Chase Elliott talks Wood Brothers Racing's recent success
Chase Elliott reflects on his dad's time racing with Wood Brothers Racing as well as the team's recent success with driver Ryan Blaney during media availability at Bristol.
Blaney, Wood Brothers growing in sophomore season together
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Bristol MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- It used to be a thing. When NASCAR rookies in bygone days graduated to their sophomore seasons, you came to expect the canned photos: A smiling driver at the rear of the car, clearing the bumper of the yellow tape that's required of first-year talent. Ryan Blaney -- as best as we can tell -- took no such staged photo, cheesing for the camera in mid-tape peel. Still, there's been a noticeable change in the 23-year-old driver this season, his second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and it's helped stir the early indications of a rejuvenation for Wood Brothers Racing , one of the sport's most storied teams. "I think when he pulled that rookie stripe off the car," said team co-owner Len Wood , "it's like last year he was, 'I'm going to mind my P's and Q's, I'm going to pay attention and I'm going to be respectful of everybody, try to gain respect.' This year, I think he's stepped up his aggressiveness a little bit. I think that's the main difference. So far, I haven't seen recklessness with it, just aggressiveness." Blaney's 2017 pivot may not have been the result of an overtly communicated directive from team to driver as much as a natural reflex for a relative newcomer growing more comfortable in his surroundings in stock-car racing's major leagues. Whatever the reason for the figurative loosening of the reins, the new vibe has clicked. Blaney sits sixth in the drivers' standings, fresh from a standout performance at Texas Motor Speedway two weekends ago. Blaney faded to a 12th-place finish but charged hard to lead 148 laps in the early going, marking the iconic No. 21 team's first race with triple digits in the laps led column since the fall of 1982. "I feel like that was a main goal, not only for myself but for our whole team, to be more aggressive this year whether it's racing or pit calls," Blaney says. "I think it's definitely easier to make those decisions when you're not a rookie and you try to gain respect that whole first year so that you can run them a little harder. That side had definitely amplified a lot and it's benefited us so far." Stages of support For an organization rich with tradition, owing to a family pedigree of 67 years of involvement with auto racing , the Wood Brothers have demonstrated a knack at adapting to modern-day NASCAR's rules of the road. In particular, Len Wood says, the No. 21 Ford team has found opportunity in the incentive-based three-stage race format introduced this season. In seven races so far this year, there have been 14 intermissions. The Wood Brothers have accumulated points in 11 of those, earning bonuses for running in the top 10. That stretch has included finishing in the points in nine of the last 10 stage breaks, and two convincing stage wins during Blaney's rapid-paced run at Texas. Many factors powered the Lone Star stage sweep, not the least of which was strategy. A late-breaking caution flag during the second stage put No. 21 crew chief Jeremy Bullins on the spot. Bullins ultimately made the call for Blaney to stay on the track to maintain position in the running order, bettering his chance for more stage points. After collecting the green-checkered flag for Stage 2, Blaney fell back after a scheduled pit stop during the intermission, a jammed-up restart and a late pit-road gaffe that thwarted his comeback efforts. It would have been too easy to blame the late-stage decision for the team's fade, but Len Wood pointed out that a similar strategy panned out for Jimmie Johnson, who eventually stormed to his first victory of the season. If Bullins caught any undue scrutiny for the call, he didn't carry any regrets into last weekend's holiday break. "Obviously you're trying to win races, but through the first part of the season here, everybody's seen what a big deal the stage points are," Bullins said. "We felt like we could win that stage, and how do you give up 10 points? At the end of the day, we got a lot of points out of it, and did we get the win? No, but it was a good confidence boost for the team and certainly a decision we would make again in a heartbeat. I don't second-guess it at all, and I think it was the right thing to do. "I think the fact that we were able to win those stages shows how much our team has grown, and Ryan's confidence in where our team is at this year." Team transition The Wood Brothers made