HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Wood Brothers Racing , one of the longest tenured teams competing in NASCAR's premier series, will return to full-time competition beginning in 2016. Officials with the team and Ford Motor Co. made the announcement Friday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of this weekend's Ford EcoBoost 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) season-ending event. Ryan Blaney will handle the driving duties, embarking upon his first full season after making 15 starts for the team this year heading into Sunday's race. Weather issues kept the team from attempting to qualify at Daytona, Kentucky and Chicago earlier this year. "These are the guys that made it happen, Ford Motor Company," co-team owner Eddie Wood said. "It is just a lot of people that have been working on this for a long time and we are really proud of our association and heritage with Ford Motor Company. We have been racing Ford Motor Company products for 65 years and we are really looking forward to next year and getting started with that." The team will continue to have a technical alliance with Team Penske , which fields Sprint Cup entries for drivers Joey Logano and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski . "It is what you dream of as a kid," Blaney, 21, said. "I have been fortunate enough to get great opportunities and meet great people being with Team Penske in 2012 which led to the Wood Brothers this year and then beyond for next year. "Obviously it is a little overwhelming right now … knowing what is going to come but I am excited for it. I don't get excited about a lot of things and maybe I don't show it but I am really excited about this program for next year and having the opportunity." It will be the first time since 2008 that the Wood Brothers organization, founded by team owner Glen Wood in 1953, has attempted to run the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. That season, three drivers -- Bill Elliott , Marcos Ambrose and Jon Wood -- split the driving duties, although Johnny Sauter made one attempt, failing to qualify at Las Vegas. The last full season with a single-driver for the team came in 2006 with veteran Ken Schrader . "We were in Pocono … testing for the Pocono race on May 28, 2008," Wood said. "At about noon that day Mr. Ford called me looking for a phone number. I hadn't talked to him in a while and he said, 'I haven't heard from you in a while, why haven't you called?' I told him we had been running so poorly that I had really just been ashamed. He says, 'So, you are saying this 21 is broken?' and I said, ‘Yeah, it is broken right now.' "So he said we were going to see about that, that we would fix that. From that day until now, it has been just like this. He put some things in motion that started to help like increased engineering and just more of everything. There were some Ford Motor Company people that … moved in with us and helped get us straightened out and three years later we win the Daytona 500 (with driver Trevor Bayne ). You can never give up." Wood Brothers entries have visited Victory Lane 98 times, sixth most among active teams and seventh overall. The list of drivers who have won for the team includes NASCAR Hall of Fame members Wood, Curtis Turner (a 2016 inductee), Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Dale Jarrett. Leonard Wood, younger brother of Glen and crew chief for the majority of the team's victories, is also in the Hall of Fame. Despite often running a limited schedule, the organization has finished in the top 10 in points 13 times and won the series' premier event, the Daytona 500 , five times. "I think the timing was perfect for this to all come together," Edsel Ford II said. "I think with Team Penske 's help, that kind of motivated us to sort of talk to the Wood Brothers internally … and find out if this was possible. It just all came together this year and fit. It fit perfectly. So why not do it." NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series schedule consists of 36 points races and two non-points event and runs from February through mid-November. Entering this weekend's event, 35 teams have competed in all points races contested thus far this season.
The "Silver Fox," David Pearson was one of Richard Petty's greatest rivals and friends and is now a Hall of Fame inductee.
