Fontana: Eddie Wood, Ricky Rudd -- Ford interview

The Wood Brothers racing team will be without crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain on race day. McSwain was scheduled to undergo back surgery Friday, but he will be in communication with the team via radio and plans on calling the race...

The Wood Brothers racing team will be without crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain on race day. McSwain was scheduled to undergo back surgery Friday, but he will be in communication with the team via radio and plans on calling the race from his house. Driver Ricky Rudd and co-owner Eddie Wood spoke about the situation prior to practice.

EDDIE WOOD , Co-Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus

HAS THIS EVER BEEN DONE BEFORE? "I don't believe so. When we learned that he was gonna have to go have surgery again, we were trying to figure out a way that he could be involved with what we're doing because he's such a big part of our team. The immediate thought was to - and I know you guys do it a lot with head sets on you'll see a cell phone stuck up under your ear. We were gonna do that. Then it led to me getting a hold of some people at Racing Radios and that turned into, 'Well, I think we can do that with a Nextel phone and be able to have Fatback actually talk to Ricky under caution during the race on Sunday.' So that's what we're working on. All of it isn't exactly worked out yet, but I think it's all gonna work."

WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS A COMMUNICATION PROBLEM? "What's probably gonna happen at this minute is I'll probably be on the box talking to Ricky and the spotter, of course, will be like a normal deal. I'll be giving Ricky lap times and while that's going on our engineer, Hoyt (Overbagh), will be in communication with Fatback in North Carolina talking about the things Ricky is saying about the car during the race. It'll be just like he's sitting there."

WHY GO THIS DIRECTION INSTEAD OF JUST LEAVING HIM REST AT HOME? "He's valuable. Since he came on board with us he has really turned our team around. This is as far as we could go without getting him here and I think it's gonna work. There's been a lot of work done with Nextel and Racing Radios about it. The other thing about it is at his home we've got Trackpass hooked up. I have that myself and he'll be able to watch the live scoring and timing as it's going on, so that's pretty much the same thing we look at on our monitors during the race. In fact, what they've got is cooler than what we've got."

SO FATBACK WILL BE ON A CELL PHONE? "The cell phone is gonna be the link between Fatback and Ricky and myself and Hoyt through the radio."

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus

WHAT DO YOU THINK? "It sounds complicated, but I've been told it's gonna work. It took a lot of big companies to make all this happen and it's kind of neat how they're all networking together. The bottom line from my standpoint is I should not be able to see any difference, other than when I pull in pit road and look up on the tool box I won't see Fatback sitting there. The communication, I'm gonna have communication in my helmet from our in-car radio, I understand it won't be any different from what I'm used to hearing, except that Fatback won't be on location right there. It's kind of different, but if it goes right, it should sort of operate seamlessly even though he's not there."


WHO NORMALLY TALKS TO RICKY ON THE RADIO? "Fatback normally is, but that will be the only difference. As far as what happens on adjustments and actually if you get in a situation with two tires, four tires, no tires - whatever - Fatback will probably make that call from North Carolina."

IS HE IN PAIN? IS HE ON THE COUCH? "He actually was supposed to go into surgery at noon eastern time today. If things work out and we're really lucky, we've got that 4 o'clock practice today and he's supposed to call me as soon as he wakes up. He may be involved this afternoon. I'm hoping so."

THEN HE'LL BE BACK AT VEGAS IF HE'S HEALTHY ENOUGH? "I'm not sure what they're gonna let him do. If he can't be at Vegas, we'll probably do the same thing. It's unfortunate that he had to go in and get this thing worked on, but if you're gonna do it now is the time to do it because we've got a couple weeks off during these next six weeks."


HE MIGHT BE CALLING YOU EVERY 5 MINUTES THIS WEEKEND. "Once he gets out of that surgery and wakes up, we're not really sure how well he's gonna feel when he gets up. The one good thing is we did come out here to test, which most teams did, so we're fairly prepared for race setup. We might pay a little of the price in qualifying trim, but in race trim we're pretty comfortable that what we tested with should be really good when we get back. The communication with modern technology, it still amazes me. I've got a laptop computer and I've got a modem in it that I can get all of my e-mails instantly. Communication has come a long way and it's kind of neat that now it's tying into our race day performance. How well our communication is will be how well we're gonna do."

IS THIS THE SAME KIND OF SURGERY YOU HAD A COUPLE YEARS AGO? "Yeah. I had an operation about three or four years ago and it was the same disc. It's kind of strange. The same disc Fatback had operated on in the winter, it felt good for about a week and all of a sudden it started bothering him again. He's in a lot of pain. He went back in for an MRI and found out that he's got another major problem going on with that disc. They're not really sure what happened, but they had to go back in. It's the same disc and same area he had worked on. I'm not really sure exactly what went wrong, but he's in that real slim percentage that has a problem. I was fortunate. I feel great now. I couldn't understand why he wasn't getting better. With my deal, by the time I woke up I was like healed automatically, but he's been fighting it pretty hard. He's been in a lot of pain. He felt really bad and torn up that he wasn't gonna be out here, but what he's getting done now is gonna last him a lifetime. So we'll get through these next couple of races, especially with all our partners, but I've been through that pain he's been in - probably not as severe as he has it - but he needs to get that handled right away."

IF THIS WORKS IT COULD OPEN UP NEW AVENUES. "That's a car owner question right there. It would save a few airline tickets."


"Probably the next thing that's gonna happen is the crew chief is gonna want to do it from home."

SOME DECISIONS ARE SPLIT SECOND. ANY CONCERNS? "It's gonna be all real time. We're gonna try to stay a step ahead of it. 'If this happens. If that happens.' That kind of thing, but I don't really anticipate that being a problem. But if it does, you just do what you do."


"I've often thought that whoever is calling the race - the race strategist - doesn't necessarily need to be on pit road. He needs to be up in the press box somewhere with a high vantage point looking down - kind of like you see at a football game. You've got people calling the plays and they're not on the field. They're up high where they can see what's going on. It could add an extra dimension. Who knows? It could turn out to be an advantage. We'll wait and see how it turns out."


WHAT HAS NEXTEL DONE FOR THIS? "Nextel and Racing Radios are actually the two groups that put this whole technology that we're gonna be using together. They're getting some equipment right now to finish the job off. Hopefully, we can try it tomorrow morning. They may get it done tonight to where we can do it the last practice. I'm not sure yet, but I think it's all gonna work. I'd like to thank them for just jumping in. They jumped in an helped us - the Trackpass people,, everybody has helped a lot to make it all happen. It all started with, 'OK, this is what we'll do. We'll stick the cell phone under Hoyt's ear, so he'll talk to Fatback and listen to the race while we're going on,' and it just grew into this overnight. This all started Wednesday, so it's amazing."

CAN YOU ADDRESS THE PENALTY? "We did something we were not supposed to do and NASCAR called us on it. I took my check over this morning. I don't know whether anybody else has or not."

DID IT HURT? "The good side of it is that I know NASCAR is doing their job. You see the evidence with the amount of penalties and fines they get. Every week you try to do as much as you can do. Everybody does and it was our week to get busted, so we go on. That's yesterday's news. My fine is paid and we're good to go."

YOU WEREN'T ALONE.  "No, we weren't
alone.  That wasn't the first and that won't be the last."

YOU HAD A CREW GUY SUSPENDED. WILL YOU APPEAL THAT. "We're not the type that appeals it. We broke a rule. Sometimes if it's a gray area there, but we broke the rule."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup