Monday, Jan 24

Ford Performance NASCAR: Wood Brothers Preseason Media Availability

 

Executives from three of Ford’s NASCAR Cup Series teams participated in a media Zoom call this afternoon to talk about the upcoming 2022 season.  Co-owners Eddie Wood, Len Wood and Jon Wood from Wood Brothers Racing; Walter Czarnecki, vice chairman of Team Penske, and Front Row Motorsports general manager Jerry Freeze all participated.

 

EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner, Wood Brothers Racing – HARRISON WAS FASTEST IN DAY TWO OF NEXT GEN TESTING.  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE GOING TO DAYTONA?  “I spoke with Harrison this morning and he said he was really comfortable in the car.  He put up a couple of good laps both days and, of course, that was drafting.  It was actually tandem drafting and that’s nose-to-tail where they’re actually connected like they did – and I was talking to him and I was like – ‘are you talking about like back in 2011”’ which is when Trevor won that race and he said that’s how they did it.  It was pretty tricky and they could only do it for like a lap and then they would have to swap.  That’s what they did in 2011.  The engines would get hot and they would have to switch up, but he was really comfortable in the draft.  He drafted quite a bit with Austin and Blaney and Logano, and then they had like a 10-lap race or 10-lap event, whatever you want to call it, with the pack and I think that was probably 16-18 cars and he said he was comfortable with it.  He was really pleased with the way the car drove and also said that there’s still work to do, which I’m sure everyone is in that position because in the past you can test and do all that you want to and try to simulate the real race and you just can’t do it.  When they all get out there for the qualifiers will be the first real race with the speedway package and then you’re gonna know.  If there are problems, they’ll be magnified then or it won’t be any big deal.  Len and I went through this – we’re telling our age which everybody knows we’re old – in ‘81 when they downsized from the big cars down to the current wheelbase and everybody thought that was gonna be the end of the world.  ‘There’s no way they can race these cars like that.’  Everybody complained and they had the race.  Bobby Allison won it and they went on to Richmond the next week and everything was fine.  I kind of think that’s the way it’ll be.  It’ll be some things that will have to be worked out, but it’ll be fine.”

 

HAS HE TALKED ABOUT HOW HE’S ADAPTED FROM THE XFINITY CAR TO THIS ONE?  “I think he ran Talladega last year or the year before, but compared to that he said these cars drove fine.  Like I said, it’ll all be different when it’s real.  The competition level.  Everybody’s game will be upped.  They’ll be taking more risk and stuff like that because nobody really wants to be the guy that starts a big wreck now, but he seemed very confident and he seems to be really really fitting in with Brian and all the guys on our crew.  They were commenting just how well he’s fit in and his temperament and just his demeanor is just so down-to-earth and they just all seem to really be getting along really well.  He’s interacting really well with Blaney and Cindric and Joey.  That all seems to be going really well.”

 

WHEN YOU EVALUATED YOUR TEAM WHAT DID YOU FEEL HARRISON BROUGHT TO YOUR ORGANIZATION AND HOW DO YOU FEEL HIM COMPETING IN THE ROLEX WEEKEND WILL BENEFIT HIM?  “It gets back to his demeanor and his willingness to learn.  He just seems to really fit in with everyone.  I think he brings some energy that only youth can bring.  I’ve seen it before and there’s just something special about a kid that’s 20-years-old just getting started and already driving race cars.  Len and myself, we go back to the early days.  I think when David Pearson started driving our car he was 37-years-old.  That’s 17 years older than Harrison is and he’d already won a couple of championships, so this is just a different time.  You spoke of the road race down there,  I think being competitive and just laps racing people will help him.  I was really excited to hear he was gonna be able to do that.”

 

LEN WOOD, Co-Owner, Wood Brothers Racing – “He’s in the four-hour race that’s on Friday beforehand that Austin and Harrison are in.”

 

JON WOOD, Co-Owner, Wood Brothers Racing – “I think what’s neat about the attitude that Harrison has that’s different is instead of a lot of drivers – and I’m not singling any out in particular – but the typical mindset of driver is ‘what can you do for me?’  Like, ‘What more can you give me?’  And I’ve noticed a lot with Harrison that his question is, ‘Do you need anything from me?  What can I do for you?’  He’s asked that several times and that’s just different and it just speaks to his maturity but his mindset.  It’s something different and I appreciate it and I’m sure they appreciate it too.”

 

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “That’s well said.  For instance, at the Charlotte test – day one of the first Charlotte test – he showed up two hours early in his uniform ready to go.  I wouldn’t do that, but I thought that said a lot without saying anything.  He was ready to go and didn’t want to miss anything.  Like, ‘I’m here to help.’  To back up what Jon said, they did a really good job of bringing him up – Kim and Jeff did.”