David Pearson comments on a legendary career that saw 105 victories and three NASCAR championships.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: David Pearson
RELATED: Cast your vote today Less than one week remains before voting ends in the annual NMPA Most Popular Driver award, which means it's crucial for NASCAR fans to vote. And they've answered the call recently. Last week saw a 14.9 percent increase in total number of votes cast from the previous week. That number speaks to how deep the passion runs for NASCAR fans -- and also how passionate fans remain digitally savvy. Voting has never been easier, either at www.mostpopulardriver.com or the NASCAR Mobile App. Are you doing your part for your favorite driver? Remember, the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver award is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by fan vote. Voting ends Nov. 22 at 11:59 p.m. ET, so make sure your voice is heard. Voting is limited to one vote per person per email address per day. The winner of this year's award will be announced during the NBCSN broadcast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards on Dec. 4 in Las Vegas. A $10,000 donation will be made to the winning driver's charity of choice. And just in case you need any extra motivation … Sprint has revealed the top 10 vote-getters thus far. Where is your favorite driver? The list below is in alphabetical order. Kyle Busch Dale Earnhardt Jr . Carl Edwards Jeff Gordon Kevin Harvick Jimmie Johnson Kasey Kahne Matt Kenseth Danica Patrick Tony Stewart Previous winners of the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award: Year – Recipient 2014 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2013 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2012 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2011 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2010 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2009 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2008 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2007 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2006 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2005 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2003 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2002 – Bill Elliott 2001 – Dale Earnhardt 2000 – Bill Elliott 1999 – Bill Elliott 1998 – Bill Elliott 1997 – Bill Elliott 1996 – Bill Elliott 1995 – Bill Elliott 1994 – Bill Elliott 1993 – Bill Elliott 1992 – Bill Elliott 1991 – Bill Elliott 1990 – Darrell Waltrip 1989 – Darrell Waltrip 1988 – Bill Elliott 1987 – Bill Elliott 1986 – Bill Elliott 1985 – Bill Elliott 1984 – Bill Elliott 1983 – Bobby Allison 1982 – Bobby Allison 1981 – Bobby Allison 1980 – David Pearson 1979 – David Pearson 1978 – Richard Petty 1977 – Richard Petty 1976 – Richard Petty 1975 – Richard Petty 1974 – Richard Petty 1973 – Bobby Allison 1972 – Bobby Allison 1971 – Bobby Allison 1970 – Richard Petty 1969 – Bobby Isaac 1968 – Richard Petty 1967 – Cale Yarborough 1966 – Darel Dieringer 1965 – Fred Lorenzen 1964 – Richard Petty 1963 – Fred Lorenzen 1962 – Richard Petty 1961 – Joe Weatherly 1960 – Rex White 1959 – Jack Smith 1958 – Glen Wood 1957 – Fireball Roberts 1956 – Curtis Turner 1955 – Tim Flock 1954 – Lee Petty 1953 – Lee Petty
Family says NASCAR Hall of Famer is on the mend
RELATED: Logano's chances, other Chase drivers, at Martinsville MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Joey Logano , riding a clean sweep of the Eliminator Round of this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup , will attempt to become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson to win four consecutive races in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series when the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 gets underway Sunday at Martinsville Speedway . He'll begin that quest from a prime position, having won his sixth Coors Light Pole Award pole of the season on Friday. Logano, who was fifth fastest in the opening round and fastest overall in the second and third rounds, also won the pole here in the spring event. Four wins in a row might be a tall order, but it is not an impossible task. Johnson wheeled his way to four straight during the 2007 Chase, a decade after teammate Jeff Gordon went 4-0 during the summer of '98. It happened as early as 1964 when driver Billy Wade won four in a row while teamed with Hall of Fame team owner Bud Moore. Twelve drivers have enjoyed such a run of success, with only David Pearson , the Silver Fox, and Richard Petty, the King, doing so twice. Two drivers on the list, Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant, scored their fourth wins here at Martinsville. "Our ultimate goal is to win the championship, and if we can win four in a row, great," Logano said Friday prior to practice at the .526-mile track. "We've been on an amazing roll here lately, which has been pretty spectacular." Logano, 25, won the season-opening Daytona 500 , then didn't win again until Watkins Glen in August. Before the month had ended, however, he was back in Victory Lane at Bristol. He had finishes of sixth, third and 10th in the opening round of the Chase to advance into the Contender Round. The Team Penske driver has not been beaten since, winning at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega and setting himself up to add his name to an impressive NASCAR list. "This race track has been another good ... track for us," said Logano, who has finishes of fourth, fifth and third in his last three Martinsville races. "We haven't won here yet (he finished second in '10) but it's been a good track for us the last few times we've been here. We've qualified well and ran up front here in the spring, just didn't quite have the car good enough to win." Fellow driver Kyle Busch nearly pulled off the four-win trick earlier