Iconic Wood Brothers looking to add to their history in first playoffs
The Wood Brothers are as iconic as the sport of NASCAR itself.
The organization is the oldest active team, has won 99 races in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including its most prestigious events.
What the Wood Brothers have never done in their illustrious history is win a driver’s championship in the Cup series. That could change this season.
Thanks to Ryan Blaney’s victory at Pocono (Pa.) this season, the Wood Brothers were locked into the 2017 playoffs and Blaney will enter the 10-race battle seeded ninth among the 16 drivers.
“It’s been a long, long time, but this is very special to us because this is the first time we’ve actually been involved in the new format. It’s kind of a do-or-die format,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “You’ve got three races to do well in to advance to the next round and that puts a lot of pressure on everyone, but I think we’re ready for it.
“Just the sheer excitement of being a part of that is something new to us and I’m really excited about it.”
Drivers who competed for the Wood Brothers came closest to winning a driver’s championship on two occasions – a third-place finish for Fred Lorenzen in 1963 and a third for David Pearson in 1974.
In many seasons, the Wood Brothers utilized more than one driver during the course of a season or didn’t run every race, which made a driver’s title very difficult to come by.
However, the organization did win the owner’s championship in 1963 thanks to performance of six drivers – Lorenzen, Glen Wood, Marvin Panch, Tiny Lund, Dave MacDonald and Tommy Irwin.
In the last 30 years or so, the driver’s championship has become the most coveted title (and mots lucrative) in NASCAR competition and for the most part the Wood Brothers have been on the outside looking in.
The last two seasons, the team’s performance has greatly improved thanks to the addition of Blaney and a technical alliance with Team Penske. Next season, Blaney will move to a Penske car full-time, but the Woods will continue their alliance with new driver Paul Menard.
One of exciting things for the Wood Brothers has been how a relatively new driver like Blaney – who never witnessed the Woods’ glory days – has fully embraced the team’s history.
“Ryan is a special talent. He’s only 23 years old, but he’s got the maturity in the race car of a veteran that has raced for a number of years,” Eddie Wood said. “I think that’s one of his special qualities is he seems to be able to adapt to different things.”
Added team co-owner Len Wood, “Ryan came to our museum early on in 2014 or 2015 and we talked about having a spot on the wall for his picture. I think he made that his mission to be one of the winners that had driven the No. 21 car. He values the history.
“There aren’t many people right now who do that like he does. He wears the old hats and old t-shirts, things like that.”
As for Blaney, he appreciates the opportunity to conclude his tenure with the Wood Brothers with a chance at the sport’s ultimate prize.
“It’s my first playoffs. It’s the Wood Brothers’ very first time. There are a lot of members on my team that it’s their first time ever competing for a championship, so we’re all just really excited,” Blaney said.
“I don’t think there are any nerves just because we don’t know what to expect. If we can have the mindset that it’s just racing, because that’s all it is and it’s nothing different than what we’ve been doing, I think that will be pretty good.
“But I don’t really feel any pressure. I hate to use that word. I hate to hear that word, to be honest with you, but I’ve never really felt any of that, just good opportunities.”
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