The final day of the Lowe's Motor Speedway Media Tour gave Wood Brothers/JTG Racing an opportunity to talk about their hopes for the 2007 season. Co-owners Eddie and Len Wood, along with competition director Michael McSwain, all provided their ...
The final day of the Lowe's Motor Speedway Media Tour gave Wood Brothers/JTG Racing an opportunity to talk about their hopes for the 2007 season. Co-owners Eddie and Len Wood, along with competition director Michael McSwain, all provided their opinions.
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner -- No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion
"We've got a pretty broad spectrum in our shop with Schrader being an older driver, that brings a ton of experience and know-how. I'm an old guy, so I can kind of relate to him, so it brings a feeling of calm. Racing at the level we do is a rat race at best. It's 24/7. It's everyday. There's not any timeouts and with all the pressure and stress it's just comforting to have a guy who has been where you've been -- been there, done that. We've got a lot of young drivers and he can help lead them when they have issues like, 'What are you supposed to do when this happens?' I'm not talking about driving a car, but just things that you deal with on a daily basis from something simple as media stuff and this and that. How do you handle it?"
AS LONG AS THE PHYSICAL SKILLS ARE STILL THERE AN OLD GUY CAN STILL WIN? "Absolutely. I think so." IT DIDN'T HAPPEN LAST YEAR. "I think it's like riding a bicycle or anything else. These guys can do it at any level. They don't forget."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS? "We merged last year. We moved into a building in November and started building cars and racing. It was almost like camping out. We didn't have enough power to do what we needed to do. We didn't have any heat, but everybody pulled together and got it all done. Now that we're a year into it, we're just now being able to start doing what we need to do. Last year, whatever we had we kind of had to use and tweak on it the best we could. Now we're there. We've got most of the people in place that we want, so now we can just concentrate on the race cars and the drivers and put things together. Now it's just easier to organize everything because the stuff you had to work on just to be there is not there. All of that stuff is taken care of and now we can concentrate on racing."
JON WILL GET SOME CUP EXPERIENCE THIS YEAR. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? "I don't think I really realized it until the other day. We were testing Busch cars in Daytona and they went over and got all of our hardcards. I told him I had to go over and get him his hardcard and he asked me, 'What's on mine? Does it have 21 crew?' I didn't know. I didn't do the licenses, my sister did, and it came back and I looked at it and handed it to him -- it had 21 driver. He looked at it and said, 'Wow. This is cool.' I think for him it's a goal that was never really talked about, it just kind of evolved and happened. When he started racing in go-karts and stuff, I had put it off as long as I thought I could. Then Dale Jarrett shows up one day and gives us a go-kart and it was on. I'm really proud of him to drive the 21. Somebody said to me the other day that no one named Wood has driven the 21 since my dad did, so that's pretty cool."
DO YOU LOOK AT JON AS JUST ANOTHER DRIVER OR AS YOUR SON WHEN HE'S IN THE CAR? "I've owned a lot of his race cars anyways -- the late models and things like that -- so it's really not that different. It's just at a higher level and there's more to it, more pressure, more prestigious and all that, but he's still your kid. It's like someone asked me, 'How do you deal with the racing and all that?' The way I view it is that you worry about it because it's your kid. You worry about it before the race starts like, 'Man, I hope everything goes OK.' But once the flag drops it's all racing, it's all in. All of that goes away and it's all about racing and that's the way I deal with it."
DO YOU SEE ANY PROBLEMS WITH HAVING TWO DIFFERENT DRIVERS? "No, we did it because that's the way the sponsorships worked out. So far, which we haven't got started yet, but I don't foresee any issues because everybody knows their spots. As soon as we did it, all of a sudden Regan Smith and Mark (Martin) are gonna do it. This business costs so much money now to race that I think you're gonna see more and more of one particular race team -- like one number, and they're already splitting sponsorships -- but I think the future is you're gonna see them with multiple drivers because every sponsor doesn't have the same demographic. In our case, you've got the Little Debbie people that are with Schrader and then the Air Force with Jon, which they like for recruiting. I think you're gonna see more and more of that. We had three sponsors last year with Motorcraft, Little Debbie and the Air Force, and we do a lot of paint scheme changing and that's kind of complicated. With today's wraps that we can use it makes it a lot easier, but you just have to extend that down to the drivers and the teams and just know where you're supposed to be and don't show up with the wrong paint scheme for the wrong race."
