Over the years, Eddie and Len Wood, like their father and uncles before them, have made their share of race strategy decisions.
On Sunday, in a nerve-wracking, constantly evolving Crown Royal 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the two Wood Brothers were glad to have someone else making the strategy decisions for their No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane/JDRF Ford Fusion team.
In a race that saw many a crew chief’s plans upset by untimely caution flags, Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew chief Jeremy Bullins kept adapting his strategy until the end, when a late stop for fuel put Ryan Blaney in position to finish a strong 12th in a race that ended with a green-white-checkered-flag run to the finish line.
“I’m glad we had Jeremy Bullins on the pit box,” Eddie Wood said. “He deserves a lot of credit. He was thrown a lot of curve balls, but always kept his focus. He kept adapting and wound up with the right strategy at the end.”
Wood pointed out that Bullins’ strategy calls wouldn’t have worked without some heads-up driving by Blaney, the 21-year-old youngster making his first Sprint Cup start on one of NASCAR’s most challenging race tracks.
“Ryan did a great job, especially on restarts,” Wood said, adding that from his vantage point on pit road he wasn’t able to see for himself how things were going on those first few frantic laps after mid-race restarts.
“All we could do was listen to the spotters, Josh [Josh Williams] and Jon [Jon Wood] on the radio,” Wood said. “You could tell Ryan was being really aggressive. Then when he came back around he’d be in front of the cars he was racing the lap before.”
Blaney had his work cut out for him from the drop of the green flag. He lined up in 30th place for the start but was in 23rd place after just 26 laps. By Lap 35 he was in 25th.
As the race went on, and teams began using various strategies, Blaney would find himself around the top 10 for one run and around 20th the next.
“Where we were running just depended on what strategy we were on,” Wood said. “But the most important thing was we had a strong car all day. Ryan was on older tires at the end, which made his job of holding off the guys behind him with fresh tires much harder. The pit crew gave us solid stops all race long and gained spots on most of them.”
Wood also said he was happy that Maryn Winters, the eight-year-old designer of the paint scheme that adorned the No. 21 Ford Fusion, stayed with the team all the way from the start of the weekend to the drop of the checkered flag.
“We were really proud to have her and her family with us this weekend,” Wood said. Winters won the Race Car Design Contest for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a contest hosted by Motorcraft and Quick Lane.
The Wood Brothers return to the Sprint Cup Series next month for the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 16 at Michigan International Speedway.
Wood Brothers Racing PR