this year, winning at Kentucky, Loudon and Indianapolis. In his attempt at four straight, he finished 21st at Pocono. "It's definitely a zone," Gordon, a four-time series champion, said earlier this week. "I'm pretty sure that Joey probably said, 'I didn't anticipate going to Talladega and winning at Talladega.' Sometimes when you're in that zone, you're fighting hard to win ... you have the car to be able to win it, the team to win it. WATCH: Gordon's competitive fire burns "You go to another one, you don't think you have it, you're still finding your way into Victory Lane. Next thing you know, you feel like you can win every race. "It's amazing how hard it is to get yourself to that level of confidence. When you get there, it can carry you for a long way." The potential fallout from on-track contact/conduct -- Logano and Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) seem to have a budding feud after incidents at Kansas and Talladega -- isn't a concern, Logano said, although the tight confines of Martinsville make it a choice stop for settling differences on the race track. "We're focused in on winning the race," he said. "That's what we can control. We can't control anybody else's thinking or what's in their mind. "We have to think about how we advance and how we win this weekend, in particular. That's what we've been focused on all week. We're not going to change that."
RELATED: Darlington throwback paint schemes Darlington's throwback theme for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 already is a hit with racers and fans alike, bringing out the creativity in the industry with special paint schemes and providing opportunities to honor great racers who have gone before. But what if along with those throwback paint schemes, like Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Valvoline No. 88 nod to Cale Yarborough and Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 salute to recently passed Buddy Baker, we could actually bring back the NASCAR legends themselves for this one race. Who would you pick? Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman could fill the whole 43-car field with legendary race car drivers. He won seven premier series championships with Richard Petty and an eighth with Terry Labonte , competing against some of the most storied personalities in the sport. "Damn, I've seen 'em all. I don't know …" Inman said of trying to choose just one driver to place in a throwback ride. "Earnhardt Sr. was good there you know." Bowyer, too, wished Earnhardt Sr. could join the field at the 2015 Southern 500. "Obviously for me it would be Earnhardt for me because we lost him, you know. That's first and foremost. Anyone you ever lost is who you'd want to bring back." But Bowyer said bringing back the man with the most wins (47) and most poles (47) at Darlington, David Pearson , would be the ultimate measuring stick for today's Sprint Cup drivers. " Pearson … man, what a character and just a genuine badass and an aggressive and successful racer. Anytime you have someone who's successful in the sport you make a living in, you want to be able to see what he had, what he's made of and see how you stack up." Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing , fondly remembers those days with Pearson driving the No. 21 Purolator Mercury. Pearson drove for the Woods Brothers from 1972-79 and won seven times at "The Lady in Black" during that span with two runner-up finishes. "That was his place," Wood said of Pearson's dominance at the South Carolina track. "The hotter the better for David . He liked it HOT, so we'd have to run in the daytime for him." RELATED: Drivers, officials, fans pumped for throwback weekend Inman attributed some of Pearson's success at the track also called "Too Tough To Tame" to his ability to take care of his equipment. This was extra difficult, as Inman recalled, because the track promoter sometimes would put bear's grease on the track between Saturday's practice and Monday's race. Blue laws prevented NASCAR from running on Sundays in South Carolina then. " Pearson just had a knack for taking care of the car. He always had a good car too," Inman said. "At least most of the time. For Darlington we put bars under the fenders. You knew you were gonna hit the wall, so we just put bars in and just bolted them to the right side. But the guard rail wasn't smooth like it is now. And they'll wear the sides out this time with the low downforce package." Aside from the drivers who racked up at the track, including Richard Petty and Buck Baker, Inman said Parnelli Jones' performance at Darlington had lasting impact on the racing there. "Parnelli Jones came out here in maybe 1956 or 57 was the first one to really use the high bank to what it is now. I remember him just sliding up to the fence. He didn't finish, of course." Jones crashed at Darlington in both 1956 and 1957. He finished 50th in a field of 70 cars in 1956 in the No. 1 Torrance Motors Ford and 34th in the No. 11 Ford owned by Oscar Maples in 1957. In 1958, Jones did finish the Southern 500 running, coming in 18th in a field of 48 cars during his last race there. The list of great performances at Darlington is nothing short of epic. Just the list of winners sends any racing fan on a long ride down memory lane: Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, Bobby Allison, Fonty Flock, Neil Bonnett, Benny Parsons, Harry Gant. How would they stack up against Jeff Gordon , the active driver with the most wins at Darlington (seven)? "Herb Thomas and Buck Baker were both really good," Inman added to the list. "But Herb had it as good as anyone in those old Hudson Hornets that Marshall Teague built, and I think he won in a Chevrolet, too." Now that would be an entirely different kind of throwback idea. Run at Darlington again in restored Chevrolets, Fords, Hornets, Plymouths, Pontiacs and Dodges.
