This Week in Ford Racing July 22, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup EDDIE WOOD , Co-Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus RICKY IS MAKING HIS 700TH STRAIGHT START, IT WOULD BE KIND OF COOL IF HE WON. "That would be. I'm just glad to be a part of it....
This Week in Ford Racing
July 22, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
EDDIE WOOD , Co-Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
RICKY IS MAKING HIS 700TH STRAIGHT START, IT WOULD BE KIND OF COOL IF HE WON.
"That would be. I'm just glad to be a part of it. We've known Ricky ever since the first race he ran because we were there and it's just a big honor for us to be involved. We're just a small part of it. We just happen to be the lucky people that he's driving for now, but it'll be 700 starts. When you get to thinking about that, I've been to a lot of races myself. I probably started going to all the races in the early seventies. I had an operation for a hernia in 1970-something and didn't miss another race until last year. I went to the truck race with Jon in Vegas and I think we (Winston Cup) were in Charlotte, but stuff like that comes up through the years. It's amazing not to be sick or hurt where you couldn't compete. I've seen Ricky compete with tape holding his eyelids open after a flip in Daytona. It's amazing he's able to do that."
RICKY SAID THINGS ARE IMPROVING. YOUR THOUGHTS?
"Yeah, things are getting a little better. You never give up in this business. You go through a lot of ups and downs. There are always more downs than there are ups, but the ups make you continue on. We struggled a little bit early in the year and had some things happen to us - not of our doing - but some things that didn't work out that we planned on working. Just in the last four or five weeks things have gotten better. Like Ricky said, you can let things get out of hand and, all of a sudden, everybody is upset with each other. We just try not to let that happen with our group and we never have. It's hard, week in and week out, even when you're doing well to keep everybody on the same page. You've just got to work at it - kind of like a marriage. My wife should have kicked me out about 10 years ago, but she didn't. You've just got to work with it, you know?"
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO HAVE A GUY WITH RICKY'S EXPERIENCE?
"It means a great deal because he's got the experience and the wherewithal to back up everything he's ever done. If you're not doing well, you don't look there. He's the gauge. He's the standard. He's the only standard you really have. If you're not doing what you need to be doing or what you feel like you should be doing, he can help you work on whatever area he feels like it is. If he feels like it's in the chassis area or the aero area, the motor, whatever he tells you, you can take it to the bank. It's just a big advantage and that's one way we've gotten better is just listening to Ricky and taking what feedback he gives us and going back to work on things. It's not a quick turnaround in this business. You get everything built a certain way and a certain way of doing things and, all of a sudden, you go, 'Oh no, we've got to change this.' It takes awhile to get things turned around. In the last month or so we've had a lot better results and, hopefully, we can get to that next step and start winning some races."
ARE YOU PLANNING ANY CELEBRATION THIS WEEKEND?
"No, not really. I think he'll have his family up there. Like I said, we're just a small part of this thing. I think it's gonna be better for him just to be with Linda and Landon this weekend. Every week is a new adventure in racing. You'd like to have a big party and stuff for him, but he's kind of a low-key guy. He's not interested in having the rock star status, he just wants to drive race cars. Like today, we're here at VIR testing and he got out of the car a while ago. He's never been here. I think he was here like in '75 on a go-kart and he said, 'Man, I like this place. I'm having fun. This is fun. I'd like to come here just for the heck of it.' That's the kind of guy he is, he just wants to race."
SO HE'S THINKING MORE ABOUT WATKINS GLEN THAN 700 STARTS?
"Yeah. To be honest with you, I have not heard him mention the 700th race yet. He hasn't mentioned anything. This press conference was the first thing he's mentioned about it because he told me not to let him forget to come up here and do it. I knew we couldn't miss it because Marti (Rompf) would cut both of our heads off (laughing)."
ARE YOU STILL ON CLOUD 9 FROM JON'S TRUCK WIN?
"Yeah, that's still sticking in there pretty big. That was a big weekend for me. I've had him in go-karts and all the way up through and you'd have to be me to understand it or be a dad to understand a kid in racing and what it means to him. It's just a big huge deal for me. I get all tore up every time I talk about it."
WHAT DOES IT SAY WHEN SOMEBODY LIKE BOB GRAHAM WANTS TO SPONSOR A TRUCK?
"That deal just came about real quickly. They put that deal together. I got to looking into it. I race and I don't keep up with a lot of stuff that goes on in the world, but I had heard of Senator Graham. I thought, 'Man, this is pretty cool.' Then all of a sudden they decided to put the red and white with the gold numbers on the thing and I said, 'Wow.' That was big and that was big for my dad, especially winning the race. I think my dad (Glen) probably got the biggest bang out of it of everybody. It is an honor for Bob Graham to be on Jon's truck. It makes me and it makes a lot of people pay attention more to what's going on in politics because racing is kind of like politics. It's a day-to-day deal that you've got to deal with and I'm just really honored to have that on his truck."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A PART OF SO MANY HISTORICAL EVENTS?
"My family and our race team has been around really since the beginning of NASCAR. We've been fortunate to be involved in a lot of historic things that have happened, but, right now, with the 100 years of Ford, the 100 years of flight, Ricky's 700th - that's three pretty big things that have happened in one year. It's really an honor. Like the Air Force. We know some of those guys that are making things happen. We know all of them. You watch the news and you see things happening and you say, 'I know the guy who made that call or the guy that put that together.' Once you really are around those people, it makes you feel really proud just to even know them, much less have them come to a race. A lot of time those four-stars will come to a race and they'll sit up on the box with Pat and I. Man, it's just like the President of the United States sitting with you. It's truly an honor."
DOES JON HAVE A LONG-TERM CONTRACT WITH ROUSH OR COULD HE BE DRIVING FOR YOU?
"I really don't know where it stands. He is on a long-term contract with Jack. I'm sure you've read about Jack's developmental program where he starts them out in trucks. Kurt (Busch) and Greg (Biffle) both were in that same program and I'm sure they're still under the same contract. So, actually, he belongs to Jack so far as what to do. Jack and I have talked about it on occasion. Like, when Ricky retires. Maybe Jon will be ready to be put in my car or, maybe, if one of his guys retires or changes, he may go in one of his cars. I'm not really concerned. I just want Jon to race because that's what he wants to do. If he winds up in our car, that's great. Or, maybe, we could have a second car for him later on. Or, if he winds up in one of Jack's, it's very important for me - as a dad - for your kid to be happy. It doesn't have to be with me, just as long as he's with a good group of people, which he is, I'm happy. I could retire and drive his motorcoach or something."
WOULD IT BE AWKWARD RACING AGAINST HIM EVERY WEEK?
"It might be. I guess it probably would be, but, if you look around our garage now, you've got brother against brother against brother. It's all over the place now. It's almost like the old cartoon where the sheepdog and the wolf go off and punch the time clock. They go to war all day and then after it's all over, they punch out and walk arm-in-arm back to their homes, so you have to deal with it like that. That would be a problem I'd like to have."
ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE THE LOUDON CAR TO INDIANAPOLIS?
"It's funny you ask. That car was sitting this morning at 7 a.m. at Ronnie Hoover's getting the left side and a new nose put on it and I think we are gonna take it to the Brickyard."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THAT CAR?
"Ricky just like the way it felt. The tight corners you have at Loudon, he liked the way it stayed level coming off the corners and stuff. It's a low CG car and the car we tested there was not a low CG. We had planned on taking the car we ran at Richmond, that was the kind of car like that, but it got torn up. We had already been talking about if it lived through the race and he liked it that we might take it there, so, right now, at this minute, that's what we're gonna do."
ARE YOU GUYS PUTTING MORE EMPHASIS ON FUEL MILEAGE?