 

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION WITH THIS CAR AS FAR AS THE WIGGLE ROOM?  WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE THIS CAR BETTER?  IS THERE SPACE TO MOVE AROUND IN?  “There’s less wiggle room now than there used to be.  I think the rules will be tighter on them.  Things kind of got out of hand before on moving stuff around and they tried reigning it back in, but I think this is a reset from that.  I think every mile that you can put on a car in testing helps the engineering group, the aerodynamic group to basically go back and fine-tune everything.  When we go back, that’s when everybody will have to go through the room of doom or whatever you want to call it – through the Hawkeye – and that’s when we’ll really know what we have.  Kind of like what Eddie said, you won’t know until the green flag falls for the Daytona 500 really about where we’re gonna be, but I think it looks like it’s shaping up to be a good race.”

 

DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH CARS TO FEEL COMFORTABLE GOING INTO THE SEASON?  “Yeah.  I mean, I was at Penske this morning and I think everything is going along OK.  There are some parts that they’re waiting a little bit on, but if we go back 30 years ago we were trying to race on four cars, and I think one thing comes to mind for me was when Childress’ group wrecked that car at the Charlotte test and went home and fixed it in like four hours or something like that.  That’s kind of a game-changer on these cars.  Before, if you hit something, then you’ve got to send that car back to the chassis shop and stuff like that.  I think Childress probably, by wrecking and doing that, may have a little bit of an advantage on knowing.  They were the first ones to do it and maybe they developed a plan on fixing stuff and that’s something our team needs to do is let’s just say change engines, change transaxles, change the rack-and-pinion steering, so when we get to the racetrack it’s not something knew to them.  We had steering boxes for 50 years and now we’ve got steering racks, so there are a lot of things that are different about this car – more like a stock car.”

 

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “And another thing.  I guess this was back in the eighties when people could change engines during a race.  They could change an engine in less than 20 minutes, so everyone will figure out how to work on these cars, how to change things quicker because it’s just a completely new animal.  It’s new to everyone, but, like Len said, I think it’s gonna be OK.”

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GOING TO THE COLISEUM FOR THE CLASH?  “It’s gonna be different, for sure.  The pictures and stuff I’ve seen that a lot of you guys have dug up and been involved with getting some good video and information about it, I think it’s gonna be really good.  I’m a big fan of Bowman Gray Stadium.  If I had to pick a racetrack to go to other than Daytona Beach, that’s probably where it would be.  It’s similar.  It’s a quarter-mile, flat, all that stuff.  When they first started talking about it I was like, ‘What?’  But the more you think about it and the more information that comes out, especially after you see the pictures of how they did it, it looks like a first-class effort.  I think it’ll be fine.  I’m looking forward to it just like you guys are and my expectations are like yours.  I think that’s one thing that’s cool about this car as well as going out there.  I don’t know anymore about it than anybody else or you don’t know anymore about it than anyone else.  Nobody has really tested it.  It will be a first for everyone.  It’s kind of like shooting the first rocket up with Alan Shepard in it.  Everybody was pretty sure that if it went up it was gonna come down, but they’re gonna have it and I’m looking forward to it.”

 

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “It’s just another track, really.  Last year, we had COTA in the rain.  That was a pretty challenging week, so I look at the pictures, the video stuff that’s online right now.  They did a very nice job from the looks of what we see.  There again, there will be some bumping and banging and there will be hurt feelings and there will be some people happy, so it’s just another race.”

 

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – WHAT IS IT ABOUT BOWMAN GRAY THAT MEANS SO MUCH TO YOU?  “I guess the biggest thing was my dad raced there.  He won four races at the Cup level and all four were at Bowman Gray, and the last race he ran there was in ‘63 and I was there.  I could take you to the very seat that I was sitting in.  That’s one cool thing about that place.  It’s still like it was when it started.  The grandstand.  They’ve changed the track a couple of times.  They’ve repaved it and did some things, but the grandstand is the same and I guess as you get older it just brings back fond memories, whatever you want to say, but it was once said, and I’ll tell you who said it, it was Gary Myers, which would have been Billy Myers’ son, which would be Chocolate’s nephew I guess or uncle.  Anyway, they said this may not be the greatest race you ever saw, but it’s probably the best show you’ll ever see and that’s kind of the way I’m thinking about this race in L.A.  It may not be the greatest race ever, but it may be one of the best shows you’ve ever seen.  No one knows what to expect and I think there will be a lot of crashing and beating and banging and stuff like that.”