the jump back to full-time competition in NASCAR's premier series last season, a transition aided by a strong technical affiliation with Team Penske, one of Ford's flagship teams with drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. That relationship has grown since Aug. 14, 2014, when the Wood Brothers announced both the advent of the alliance and the addition of Blaney as the team's driver, fresh from the Penske development system. And though it's hard to say that Ford's commitment to the Wood Brothers -- a fiercely loyal relationship spanning seven decades -- has grown even stronger this year, the manufacturer has bolstered its efforts in both performance and sheer numbers by bringing Stewart-Haas Racing to the blue-oval side in 2017. "I think it shows the support that they're wanting to put into the sport in general, which is great," Bullins said. "I think when you add a quality team like that, there's more resources coming from both sides, right? I think it helps everybody." A prime asset helping to revitalize the Wood Brothers this season is a more measured Blaney. His patience in a wreck-filled season opener led to a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500; driving slightly less defensively in the races that followed helped to continue the upward trend. But Blaney also adds off-track intangibles that have helped keep the shop's mood light. It's a team with plenty of tradition and old-school cred, but with a young driver known for his avid Star Wars fandom and his Snapchat antics -- late-night death metal crooning anyone? -- with partner-in-crime Bubba Wallace. "He's kind of a different kid," Len Wood says. "He's a kid off the track. Him and Bubba when they went last year and filmed each other acting like different drivers, that stuff was pretty funny. But I think when he puts the helmet on and sits down in that race car, I think the kid part's gone and he's turning into a very good driver." One without those pesky rookie stripes. &lt;/p&gt;
Furniture Row's Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones top Richmond practice
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Practice 1 results " Top 10-lap times Furniture Row Racing came to play at Richmond International Raceway, as Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 78 Toyota topped the leaderboard at 124.178 mph in Friday's opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. He was followed by teammate and rookie Erik Jones, whose No. 77 Toyota notched a top speed of 123.035 mph. Wood Brothers Racing's Ryan Blaney was third-fastest, his No. 21 Ford clocking in at 122.772 mph. Roush Fenway Racing's Trevor Bayne (122.084 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (121.726 mph) rounded out the top five, respectively. Hamlin won the most recent race at Richmond (September 2016) in his No. 11 Toyota. Despite notching the second-fastest speed, Jones spun with 74 minutes left in the opening session, his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota making slight contact with the wall. With rain impacting on-track activity last weekend at Bristol, NASCAR deferred several holds and penalties coming out of Texas Motor Speedway to this weekend. The following teams sat out the first 15 minutes of practice, as they failed race inspection at Texas: No. 11 of Hamlin, No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 37 of Chris Buescher, No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson and No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. There were several holds and penalties out of Bristol as well that were enforced in this session: Ty Dillon's No. 13 team, AJ Allmendinger's No. 47 team and Austin Dillon's No. 3 team also abided by 15 minute-holds for failing LIS race inspection, as well as Aric Almirola's No. 43 group (failing race inspection, templates x 2, T1-T2 and T1). Dillon also will start Sunday's race from the rear. Joey Logano (No. 22 team) and Matt Kenseth (No. 20 team) were held for 30 minutes for swerving at Bristol. The Nos. 6 and 23 XFINITY Series teams of Darrell Wallace Jr. and Spencer Gallagher, respectively, will also have 15 minute holds. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back on track at 4:45 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (FS1). &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Kenseth nabs first pole of season at Richmond
