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.
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.
All Access: How the Wood Brothers won with radio issues
Dive deep into team communication between Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Wood Brothers racing team as they win their 99th race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
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;
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."
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."
Jeremy Bullins back at Wood Brothers Racing
Former Team Penske crew chief moves up to Sprint Cup with Ryan Blaney Ryan Blaney will have a familiar face atop the pit box in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races next year. So will Wood Brothers Racing as an organization. RELATED: See other driver/crew chief changes in store for 2015 The team announced Monday that Jeremy Bullins will call the shots for the No. 21 Ford in 2015, when Blaney gets behind the wheel on a part-time schedule. Bullins had previously worked with Wood Brothers Racing from 1999-2002, including a stretch as a race engineer. Bullins has spent the past three seasons as a crew chief for the No. 22 Team Penske Ford in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. During that span, he has 21 wins, 57 top-fives and 79 top-10s in 99 races. "This is a great opportunity for me at this point in my career to move to a great organization with a solid driver, while still getting the chance to work with the people that I've come to know and respect at Team Penske ," Bullins said in a team release. "Everyone in the sport knows about the Wood Brothers and recognizes that No. 21. To get a chance to work for Eddie and Len ( Wood ) and the entire organization and to have Ryan behind the wheel, is pretty much everything I could have asked for." Wood Brothers and Team Penske will begin a technical alliance next year, and Bullins told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" that the Woods will get Penske cars. "Similar to the relationships that they've had in the past, we'll be getting chassis from Penske," Bullins said. Blaney and Bullins made 19 starts together in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, a partnership that produced two victories, eight top-fives and 16 top-10s. Sprint Cup rule changes should help their collaboration as they move up to NASCAR's premier series. "If you look at the direction of the rule changes, it's certainly in the direction of the rules package for the XFINITY cars," Bullins said on SiriusXM NASCAR. "Hopefully for us that will be a good thing. It'll make the transition to the Cup car a little bit smaller and make the learning curve pass a little quicker for Ryan. "That part in my mind is a good thing for our particular situation. What testing we've seen so far -- guys doing the aero package tests -- the feedback is a lot like an XFINITY car." The No. 21 ride became open when Trevor Bayne left for a full-time ride with Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR's top series. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Eddie Wood : We knew Ryan was going to be special
Eddie and Len Wood both show appreciation for Ryan Blaney after he provided Wood Brothers Racing with the organization's 99th Cup win.
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