SO YOU'LL SACRIFICE THE CHANCE TO MAKE THE CHASE? "In our situation, and you're gonna see a lot of this and hear a lot of this all throughout the year, it's all about the owner's points now as far as staying in the top 35 and all that. In our building process, we hope to have two full-time and then three and then four of course (Cup cars), so we've got to walk before we run and we're aware of that. We've done a lot to get from where we were last year. We were born last year and crawled all year and now we're walking, so we just have to take it a step at a time and not try to overdue something we can't deliver. That's what I don't want to do. I don't want to promise something that we can't do. I want to do what we can do and do it well, and then progress from there."
LEN WOOD, Co-Owner -- No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion
WITH UNLEADED FUEL COMING TO CUP THIS YEAR, WHY NOT START WITH THE DAYTONA 500? THEY'RE GOING TO START USING IT AT CALIFORNIA. "I think that's a case of, 'let's don't mess with the Daytona 500.' I don't know that for a fact, but that's a pretty important race. You don't want the cars to blow up, but they've done a lot of testing with the Busch cars and the trucks. They've raced them at Talladega -- maybe not 500 miles -- but they've put enough time on them. I don't work on engines anymore. I keep up with stuff at the shop and do tuning, although I've hired a tuner for this year for the 21, and that will free me up to do a few other things. Then when we have two cars I'll do one and he'll do one."
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS WITH THE UNLEADED RULE? "The concerns I've been hearing is like the valve guides -- wearing them out. Lead lubricates and if you don't have any, you've got to do something else to offset that, so they're working towards that. We're going to the Vegas test next week and we've got four cars going. They're all unleaded, so we'll get a good look at it there."
WHAT KIND OF A CHALLENGE IS IT TO GO TO CALIFORNIA AS FAR AS HORSEPOWER AND NOT BEING OFF THE GAS? "We'll see. They've got enough data built up. I think it was a good thing starting in the Busch Series last year and getting a good look at it. This is what we need to do going forward, and Doug and Robert and Jack have one of the best engine shops in the country or in the world for that matter. If it's not right, they'll be on it."
WHAT ROLE WILL GREG SPECHT PLAY WITH THE TEAM? "Greg Specht is helping in the aero department to start with -- like an organizational-type guy -- coming in and coordinating and double-checking what we've been doing. He's gonna compile data like this car versus this car versus this car -- stuff that we really hadn't had time to do. He's an organized guy. It's like a three-month project for the aero and when we get done with that we've already talked about what other ways he can help us."
DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN CONCENTRATE ON RACING ONLY THIS YEAR NOW THAT THE MOVE IS COMPLETE? "Hopefully we can. We moved into a building. They poured the apoxy on the floor in late November. There wasn't anything in the building. We didn't have paint booths. We were going to Schrader's using paint booths. We didn't have a chassis dyno. We were going to Roush's to do the chassis dyno, and we finally got all that in by Vegas and the third race of last year. As far as the race team goes, we're full bore on all of them. Like I say, we have capabilities now. Actually, we could build a car, but it's easier to buy them. We've increased the engineering staff. That's one of the things we felt we were light on, so we increased that since the end of the season. I don't know the number, but they said 21. That's a good number. I don't know if it's quite that many, but it's a lot. Ford offers a lot of engineering services through aero with Bernie Marcus. There will be another guy, in addition to Greg Specht, that will be our Ford contact. He'll be a Ford guy that will help with information. They can help with so many things -- from the brake ducts to cowl induction. They've got a lot of guys in chassis development, so we're working with those guys and Greg will help us make sure we're using all the information that Ford has available."
IS GREG FULL-TIME? "I guess you'd call him a contract employee right now, but, like I said, their current project is the aero program and making sure that we're getting what we need out of that."
CAN YOU MAKE THE NEXT STEP AS FAR AS COMPETITION? "We're trying. Hopefully the car of tomorrow will narrow the band on what you can do and make it more competitive. That's what they keep saying. Let's say you've got four teams or five teams and you're getting all this information -- I read a comment that Jack made where Jamie McMurray doesn't like the same thing that Matt Kenseth likes in terms of the aerodynamics of the car -- well the car of tomorrow it's kind of gonna be set so it won't be like you spend time like, 'Let's go run this front end or let's go run that one.' Hopefully, that will narrow the band on that. First we need to be able to run in the top 5 and top 10, and I think we should be getting closer. Winning, I'd like to. We're gonna be trying."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR DRIVER LINEUP NOW AND IN THE FUTURE WHEN YOU MIGHT HAVE FOUR CUP CARS AND FOUR TALENTED YOUNG DRIVERS? "That's what we're working towards. We have a driver development group with Kelly Bires and Joey Clanton and Keven (Wood) and another kid, Jonathan Cash, who will be running some Grand National E Series. We've got to build that team behind us. We've done that in the past and then kind of had contracts broken and things like that, but you've got to keep plugging at it -- just like Marcos Ambrose and Jon. Hopefully, they're the next two Cup drivers."
WHAT ABOUT JON? IS HE MORE OF A YOUNG MAN NOW AND LESS OF A KID? "I think he needs to be just like mine. Keven broke his collarbone, but the things that make them do that, I think, are the same things that make them want to drive a race car. You can't get on them and you can't take that out of them. In Keven's case, he needs to re-focus on what he wants to do and it's the same case with Jon. I think he went through his play period and it's time to go."
MICHAEL MCSWAIN, Competition Director -- Wood Brothers/JTG Racing
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON JON WOOD? "I think when I first met Jon he was a kid and I think he's a young man now. I think he's come a long way and I think he's matured professionally and personally and now it's starting to show up in his racing. They had an awesome test at Daytona and we're excited about our test in Vegas. We'll just keep taking these little steps and giving him the latitude to develop like he needs to and not push him in such of a pressure situation that he's in and out like I've seen a lot of these young guys do over the years."
ARE YOU STILL HAVING A GOOD TIME? "It's a new challenge for me, doing this, and I'm learning as aggressively and as fast as these kids are about racing cars. It's been fun. I do want to crew chief some more under the right situation, but I want somebody new and young that wants it as bad as I do."
IS THAT JON WOOD? "It may be. It may be a Jon Wood. It may be a Kelly Bires. It may be a Marcos Ambrose. Who knows. When I find him, you'll see me back on the box."
EVERYBODY WANTS RESULTS IMMEDIATELY, BUT IN YOUR SITUATION YOU HAVE A LOT OF YOUNG DRIVERS. LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD THREE YEARS FROM NOW DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM COULD BECOME SORT OF A POWERHOUSE IF YOU EXPAND TO FOUR TEAMS? "That's our goal. We stepped back and looked and we didn't have the resources or the money or the super-major sponsorship to go hire Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart or any of these young guys -- Jimmie Johnson. So we were like, 'What we've got to do is build our company and build our relationship with our sponsors and all the people out there working on race cars, and we need some drivers.' So we felt our best avenue was to get stronger in the Truck Series, stronger in the Busch Series, add some Busch East stuff this year, and get these young drivers and mechanics and start working them through the system and try to make a place where somebody can come to work when they're 18 years old and right out of school and work there until they're 58. That's our goal and along the way we want to win some races."
DOES THE CAR OF TOMORROW HELP SPEED UP THAT TIMELINE? "We're excited about it. I get a kick out of listening to everybody grumbling and complaining and moaning and groaning about it, but what difference does it make? It's racing. It's just another race. Everybody says, 'Well, we have half the races in this car and half the races in this car.' That's crap because for years we've had speedway cars and road course cars, short track cars and intermediate cars and this is the car I always take to Darlington, so it's no different now than it ever was it just looks a little different. It's still a building full of different kind of cars and you just take the one you've got to race."
HOW DO YOU FEEL WHERE YOU ARE IN THE COT DEVELOPMENT? "We actually haven't tested one, unfortunately, but, at the same time, the way I try to look at it is I don't want to test it and start understanding something that I'm not gonna get to race. We have all new, fresh, clean ideas because we haven't tested one, but the rules are just now becoming solid. So now I feel like when we go to Bristol, we're taking four cars out there and when we go to Bristol we'll get a good, solid test out of Bristol and we'll do some other testing along the way, but we're excited about it. We've got a bunch of new cars built, a bunch of new parts, a bunch of new pieces and we're really looking forward to going to Bristol."
HOW DOES ADDING GREG SPECHT HELP YOUR ORGANIZATION? "That's what we've tried to do is we've tried to add strength, knowledge and maturity to our group because we do have a group of quite young guys. We added Greg. We added Eddie Dickerson, who had been at Hendrick for 20 years. Scott Zipadelli just came over from Gibbs, he's Jon's crew chief next year. We're adding as much knowledge and as much experience as we can to help our youth develop as fast as we can."
-credit: ford racing