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Full results RICHMOND, Va. – Matt Kenseth wont have to come from the middle of nowhere, as he did last Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he started 22nd, charged toward the front in the closing laps and finished fourth. Quite the contrary. In Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (on FOX at 2 p.m. ET) at Richmond International Raceway, Kenseth will lead the field to the green flag in the ninth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season after winning the pole during Friday's knockout qualifying session. Kenseth posted a lap at 121.076 mph (22.300 seconds) to edge Ryan Blaney (120.854 mph) for the top starting spot by .041 seconds. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota claimed his first Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at Richmond and the 19th of his career. Kenseth was fast enough to make the cut for the first two rounds despite running a single lap in each, and the tire conservation paid off in the money round. "We had enough speed in our Circle K Toyota Camry that we only had to do one lap each of the first two rounds to get us into the third round, and we improved a little bit the second lap (in the final round). It was a good qualifying effort for us. Feels good to be on the pole. Kenseth is 20th in points after bottom-five finishes at Daytona, Phoenix and Fontana, and qualifying rainouts hurt him at Bristol and Martinsville, where he had to start mid-pack on owner points. "This year has not been a good year for us, obviously, so far," Kenseth said. "We finished strong at Bristol, but we didn't get to qualify because of the rain, and that put us in the middle of the pack – there and Martinsville. "We haven't been getting any stage points. We're buried in the points back there and we finally got a decent finish last week, so hopefully this week we can start up front, stay up front and hopefully collect some of the stage points. But most importantly we're in the mix for a win at the end of the day." Martin Truex Jr. (120.681 mph) will start third, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (120.471 mph) and Joey Logano (120.380 mph). It was the third second-place qualifying effort of the season for Blaney, who also put the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford on the front row at Phoenix and Texas. "We weren't great the first round but kept getting steps better each round, which we've done a really good job of this year," Blaney said. "I thought that's where we struggled a lot last year. We didn't improve last year, we would go backwards. This year we're improving round-to-round. "It's just communication and knowing what we need to change in our car. That's something to be proud of. That's a lot of second starts now. I really want to race the Clash at Daytona (the season-opening exhibition race primarily for pole winners). That's my biggest thing right now. It's upsetting me that we can't get a pole. I think our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion is good—we'll find out in race trim." WATCH: Dillon makes ... interesting ... qualifying lap Both Kenseth and Blaney saved their fastest laps for the final round. The same couldn't be said of Logano, who ran the fastest lap of the afternoon (121.468 mph) in the second round but couldn't sustain his speed in the third. "We just lost a little bit there the last run," said Logano who tied Kevin Harvick for the fastest lap in the opening round at 120.870 mph. "We got loose into (Turns) 3 and 4, missed it the first lap and did the same exact thing the second lap. "It's so frustrating when you win the first two rounds and the one that pays the money, you're not there. That's always frustrating. I guess we have decent speed in our car… it is just frustrating. I don't know what else to say. It just sucks." &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Wood Brothers lease charter from Go Fas Racing for 2017
NASCAR premier series driver Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers Racing team will be guaranteed a spot in all 36 races in 2017 now that the organization has obtained a Charter through a lease agreement with Go FAS Racing . Blaney qualified for all 36 races this past season based on his qualifying times in the No. 21 Ford. Two years ago the team missed three races when inclement weather forced the cancellation of qualifying and the field was set per the NASCAR rule book. Team officials indicated that having a guaranteed starting position takes weather and other concerns that could impact making the starting field off the table going forward. Go FAS Racing , owned by Archie St. Hilaire, fields the No. 32 Ford in NASCAR's premier series. Eight drivers made at least one start for the team in 2016, although officials announced Thursday that Matt DiBenedetto would be the team's driver of record for the '17 season. MORE: DiBenedetto joins Go Fas Racing for 2017 While the team leased the No. 32 Charter to the Wood Brothers group, it has also since leased the No. 44 Charter from Richard Petty Motorsports , thus guaranteeing DiBenedetto a starting position as well. Officials with RPM, which also fields the No. 43 for driver Aric Almirola , have not indicated the status of the No. 44 team since the unexpected retirement of former driver Brian Scott at the conclusion of '16. "A couple of months ago we were evaluating where we were going to go," St. Hilaire told SiriusXM NASCAR on Thursday. "We looked at it -- I'm good friends with Eddie and Len ( Wood ) ... we said 'Look, let's lease the Charter for a year, regroup and see what we want to do long term. ... "The opportunity arose with the departure of Brian Scott that there was an opening for the charter on the 44 team. After we had already signed with the Wood Brothers a few months ago, this opportunity came up." The Charter system, which was unveiled before the start of the '16 season, awarded guaranteed starting positions to those teams that had attempted to qualify for all races from 2013 through 2015. Thirty-six teams met that criteria, leaving four positions available for Open (non-Chartered) teams. The Wood Brothers team, one of the longest-tenured organizations in NASCAR, ran a limited schedule from 2009 through 2015. It resumed running the full 36-race schedule this past season, one which saw rookie Blaney finish 20th in points. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Take a tour of Wood Brothers Racing's new shop
Ever wanted to take a tour around one of the race shops of one of NASCAR's most storied teams? Well, now you can -- thanks to Wood Brothers Racing , formed in 1950. While the team is old, the shop is new. The organization recently moved headquarters to Mooresville, North Carolina to be closer to their Ford-affiliated counterpart, Team Penske . Now separated by just seven miles, expect the technical alliance between the pair to grow considerably in 2017 as the Wood Bros. attempt to put a driver in the Chase for the first time in its history with talented Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series sophomore Ryan Blaney . Watch the video below to see the Wood Brothers' new digs.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Owner Standings
MORE: XFINITY owner standings " Camping World owner standings Pos. Owner Car No. Points Ldr Nxt Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Attempts 1 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 360 0 0 1 2 7 8 2 Hendrick Motorsports 24 333 -27 -27 0 2 2 8 3 Furniture Row Racing 78 323 -37 -10 1 5 10 8 4 Team Penske 22 291 -69 -32 0 1 1 8 5 Team Penske 2 277 -83 -14 2 0 10 8 6 Hendrick Motorsports 48 244 -116 -33 2 0 10 8 7 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 244 -116 0 0 0 0 8 8 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 239 -121 -5 0 0 0 8 9 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 239 -121 0 0 3 3 8 10 Wood Brothers Racing 21 228 -132 -11 0 2 2 8 11 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 214 -146 -14 0 1 1 8 12 Furniture Row Racing 77 192 -168 -22 0 0 0 8 13 Roush Fenway Racing 6 192 -168 0 0 0 0 8 14 Richard Childress Racing 31 186 -174 -6 1 0 5 8 15 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 184 -176 -2 0 0 0 8 16 Roush Fenway Racing 17 168 -192 -16 0 0 0 8 17 Hendrick Motorsports 5 164 -196 -4 0 0 0 8 18 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 163 -197 -1 1 0 5 8 19 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 161 -199 -2 0 0 0 8 20 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 159 -201 -2 0 0 0 8 21 Richard Childress Racing 3 154 -206 -5 0 0 0 8 22 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 144 -216 -10 0 0 0 8 23 Germain Racing 13 144 -216 0 0 0 0 8 24 Hendrick Motorsports 88 134 -226 -10 0 0 0 8 25 Richard Childress Racing 27 127 -233 -7 0 0 0 8 26 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 116 -244 -11 0 0 0 8 27 Leavine Family Racing 95 102 -258 -14 0 0 0 8 28 JTG Daugherty Racing 37 94 -266 -8 0 0 0 8 29 TriStar Motorsports 72 94 -266 0 0 0 0 8 30 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 91 -269 -3 0 0 0 8 31 GO FAS Racing 32 90 -270 -1 0 0 0 8 32 Front Row Motorsports 34 88 -272 -2 0 0 0 8 33 Front Row Motorsports 38 79 -281 -9 0 0 0 8 34 Premium Motorsports 15 68 -292 -11 0 0 0 8 35 BK Racing 83 52 -308 -16 0 0 0 8 36 BK Racing 23 39 -321 -13 0 0 0 8 37 Circle Sport / TMG 33 34 -326 -5 0 0 0 8 38 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 27 -333 -7 0 0 0 2 39 Beard Motorsports 175 26 -334 -1 0 0 0 1 40 Premium Motorsports 55 15 -345 -11 0 0 0 7 41 Rick Ware Racing 51 15 -345 0 0 0 0 8 42 Gaunt Brothers Racing 96 1 -359 -14 0 0 0 1
Ryan Blaney loses power steering at Bristol
Go in-car with Ryan Blaney, as the Wood Brothers Racing driver struggles to maneuver his No. 21 Ford after losing power steering early in Monday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Wood Brothers Racing
Get history of Wood Brothers Racing and full crew of Ryan Blaney
Wood Brothers Racing reacts to Charter news
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A race team that has been competing in NASCAR for almost as long as there has been a NASCAR, a team that has two of its members in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and can claim 98 victories -- including five in the Daytona 500 -- enters the 2016 season as one of a handful of organizations without one of NASCAR's new Charters. And that, officials with Wood Brothers Racing said here Thursday at Daytona International Speedway , is understandable. "Had we been racing fulltime from 2008 to now we would have been right in the middle of it because we would have been one of them (to obtain a Charter)," Eddie Wood , President of the organization, said. "We just happened to be in a different spot." It was a "spot" created by the team following the 2008 season, a decision made based on the economic situation and the performance of the No. 21 team at the time. Scale back and continue to compete, when and where possible, always with the goal of eventually returning to full-time status. But full-time status came too late for the Woods. NASCAR officials announced the new system earlier this week, awarding 36 teams Charters that guarantee a starting position in Sprint Cup Series fields. To receive a Charter, a team had to have attempted to qualify for all points races since the start of the 2013 season. Wood Brothers Racing has run less than fulltime since '09. A new arrangement with Team Penske , and with backing from Ford and others, allowed the team to announce last season that it would return to full-time status in '16. "We could have done what we did, which was race part time," Wood said, "but when we show up we are competitive and spending enough money to get all the right stuff, the right people and right driver. That actually turned into a Daytona 500 win (in 2011 with driver Trevor Bayne ). "The other choice we would have had was to do a start-and-park or race as best you can and that is not really fair to your sponsors. Ford Motor Company stood by us so long it wouldn’t be fair to them. "Or we could have quit." Len Wood , Chief Operating Officer for the organization, said running a full schedule with partial funding "would have been an embarrassment to our family … if we just showed up and took a check. "We didn't. We tried to perform every time we showed up. It didn't always work out that way, but that is what we tried to do.” Because the team does not have a Charter, rookie driver Ryan Blaney will have to make the field each week through qualifying, being among the four fastest Open teams vying for one of the remaining positions in what will now be 40-car fields. Last season, the team missed three races when qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather, and starting positions were assigned based on car owner points. Len Wood said based on the team’s performance a year ago, earning one of the available starting positions "shouldn't be an issue as long as we perform like we know we can. "Now if the car doesn't crank or (Blaney) goes out and hits a wall or something, then we have a problem," he said. "… It is hard to overcome something like that. If you are fast enough every week that shouldn't be an issue." Glen Wood founded Wood Brothers Racing in the family's tiny hometown of Stuart, Va. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012; younger brother Leonard Wood , who was crew chief for the team during much of its success, was inducted into the Hall the following year. News of the Charter system may have caught the elder Wood off guard, but Len Wood said his father "is fine." "He's coming down here tomorrow (Saturday)," he said, adding that it will be Glen Wood's "70th year for Speedweeks. "He said something about it being his 70th Daytona 500 but there have only been like (58). He came down here in 1947 to watch his hero, Curtis Turner, race on the sand. Daddy started racing in 1953 on the sand himself." So while there is disappointment at being excluded, Eddie Wood reiterated that decisions made in the past put the team in its current situation. But he said he would not change the way things played out if given the chance. "I wouldn't turn around and switch it for that win with Trevor here if you gave me two Charters," he said. "That is how much winning (the Daytona 500 ) means. It is this race. Not just a race, (it's) the race. This race is above all others. I don't care if it is Indy, Le Mans, this race is above all others."
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