Not Just A Day Of Racing For Wood Brothers In Darlington Darlington,SC (May 14, 2008)-In Darlington, SC. on Saturday, it was not only a day of racing for Wood Brothers, it was a day dedicated to the history of Wood Brothers Racing at Darlington...
Not Just A Day Of Racing For Wood Brothers In Darlington
Darlington,SC (May 14, 2008)-In Darlington, SC. on Saturday, it was not only a day of racing for Wood Brothers, it was a day dedicated to the history of Wood Brothers Racing at Darlington Raceway. Saturday evening ended when Bill Elliott in the Motorcraft Ford Fusion finished in 30th position after the 500 mile race event however, the day began with a garage full of teams who had the opportunity to see the original 1971 Purolator Mercury for the first time.
Leonard Wood was set to drive the no. 21 Purolator Mercury on the newly paved Darlington Raceway in the parade laps just before driver introductions of the Dodge Challenger 500 on Saturday evening. Since the car was sitting in a trailer for most of the afternoon, Wood Brothers Racing Team Co-Owner Eddie Wood made the decision to bring the '71 Purolator into the garage to share it with all of the teams and give them the opportunity to see a piece of racing history.
The 21 Team crew members along with Leonard Wood wheeled the car on foot from one end of the track to the other on the sun laden 90 degree afternoon, but it was all worth it once it was parked next to the #21 Wood Brothers Transporter in the Sprint Cup garage. Leonard fired it up adhering to a request from NASCAR President Mike Helton. The deep roar of the engine drew NASCAR officials, drivers, crew members and media as they flocked to take a look at the race car that once dominated Darlington Raceway.
Helton commented on the Purolator Mercury's mark on NASCAR history. He said, "It's always great to see pieces of our past and marvel at their contributions. The 1971 Purolator Mercury of The Wood Brothers is a tremendous piece of our history as well as amazing at what it, The Wood Brothers and David Pearson accomplished. It's no wonder it still gets so much attention today."
Co-Owner of Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Ray Evernham sarcastically joked with Leonard about the height of the car looking a little low, but Leonard laughed and replied, "You should have seen how low it was when it won Michigan, you couldn't roll a soda can under it." Among several drivers to visit were Kyle Petty, Juan Pablo Montoya, Patrick Carpentier and the Legendary Junior Johnson. Crew Chiefs, Chad Knaus and Robert "Bootie" Barker also checked out the Mercury.
The 21 crew and Leonard wheeled the car to the backstretch where he buckled in and he drove two parade laps with two vintage roadster race cars. Leonard recounted the event with excitement. He said, "On the first lap, well, I just took it easy as the roadster followed me, but when I came around turn four heading for the checkered flag on lap two, one of the roadster tried to pass me on the inside, so I gassed it and took off. I don't really know how fast I was going but it was great! It was a really nice day."
As for the race that followed Leonard's parade laps, Bill Elliott took the green flag in 20th position driving the #21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion with its retro Mercury paint scheme. The Dodge Challenger 500 started with a wreck on lap no. 1 that involved the #19 and #20 race cars. The "21 Team" made the decision that it was too early to pit, so the Bill Elliott piloted no.21 stayed out on the track. As the 367 lap race event finally got underway, Bill Elliott began dealing with handling issues that limited his ability to move up in the field. The 21 crew expected that the loose handling would subside within 10 laps as the tire pressures built up.
On lap 30 Bill Elliott reported a vibration in the drive train, but the team felt it was best that he stayed out on the track hoping that vibration would ease. After several cautions and several tire changes the team decided to use "scuffed" tires. These tires were used previously during practice therefore, were "scuffed" and would stick to the track better than the slick new tires. The decision seemed to be the correct one as it began to help ease the loose condition. On lap 173, Bill reported feeling a loose right front tire. Bill pitted the Motorcraft Ford Fusion and the team quickly changed the tires.
On lap 190 the no. 21 was in the 33rd position. The team tried several different air pressure adjustments as day turned to night and the temperatures dropped. By lap 282, Bill Elliott said the race car improved at the end of the longer green flag runs. He moved up to 30th where he took the checkered flag on lap 367.
Bill Elliott will return in the U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion for the NASCAR Sprint Showdown on Saturday, May 17th.