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1964: The Wood Brothers, a road trip and a surprise driver
Noted road-course racer Dan Gurney won the event and Marvin Panch finished second to give Wood Brothers Racing a 1-2 finish in the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. The name of the fellow who climbed aboard the car in Greenville, South Carolina, however, has been lost in the mists of time. Say what? The year was 1964 and crew chief Leonard Wood, along with brother Ray, was transporting Panch's No. 21 Ford across the country, returning from Riverside to the team's shop in Stuart, Virginia. After a brief stop for dinner in Greenville, the two resumed their journey, planning one more stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. "People were standing around the car, it was 20 degrees," Leonard Wood told NASCAR.com regarding the brief break for a quick meal just across the South Carolina state line. "Normally you'd stop and talk to them a little bit but it was so cold we just jumped in the truck, pulled away and left." The first sign that the two had picked up an uninvited passenger, Wood said, came about halfway between Greenville and Charlotte when their truck "started making this noise and we couldn't figure out what it was." "Ray said 'You can even feel it in the roof. It's vibrating the roof!' " Leonard Wood recalled. Initially, Wood said he thought the loud vibration was the result of a jet aircraft, "so I'm looking around to see if I could see an airport," he said. Neither crewman realized the vibration was coming from the race car, and the engine being revved wide open. But the noise soon stopped so the pair continued on up the road, unaware that a none-too-sober gentleman had climbed inside the race car back in Greenville during the food stop. When they arrived in Charlotte for one final stop, Wood said the noise and vibration had resumed. And this time he realized it wasn't coming from any aircraft. It was coming from the race car on the back of the open truck. "I looked in the side mirror when we got off the highway and I saw steam coming out the exhausts of the race car," he said. "I knew something was wrong and I told Ray to stop this thing. "I saw what looked like a person in the car behind the wheel and I thought, 'Man, one of the crew members is trying to pull a trick on me.' Of course I bypassed that thought immediately because I thought 'There's no one on the crew that's going to be stupid enough to get in that car as cold as it is.' "I look in there and this guy's got Marvin's helmet on. I said 'What do you think you’re doing in here?' and he said 'Let's go!' " In the meantime, Ray Wood had gotten out of the truck, still unaware of the inebriated passenger. With help from Leonard they attempted to pull the unwanted fellow from behind the wheel. "I said 'We'll let you go in a minute,' grabbed ahold of him and jerked him out," Leonard said. "He got his foot hung and was hollering and squalling. We turned him loose and he just settled back in there and got comfortable again. He had a little bit to keep him warm, liquid wise." As fate would have it, a local law enforcement officer happened by and stopped to see what was going on. After explaining the situation, the officer gave the "would-be racer" another ride -- this one in the back of a patrol car. Panch, who would go on to win three times that season for the Wood Brothers, had told Leonard after finishing second at Riverside that the motor had been about to blow near the end of the race. "When I got home," Wood said, "I said, 'Marvin, that thing was good for another 100 miles!' "But the funniest thing is Glen (Wood, team founder) had passed us in the station wagon and didn't see the man in there. "If he had, he would have had a heart attack."
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RELATED: Chase Grid NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams resume the pursuit of a position in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend as the series heads to Sonoma Raceway and the year's first road-course stop. Ten drivers have all but officially secured berths with one or more victories through the series' first 15 races. If there aren't at least 16 winners following the cutoff race at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10, the remainder of the field will be determined based on points positions. Last season, there were 11 winners, leaving five positions to be awarded based on points. Ten drivers have found themselves 16th in the standings at some point this year. Five have advanced; four have fallen by the wayside for now and one, Ryan Blaney , heads to Sonoma situated in the 16th position. Blaney, driver of the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, is aware of his situation, but says he pays no mind to his past or current points placement. "I don't care about it," he said during a recent organizational test for teams at Kentucky Speedway . "I really don't look at it." Blaney has been as high as 12th in the standings and as low as 21st. With 11 races remaining before the field is set for the 10-race, championship-determining format gets underway, there's little reason to panic. He enters Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) with an 11-point cushion on Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne and is 19 points ahead of 18th-place Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ). Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman (15th) is five points ahead of Blaney. Jamie McMurray sits 14th -- the driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet is five up on Newman and 10 on Blaney. "I don't like to look at that stuff," Blaney reiterated. "I think if we go on the race track and perform the way I know we should, and run toward the front of the field like we can do week in and week out, that stuff will take care of itself." Sunday's race will be Blaney's first Sprint Cup start on a road course but he is not alone. Fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Chris Buescher , Chase Elliott , Brian Scott and Jeffrey Earnhardt will be making their first Sprint Cup road-course starts as well. Both Blaney and Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) have one road-course win apiece in the Camping World Truck Series and both came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . Buescher ( Front Row Motorsports ) won at Mid-Ohio in 2014 while competing in the XFINITY Series. The Wood Brothers Racing team is making its first appearance at a road-course since the 2008 season when former driver Marcos Ambrose wheeled the No. 21 from 43rd to a third-place finish at Watkins Glen International . Blaney's father, Dave, also competed in that race. One of roughly a half dozen teams competing without a Charter this season (and thus no guaranteed starting spot in the 40-car fields), Wood Brothers Racing has eight road-course wins to its credit. Marvin Panch scored the first in 1965 at The Glen; Dan Gurney won four times and NASCAR Hall of Fame member David Pearson three at Riverside International Raceway. Blaney and his team, led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins, have one top five and six top-10 finishes this season. Two of the last three starts, however, have resulted in finishes of 20th (at Charlotte) and 17th (at Michigan), sandwiched around a 10th-place run at Pocono. A brush with the wall late in the second half of the Michigan race sent his No. 21 entry to pit road. Although he restarted 29th, Blaney did gain 12 positions in the closing laps of the 400-mile race. "We had a bad day," Blaney said. "It was unfortunate because we had a really good car. We should have run in the top five pretty easily. Just the circumstances we were put in really hurt us." Michigan was the most recent outing for the series. Teams will return to the 2-mile track in August. For now, though, Sonoma is the focus. Two practices are slated for Friday on the 12-turn, 1.99-mile layout. Qualifying for the 40-car field is scheduled for Saturday.
