With their 99th victory secured by a dramatic finish of last Sunday’s Pocono 400, the Wood Brothers will kick off their quest for No. 100 in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at one of their favorite tracks, Michigan International Speedway.
It’s a place that has seen the Woods win 11 times in the past, including the inaugural Motor State 500 back on June 15, 1969. And it’s the home track for their long-time supporter Ford Motor Company.
This weekend, the familiar Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors will give way to the orange logos of Omnicraft, Ford Motor Company’s new brand of quality replacement parts for non-Ford and non-Lincoln vehicles. The Omnicraft brand, which made its debut in January, is Ford’s first new parts brand in 50 years and will give its dealers and the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers access to quality parts for any vehicle brought in for service.
“It’s an honor to have the No. 21 Ford Fusion be a part of spreading the word about the Omnicraft brand,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “It will be a plus for the company, especially the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers.”
Odds are, Sunday’s race will come down to a finish similar to the first Cup race at Michigan, which ended in dramatic fashion, something that’s common now but was relatively rare back in the day.
In the inaugural race at Michigan, Cale Yarborough, driving the No. 21 Mercury, prevailed over LeeRoy Yarbrough, driving a Mercury for Junior Johnson, in a fender-banging run to the finish. LeeRoy came out on the losing end. His damaged car didn’t make it back to the start-finish line, and he was credited with fourth place.
David Pearson and Richard Petty capitalized on LeeRoy’s misfortune to finish second and third respectively. All of the top four were driving either Fords or Mercurys.
“Finishes like that, with two drivers beating on each other, weren’t as common back then as they are today,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said.
In Greg Fielden’s Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, the author quoted legendary NASCAR journalist Benny Phillips, who wrote of that race: “If they gave an Oscar for stock car racing’s most thrilling event, then the Motor State 500 would take the lead by leaps and bounds.”
For Wood, the upcoming weekend, even if the finish of Sunday’s race isn’t as dramatic as in 1969 it is a chance for his team to build on the confidence and momentum that comes from the victory at Pocono.
“When we were getting ready to leave, our Dad told us that we broke axles two weeks in a row before we won at Pocono, so we need to go out and win two races in a row,” Wood said.
“We don’t want to sound like we’re overconfident after just one win, but the way Ryan drove at the end of that race, passing Kyle Busch and holding off Kevin Harvick, does make us realize that if we can get to the end of the race in pretty good shape and have the right opportunity, we could win again.
“And it would mean a lot to be able to win one for Ford Motor Company at their home track.”