"As a matter of fact, we've got a guy coming up here right now to fill one of these cars up - the car Ricky likes here today at VIR - to see how much fuel it takes. That's how serious it is. You can go back to your shop and we don't have a gas pump at our shop that you can depend on so far as how much fuel you actually put in the car. Yesterday when we came home, the guy who sells the UNOCAL gas locally came with his truck and filled up our fuel can from Loudon to see how many gallons it took so we know. It's always an unknown. Your fuel mileage will vary three- or four-tenths of a mile per gallon all through the race, but, usually, the amount you can get out is a constant. Whether you want to figure on 20.5, 21 or 21.5 and that's a big deal right now. The last three races, at the end of the race, we've been out of fuel. My brother (Len) had it figured last Sunday. He said, 'If we get good mileage, we'll be 299.7. If we're at the bottom of the scale, depending on what we did all day, it's gonna run out three laps short.' So that was the gamble. Pat gambled and we ran out coming off of two coming to get the flag, which was good. If it had run out 15 seconds sooner, we would have been 30th. We wound up 12th and were running eighth, so it's just a roll of the dice. That's getting to be a bigger issue. If you have a late caution, it's not a problem. But a lot of these races, with the tire that Goodyear brings now, the tires don't fall off. They're really doing a good job with it, so you're not coming in unless you have to."
WHERE DO YOU LOOK TO IMPROVE FUEL MILEAGE?
"Of course you try to run as lean as you can without hurting horsepower and that's left up to Len, Jack Roush and Junior Paxton. They kind of work together with the other Roush cars and kind of get an average of what jets and stuff to run. Other than that, with the way the rules are, I mean they're really, really cracking down on fuel cells through inspection. You get them as big as you can and that's about all you can do. You just want to make the size of it as big as you can. If you get it too big, they'll take it away from you and put it over there in the truck and send you a bill. Fortunately, knock on wood, we haven't had that happen to us but, really, that's the only thing you can work on - getting as much of a fuel load as you can get."
WHAT DOES RICKY BRING TO YOU THAT HELPS THE EXPERIENCE YOUR TEAM ALREADY HAS?
"We have been around a long time and have had a lot of experience. We've been at every end of this business. We've been on top of it, in the middle and been at the bottom. Right now, we're climbing from the middle to the top. What Ricky brings is what Ricky needs. Each driver is different. What you did last year or what you did the year before - the basic stuff about racing doesn't change, but the little things do make a difference. For instance, early this year the cars we were running, the aero package and other things were similar to what we ran last year with Elliott. That didn't seem to work, so we worked around and changed things to get it more suited to Ricky and it's coming back around. Just like this test session. I'm looking out the window and Jarrett, Sadler and Benson are here. You could probably put each one of them in each other's car and it would take two or three runs or maybe half-a-day for each driver to get acclimated to that other car. That's the biggest thing he brings is he's got such a feel and such a tremendous amount of feedback that he helps you get where you need to get. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. Each driver, that's the driver's job - help the crew chief get where he needs to get as far as the chassis. So far, the stuff we were running earlier in the year didn't seem to work, but it was based on stuff that had worked and it was based on wind tunnel results. Everything you could find out or research was the correct way, but, as it turned out, it wasn't. So it just gets back to driver feel and driver comfort."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A NASCAR STREET RACE?
"Yeah, I don't care. I enjoyed the deal going to Japan. We went all three years to Japan. It doesn't matter to me where we race, we just race. That's what we're here for. I don't have any hobbies. It's all about racing day and night. That would be fine with me. I don't know where they would do it. The problem with the stock cars in the street would be the width of the road. It's like the place today - VIR - it's a very, very nice road course, but it would be a little narrow for a Cup car, but you could race everything else here. The reason it's probably too narrow is the type of competition we have right now. It's so keen right now that everybody would be beating and banging, but I'd be all for that."