RELATED: Darlington throwback schemes " Fired up for throwback race It's 1.366 miles of character-testing asphalt; a track so demanding it required not one nickname, but two. The Lady in Black. Too Tough to Tame. Welcome to Darlington Raceway , host for six and a half decades of one of the most anticipated, most difficult events on the NASCAR schedule. The Bojangles' Southern 500 returns to what many believe is its rightful place on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, Labor Day weekend, with history in tow. That history will be on display as the track and various teams adhere to a throwback theme, part of a five-year program that launches this weekend. "I remember that 1968 Southern win that was on the old (layout); I wouldn't take anything for that win and then went on to win five Southern 500s," NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Cale Yarborough said recently. "I just have so many fond memories of racing here. Even though I had rather win here than anywhere else -- because it's home, it's the first superspeedway -- I absolutely hated to drive this place. It was just so tough to drive. But I still would rather win here than anywhere." Yarborough, a three-time champion and member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, hails from nearby Timmonsville, South Carolina. He made his first Darlington start in 1957 as a teenager. More than 20 years later, he became the first driver to win five Southern 500 titles. "I was definitely in over my head," Yarborough said of that first start, which came with car owner Bob Weatherly. "But I came back and won five times and that record stood for 30 years. When Jeff Gordon tied my record (in 2002), I told him, 'Jeff, you've got a long way to go son. Because you never won one on that old Darlington race track.' "This is a unique place. There's not another one like it. I think any driver would love to have a win at Darlington on his resume." • • • Fast Fact I: In 1965, Ned Jarrett won the Southern 500 by a whopping 14 laps, the largest margin of victory ever recorded in NASCAR's premier series. • • • The story goes that after purchasing the land for the track, owner Harold Brasington was instructed that he wasn't to disturb a nearby minnow pond when constructing NASCAR's first paved speedway. What resulted was a layout that features two vastly different ends of the facility, giving the track a somewhat egg-shaped appearance. The unique design, along with the application of what was known as "bear grease," resulted in yet another piece of NASCAR terminology -- the Darlington stripe. Cars would often ricochet off the wall as they skirted along the very edge of the outside racing groove. Because of laws that restricted certain types of commerce on Sunday, the Southern 500 was contested on Labor Day, the first Monday of September, annually from 1950 through 1983. "I guess what they had in South Carolina at the time were what they called Blue laws. We couldn't run on Sunday," Dale Inman, winner of seven championships as a crew chief for Richard Petty and eight championships overall, said. "We'd practice three or four days, practice on Saturday and then we didn't do anything on Sunday. Then we'd come back and run Labor Day. "Golly, while we were gone they'd paint the track in bear grease, so when we started the race it was just a different world for awhile." The appeal was obvious. Not only was Darlington the first big paved track in NASCAR's realm, but the purse in the early years was equally impressive as well. "The first time I went there I think was 1951," Inman said. "Lord, in those years they started them three abreast. They didn't use the banking, or very few used it. It was just unheard of at that time." Petty won three times at Darlington, including the 1967 Southern 500. But the race that stands out in Inman's mind came three years later in the spring event. The track, already known as one of the most treacherous on the circuit, lived up to its billing when Petty's blue No. 43 Plymouth came off Turn 4, broke loose and struck the inside pit wall with such force that it destroyed the concrete barrier. Petty's car flipped violently before coming to rest on its roof. "When we got to him, (the car) was ... in the