Ray Evernham talks season 3 of 'AmeriCarna'
Season 3 of the popular car culture show "AmeriCarna" began Thursday on Velocity TV (9 p.m. ET), and show host Ray Evernham couldn't be more excited. "We've got some really cool stuff coming this year … just some incredible, incredible stories," Evernham told NASCAR.com. Evernham has an excellent eye for "cool stuff" when it comes to the automobile. From popular vehicles that may have little or nothing to do with the world of racing to those that left their mark on the track, the stories behind the vehicles that turn up on "AmeriCarna" are told well, they're informative and they’re entertaining. It's a labor of love for Evernham, the former championship-winning crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports and driver Jeff Gordon as well as a winning car owner in NASCAR's premier series with Dodge. "There are so many stories out there because cars have really documented the timeline of America and its history," Evernham said. "Each culture is represented by different things that happened around the automotive market or industry for years. They're connected by music and fashion and politics and all kinds of things." Tonight's premiere details the 2014 disaster at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the efforts to rescue the cars and repair the museum. A 30-foot deep sinkhole opened in the facility two years ago, and eight vehicles -- six owned by the museum and two on loan from General Motors -- were either damaged or completely destroyed. "We've got the complete story of when the sinkhole opened up and swallowed up all these priceless Corvettes … and the story of how they restored it, how they fixed that building," Evernham said. "We've got inside, never-seen-before footage from the folks at GM." Other shows this season will look everything from board tracks to the Bonneville Salt Flats, and a record-setting hot rod from the early '50s. "We're doing a thing on board tracks which is incredible because there was a huge board track right here in Charlotte," he said. "How in the 1930s they build these giant wooden tracks banked up to 45 degrees, a mile and a quarter in length and ran events there. "They were kind of the daredevils of the '30s and we actually went and got Travis Pastrana, who is a daredevil of today you might say, to talk with me about that show. "We found one of Dan Gurney's cars that was lost for 35-plus years and put it back on the track. "We've got a vintage hot rod from California that went across Bonneville at 133 mph in 1951. It's somewhat untouched and we're rebuilding the motor and doing all those things to see if we can make it go 133 mph again just like they did." The series consists of 10 episodes, but Evernham says that only scratches the surface of the incredible tales he and his team uncover. "We have people that bring us incredible car stories every day," he said. "We want more than 10 episodes a year because we've got a lot more stories to tell."
Danica Patrick sits down with Dan Patrick, things get interesting
Danica Patrick sat down on the set of "The Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday to promote the start of the NASCAR on NBC season (the show is simulcasted on NBCSN), which embarks this Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway with the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). And boy, did things get interesting. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver touched on a variety of subjects, talking about differentiating how her competitors act on the track versus in real life, who she'd help win a race first: team owner Tony Stewart or boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr . -- hint: she's a good employee -- and whether or not she can beat up Kasey Kahne if the pair had an on-track issue. "Oh, definitely (I could take Kasey Kahne in a fight)," Patrick said. "There's a lot of them I could take, but Kasey's definitely one of them. I should've probably taken care of that at Fontana when he right-reared me at 210 (mph), but I didn't. Instead he was a little scared for a while. I didn't say a lot of hellos. I kind of wanted to keep him right there." MORE: Danica, Kahne wreck at Auto Club Be sure to watch the video below in its entirety; Dan Patrick asks a lot of great questions -- and Danica has a lot of great answers.
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