Something old and something new are combining at Wood Bros. Racing to offer one of the better feel good stories of 2016. Just when it seemed that NASCAR’s oldest active racing was fading into history, they’ve begun a return to relevance. Leading the way is rookie Ryan Blaney, who showing there’s more than just one outstanding newcomer this season.
Hardcore NASCAR fans understand that this is a team sport. A mediocre racer can take a good car and drive it out of contention. A good driver in a lousy car is like handing a pocket knife to a gunfighter. This is to say nothing of the importance of a good pit crew.
Speaking of pit crews, let’s not forget the many contributions of Wood Bros. Racing. They invented the modern pit stop. Prior to that, you would see the drivers themselves getting out of their cars, and performing service. With imitation being the highest form of flattery, other teams caught on and over the decades, 30-second pit stops are precision maneuvers that take generally in the range of 11-12 seconds.
Blaney- the progeny of World of Outlaws standout Dave Blaney- joins some pretty impressive company as a driver at Wood Bros. David Pearson, Curtis “Pops” Turner, Marvin Panch, Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, and AJ Foyt are just a few of the luminaries that have raced for Wood Bros. The famous 21 Ford as piloted to victory in the 2011 running of the Daytona 500 by Trevor Bayne, making just his second start in the Sprint Cup Series on his 21st birthday. Elliott Sadler, road course ace Marcos Ambrose, Michael Waltrip and Bill Elliott- the father of Blaney’s chief rookie rival Chase Elliott have also raced in the 21.
As Rick Hendrick, Jack Roush, Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress all enjoyed great success in the early 2000s, the boys from southern Virginia fell off the pace. A medical issue finished Jon Wood’s NASCAR racing career before it really began, and rather than going the “start and park” route, the team elected to cut back to a parttime schedule.
After Bayne bolted to Roush to drive the 6 car, the Wood Bros. Racing crew turned to Blaney. Last year, they also announced the entry into a technical alliance with Roger Penske. This year marks the Wood Bros. return to full-time competition, and now- as this is being written- the 22-year old sits 16th in points, with his top five last Sunday at Kansas and 4 top 5s.
In their storied history, Wood Bros. Racing has earned 98 victories, but just one- Bayne’s 2011 victory- in this century. One can’t help but think number 99 will come much sooner.