middle of the race track and cars were still going by on both sides," Inman said. "We unhooked the seatbelt, he kind of came down pretty hard on the roof because he was laying upside down. "Until he groaned we didn't think he was still with us. But he did groan so we knew he was OK. The big thing was his shoulder was out of place. It knocked him out." Darlington favored no one. Not even NASCAR's soon to be King. • • • Fast Fact II: In 1976, David Pearson won NASCAR's version of the Triple Crown by capturing the Daytona 500 , the World 600 and Southern 500. • • • "Bear grease" is no longer a part of track preparation, but the Darlington stripe remains very much in evidence. When track officials moved the start/finish line to what had previously been the backstretch in 1997, the difficulty in navigating the cantankerous old circuit remained unchanged. Turn 1 didn't become any easier simply because it was now Turn 3. "You don't go to race tracks ... going, 'Man, I've got to beat this track,' " Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . said. "The track's not even a factor, not even a part of the conversation. ... But when you go to Darlington, the track is a competitor. The track becomes as big of a challenge as trying to beat the next guy in front of you or outrunning your peers. "Darlington is one of the few ovals that can reach out and grab you if you're not paying attention or being careful. Most of the tracks we go to you won't really run into the wall or spin out unless you have a failure on the car. Here, if you don't watch every corner, every little thing you do ... that challenge of it, how hard it is and the odds are so bad to come here and get a win, you're up against so much more. I think that's what adds to the appreciation for what it means to win here." • • • Fast Fact III: The movie "Days of Thunder" starring Tom Cruise debuts in 1990. Cruise's character, Cole Trickle, scores his first NASCAR win at Darlington Raceway . Naturally. • • • At the close of the 1984 season, then series sponsor RJ Reynolds, through its Winston brand, unveiled what was known as the Winston Million, a program that offered a $1 million bonus to any driver winning three of the series "Big Four" events -- the Daytona 500 , the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway , the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500. Previously, only two drivers had won three of the four races in a single season -- LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969) and Pearson (1976). In the first year of the Winston Million program, Bill Elliott came to Darlington having won two of the first three, at Daytona and Talladega. In the Southern 500, the future Hall of Famer had to nimbly avoid a spin by Dale Earnhardt and a smoking Yarborough entry in the latter stages of the race to seal the victory. It was a career-defining moment for the Dawsonville, Georgia native, earning him the nickname "Million Dollar Bill." It wasn't until 1997 before another driver collected the bonus, again with a victory in the Southern 500. Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon held off a tremendous charge by Jeff Burton in the final two laps to pocket the bonus in the final year of the program. • • • Fast Fact IV : Johnny Mantz won only one NASCAR premier series event -- the inaugural Southern 500 held Sept. 4, 1950. The race featured a 75-car starting lineup and took more than six hours to complete. • • • Former crew chief Ray Evernham guided Gordon to four consecutive Southern 500 wins from 1995 through 1998. The most memorable win? "The million dollar win," Evernham said without hesitation. "Because we did not have a car to win that day. "We won that as a team and driver; we kept working on the car. I think we made 16 pit stops that day. "The car was basically destroyed -- front clip bent, rear clip bent, door bars ... we just stayed after it and won that race and we really shouldn't have. But we did." Evernham won 47 races as a crew chief for Gordon, with victories coming at nearly every stop on the schedule, including Daytona, Charlotte and Indianapolis. But Darlington, he said, holds a special place. "I love this place," he said. "It's still my favorite track. It challenged me. I could