 

CAN YOU GIVE SOME PERSPECTIVE ABOUT AN EVENT LIKE THE COLISEUM AND WHAT IT USED TO BE LIKE AT SHORT TRACKS LIKE THAT?  “I think that reignite may be the right word.  Like I said, nobody really knows what’s gonna happen, but when you put that many good drivers with that many good cars together and they’ve got to beat each other, that’s one cool thing I think they’ve done is the format.  Nobody is really locked in except I guess Larson would be because of the way they’re gonna do it, but everybody’s got to make the show.  In ‘09 until we went back full-time in I guess ‘16 we had to make races and that’s a whole different animal than being locked in with points or charters, whatever you want to call it.  You pay attention to the weather.  You live by the weather because if you had a rainout, you’re gonna miss a race in our case.  It’s just one of those deals that there’s so much anxiety about, ‘Am I gonna make it or am I not gonna make it?’  And now everybody shares in that, and I think that’s gonna up the competition level and the risk taking.  If you’ve got to do something, you’re gonna take more risk and be willing to than if you were already locked in where you would just do enough to get by.  I think that’s one of the qualities of this race that will make it different, and I think it will bring back some of the old days and I think that’s really cool.”

 

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “I think we’ll get to see how tough these cars are from the beating and banging, which will be a pre-look for Martinsville, Bristol, Richmond – places like that.”

 

JON WOOD CONTINUED – HOW MUCH CAN THE COLISEUM EVENT HELP RECONNECT THE SPORT WITH THE YOUNGER FANS?  “I think it’s a good experiment.  Attention spans and trends in entertainment are different than they were even just a few years ago, three years ago.  This would seem to maybe cater towards the current demographic of sport fan/entertainment fan/tv viewer, so I think it’s a good change-up.  It’s good to see.  The race itself, the place, whatever, that is what it is, but the fact that it’s a completely different format, a shorter event, everything that a lot of people have been asking for and complaining about this kind of does that.  You hear a lot of people talk about how they wish races were shorter.  They wish this.  They wish that.  Well, this kind of checks all those boxes, so I think it depending on how the race goes, it could have impact on future races, the places we go, the type of racing, the type of things these fans like.”

 

WHAT ARE THINGS YOU WILL BE LOOKING AT IN TERMS OF THIS EVENT?  “I think it’ll be pretty clear.  I don’t think it’s gonna be a mixed bag of opinions.  I look back to the Dirt Race at Bristol and I, for one, had very low expectations going into that race.  I thought it would be a one-and-done, just a waste of time really, and I was proven very wrong.  So, I think it’s gonna be very clear whether this was successful or not and, again, if it is successful like every indication seems to be that it will be, it could seriously impact the trajectory of the sport.  The 500-mile races are good, but are they good 36 times a year?  Is that what people really tune in to watch, or is it more of a heat race/feature type atmosphere that the Dirt Race had?  This is more along the lines of that Bristol race and I think it’s worth doing.  It’s a lot of trouble.  It’s a lot of effort to ask the teams to do this the first race of the season right out of the gate with this new car, but it’s probably an appropriate time to get it out of the way and see what it can do.”

 

WHAT CHANGED FOR YOU WITH THE BRISTOL DIRT RACE?  “I don’t know that my opinion really changed.  I think it’s more of just the opinions of nine out of 10 people.  Everybody seemed to favor that race in some aspect to some degree.  There was something about it they liked better than every other weekend throughout the year, and I don’t know what that was but whatever it was it worked.  So, people smarter than me seem to agree with that and, again, this is more of a version two of that type of an event.  It’s doing it again but on asphalt.”

 

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – ASIDE FROM PERFORMANCE WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE THIS YEAR?  “I think the challenge for our race team is pretty much the same as everyone else.  It’s kind of like the first guy to figure out, the first team to figure out what this car likes because right now, even with all the testing and we talked about this before you got online, until they race it, it just hasn’t been raced.  Drivers are in control of how hard they run and only they, each driver, knows themselves the risk is what I’m really talking about.  The first group that figures out, ‘OK, this works on this car.’  Of course, we’re not gonna tell anyone and that’s the way racing has been forever.  This is a little different now because the cars are basically the same cars, but the areas that you work in are still areas you worked in.  They’re smaller than they’ve ever been, but everybody is on the same page with all that, so I think the people that get something figured out, whether they’re smart enough to figure it out or they luck into it.  A lot of things have happened in racing down through the years with us where it was just trial and error.  ‘That sounds like a good idea.  Let’s try it.’  Now, you don’t have a lot of practice time which gets back to engineering and simulation and stuff like that – windtunnels – and that’s part of our life now.  I think the first one to figure it out will be faster in the first few races and we’ll just have to see how that all shakes out, but I think it’s gonna be OK.”

 

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