while driving for the Wood Brothers in 1991. Jarrett, who is the current NASCAR Winston Cup points leader, won the Champion 400 by outdueling Davey Allison (2nd), Rusty Wallace (3rd), Mark Martin (4th) and Bill Elliott (5th).
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "That was the first weekend really that we had the Robert Yates heads. A number of the teams had acquired them. It was something that Robert had been running for a while with Davey Allison. A lot of teams got them before we even did at Wood Brothers. That was our first weekend. We qualified really well and ran good all day long. It was kind of strange how we ended up beating Davey. We made a call on the last pit stop not to change tires because that seemed to be our best set of tires. There was a late caution that enabled us to make a great call. They've won many races making great calls from the pit area and it worked again. So we were handed the lead that way, but we had 10 laps to try to hold onto it. The last 10 laps were probably some of the most exciting that I've ever been associated with -- racing Davey side-by-side and then to beat him by that small margin. It was a terrific day because the Wood Brothers hadn't been in victory lane for a while, and I had never been in victory lane, so it was just a great day."
NOTE: It had been more than four years between victories for the Wood Brothers when Jarrett posted his victory at Michigan on Aug. 18, 1991. Kyle Petty's win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 24, 1987 had been their previous win. The Wood Brothers have reached victory lane only once since Jarrett's victory with that coming on Mar. 20, 1993 when Morgan Shepherd won at Atlanta.
1999 NASCAR WINSTON CUP FORD FACTS * Ford drivers hold down the top two spots and three of the first four positions in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings going into this weekend's Big Kmart 400 at Michigan Speedway. Dale Jarrett holds a 51-point lead over fellow Ford man Jeff Burton while Mark Martin is only 130 points behind in fourth.
* Ford leads all manufacturers with six victories in 1999. That's one more than Chevrolet and four more than Pontiac. Jeff Burton leads the way with three wins while Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace all have one each.
* Ford holds an 11-point lead in the 1999 manufacturer's standings. Ford has 92 points compared to 81 for Chevrolet and 74 for Pontiac. Each manufacturer's highest finisher is awarded points on a 9-6-4 scale. For example, if Ford places first and second with Pontiac third and fourth and Chevrolet fifth, Ford would receive 9 points, Pontiac 6 and Chevrolet 4.
* Ford is once again dominating top-five finishes in 1999, capturing 34-of-65 (52%) possible positions.
MICHIGAN FORD FACTS * Ford has won 19 of the 28 races held at Michigan Speedway from 1985-present, including five of the last six. Ford drivers Rusty Wallace ('96), Ernie Irvan ('97) and Mark Martin ('98) have won the last three Miller 400s.
* During this incredible streak, six different drivers have made it to Victory Lane. Bill Elliott leads the way with six wins. Other drivers posting wins during the stretch are Mark Martin (4), Davey Allison (3), Dale Jarrett (2), Rusty Wallace (2), and Ernie Irvan (1).
* Elliott leads all active drivers with seven career wins at Michigan. After winning his first race at the speedway in 1984 (Miller 400), he swept both events in 1985 and 1986 before capturing single events in 1987 (Champion 400) and 1989 (Miller 400).
* The Wood Brothers hold the all-time record for wins at Michigan Speedway among car owners with 11. They won the very first race at the speedway in 1969 when Cale Yarborough won the Motor State 500. The Wood Brothers have made it to Victory Lane twice with Yarborough ('69, '70), eight times with David Pearson ('72 sweep, '73, '74, '75, '76 sweep, '78) and once with Dale Jarrett ('91).
* Mark Martin won last year's Miller Lite 400 and led a parade of five Fords in the top six. Dale Jarrett was second followed by Jeff Gordon (3rd), Jeff Burton (4th), Jeremy Mayfield (5th) and Bill Elliott (6th).
* Mark Martin has posted 12 top-five finishes at Michigan in the nineties (18 races). He has won four times, in addition to finishing second twice, third three times and fourth three times.