make a difference as a chassis person -- that's different from being a crew chief. "I loved making the car handle. The springs, the shocks, getting all that stuff right. You could make changes here. This is like a damn dirt track. You have to chase it. You chase it all day long -- 500 miles, five hours sometimes, you chase this race track. "You had to have a tough driver and a great pit crew. Our wins here to me are some of our best wins because we really won those races as a group. Jeff had to be the best, I had to be the best, the crew had to be the best. This place, to run as hard and as long as you do here, everything had to be just right. And when I look back at Darlington, they're some of the most satisfying wins that I had as a crew chief." MORE: Photos, facts about Darlington
RELATED: See all the paint schemes for Darlington Darlington Raceway will host the Bojangles' Southern 500 this weekend. Numerous teams are participating in the throwback theme at the South Carolina track and paying homage to some of NASCAR's most famous cars -- and drivers. Here's how some of the cars looked originally, with footage of the vehicles driving around Darlington. Brad Keselowski Brad Keselowski 's scheme is paying homage to Bobby Allison's car in the 1983 Southern 500. " Watch old footage of Allison's car in action Austin Dillon Austin Dillon is keeping it in the family and honoring grandfather Richard Childress. The paint scheme of the No. 3 Chevrolet is a tribute to Childress' car during the 1979 Southern 500. " Watch old footage of Childress' car in action Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 JGR Toyota mirrors the car of NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough's look from 1973. " Watch old footage of Yarborough's car in action Ricky Stenhouse Jr . Ricky Stenhouse Jr . is honoring three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson and paying tribute to his car from the 1968 Southern 500. " Watch old footage of Pearson's car in action Chase Elliott The No. 25 of Chase Elliott is one of the many cars getting a vintage makeover. Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet resembles the paint scheme of his father Bill Elliott 's car from 1974. " Watch old footage Elliott's car in action Kyle Larson Kyle Larson 's No. 42 Chevrolet is going to replicate Kyle Petty's Mello Yello look. " Watch old footage of Petty's car in action Clint Bowyer As Clint Bowyer looks for a strong performance at Darlington in hopes to maintain his spot on the Chase Grid, his car will be rocking a pretty awesome paint scheme honoring the late Buddy Baker. Bowyer's Toyota is similar to Baker's No. 15 Ford from the 1974 Southern 500. " Watch old footage of Baker's car in action More videos • Ward Burton's iconic No. 22 car comes back to life this weekend at Darlington as his son, Jeb, will be sporting an almost identical paint scheme. " Watch the old footage of Ward Burton's car in action • Two-time Darlington winner, Sterling Marlin, is being honored at "The Lady in Black" by Landon Cassill . Cassill's No. 40 Chevrolet will mirror Marlin's paint scheme on his own No. 40. " Watch the old footage of Sterling Marlin's with a Coors Light paint scheme he me • Dale Earnhardt Jr . is contributing to the throwback weekend by paying homage to Cale Yarborough's No. 15 car. " Watch the old footage of Yarborough's car in action • The No. 43 of Aric Almirola Almirola's is in honor of Richard Petty's 1972 Plymouth Roadrunner, the first time The King's car featured sponsor STP with the Petty Blue and Day-Glo Red on the quarter panels. " Watch old footage of Petty's iconic car • Kasey Kahne 's No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is paying respect to one of the NASCAR greats, Geoff Bodine. " See the clip of Bodine's car in action • The throwback inspiration for the paint of Trevor Bayne 's No. 6 Ford comes from Mark Martin 's own No.6. Martin is a two-time Darlington winner. " Watch Martin's memorable Ford in action • Sam Hornish Jr . is, too, honoring Mark Martin in his No. 9 Winn Dixie Ford. " Watch more footage of Martin's car in action • The No. 41 Chevrolet of Kurt Busch has a familiar paint scheme as it is a replica of Jack Sprague's No. 60. " Watch the No. 60 in action