Ford Performance NASCAR: Blaney and Wood Brothers Come Home to Martinsville
Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, and owners Len and Eddie Wood, paid a visit to the Martinsville Speedway infield media center before today’s first practice session to talk about advancing to the Round of 8 and competing at their home track.
RYAN BLANEY – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – HOW WILL YOU APPROACH THE RACE? “Coming here has always been pretty special for me, growing up in High Point – not too far down the road – and I came to pretty much every race here my dad was running, so it’s been really special now to be able to run it the past few years with the Wood Brothers. It’s been even more special with them being in Stuart, just about a half-hour down the road, so it’s really important for us to try to run well here. We haven’t run the best here in the past. I thought we made really good gains here in the spring race the first half of the race and then the second half didn’t go very well for us, so hopefully we can change that up, especially in the spot we’re in being in the Round of 8, which is really special to be able to get into this round. This team deserves to be in it. They work their tails off to be up here, so hopefully we can kick this round off well at a race track that’s very special to both of us.”
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO GET YOUR 100TH WIN HERE AT MARTINSVILLE? “Winning that 100th race is really a big deal to us, but you never know when that’s gonna happen. You didn’t know when 99 was gonna happen or 98 or any of that. The focus is to do well here of course. Like Ryan said, we ran really well here in the spring and we had trouble about halfway through the race. I think we had a jack break or something, I can’t remember, but just being here at Martinsville, which is close to our hometown in Stuart is always special. It’s been that way ever since I was a little kid. There used to be a grass infield here and it was a big picnic when I was a kid here, and I saw my dad race here in the early sixties, so this has always been a special place to me, just from that standpoint. I’m just looking forward to the race and thankful to be in this round. Ryan ran a really, really strong race last week at Kansas to put us in this position and I’m really proud of him for that because he had to start in the back and deal with all the stuff getting to the front, and did a great job. I’m really happy to be here.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BUBBA WALLACE BEING NAMED THE DRIVER FOR RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS NEXT YEAR? “Yeah, that’s great news. It’s really cool that they finally got that out in the open. I know that’s something they’ve been working on really hard for a while now, so it’s nice that they finally announced it and it’s a signed and done deal. That was really special for him. I know he did a great job in that car the two or three races he ran in it earlier this year and I’m excited for him to be a part of a really special team. I’m just really pumped up for him and I know he couldn’t be happier. He deserves it. He’s worked really hard his whole career. I’ve hated to see him out the second half of this year. You hate to see that, but hopefully it all works out and I think he’s on the right track. Hopefully, they figure out what they’re gonna do as far as team stuff, but that was really cool for him to finally get that out in the open because everybody has been asking and there have been rumors going around and it’s nice to finally kind of say it and not have to deal with it. Now he can go and focus on next year and getting ready to run well.”
EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – WHAT DOES YOUR DAD THINK OF ADVANCING THIS FAR AND IS HE THINKING ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP? “He’s really excited about it. He watches every race. He actually still tapes them. I’m not talking about with a DVR, I’m talking about with the VCR. He’s still got a machine and he’ll go back and analyze it and talk to us about it, like if we do something. We ran out of fuel somewhere and he was like, ‘Did you all think you were at Darlington?’ It’s a mile-and-a-half and you can run longer there, so he keeps up with it just as much as we do. He and our mom both are just very excited about it. It’s something new. We haven’t been in this position ever, really. I think it’s just as new for them as it is us, but we’re just thankful to be here.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED –DID LAST WEEK SERVE AS A MOTIVATOR? “I thought it was a good motivator coming from the back like that. I knew we had a good car all weekend pretty much, and that’s arguably the best race track that we go to as far as myself and the team and things like that, but it was nice. Even after our issue Friday, fixing it and still being super-fast like that was a big pickup and I think the progress we made before the competition caution showed the strength of our car. That really got everybody really fired up, not that we were down after having to start in the back. We knew we were up to the challenge. We like challenges on that team, so I feel like that was a good challenge for us and we rose to the occasion all around.”
IS IT A SUCCESSFUL SEASON NO MATTER WHAT NOW? “I got asked that question a few times throughout the last couple of weeks. Did this meet expecations, or go further than you expected? And I didn’t really have any expectations for this year. I think everyone on the team just wanted to go out and do our best and do what we could to our full capability of how we can do things and whatever happens happens, whether that’s winning a race or however far we go in the rounds. We just kind of take it week to week. That’s personally how I look at it. We go do our best and the rest will work itself out. I don’t really want to chalk it up as a successful or unsuccessful season yet and we’ll kind of see how we go, but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had racing this whole year, no matter what race cars, but hopefully we can keep going the next month or so and see what happens.”
LEN WOOD, Co-Owner – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – DOES THE FACT YOU’RE MAYBE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE FREE YOU UP TO TAKE CHANCES WITH STRATEGY OR DO SOMETHING UNCONVENTIONAL? “I think that’s kind of the way we play it anyway. We won a race this year and we sat on a pole and we hadn’t done either one of those in several years. When it gets down to the end of a race and that crucial caution do you pit, do you not? I think we can take chances. It’s been a good year and hopefully it winds up being better than it is.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – DID YOU HEAR EDDIE SAY LAST WEEK THAT YOU HAD A DAVID PEARSON-LIKE DRIVE? “Yeah, I did hear that and, honestly, you’re crazy Eddie if you think that I’m even capable of that, but it was really nice of you to say. That was really neat. Anytime somebody you look up to says good things about you makes you feel good inside personally, not only as a racer but as a human being as well. That was really neat to hear, but I don’t agree with you.”
EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “Starting into that race and you’ve got to start 40th, that requires patience and a lot of thought and a lot of awareness about what’s going on. Those qualities was one of David Pearson’s greatest assets. The old guys in here remember all that. I made that statement comparing that run to a race that Pearson ran and Len and I were both part of that. We were our uncle’s helpers. We were there. We didn’t make things better or worse, but we were there and just the way that things flowed in that race remind me a lot of the race that David ran and I think he’s headed in that direction for sure.”
LEN WOOD CONTINUED – HOW DO YOU THINK THE FORDS ARE GOING INTO THE LAST FOUR RACES? “I think, for us in particular, we had three pretty strong races in the last round. We were fast at Talladega. I think we were first and third and won a stage in the stages, and the stage points are so critical right now. We got 18 points there and last week starting last with him getting up through there we got 10 points, so those were kind of what helped make us make the next round to be honest with you. I think our run at Kansas shows that we may be a really good car at Texas because I think we won both stages there in the spring, so let’s hope we’re peaking at the right time or we get at least the best we can be.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – IF YOU GET TO HOMESTEAD, WHAT DO YOU HAVE FOR THEM? “I don’t know. I’ll let you know when we get there, if we get there. I personally like Homestead. It’s a fun race track. We were testing there the last couple of days – Wednesday, Thursday – and I thought the test went pretty well, but you never know. You can’t ever tell at a test what teams are doing, but I like it. It’s a tough race track. There are a couple guys who shine there, but I personally like it. Until we get there, I’m not really gonna focus on that. My focus is Martinsville and then Texas, so we’ll see. But I think we are closer to carry on what Len said. I think the past couple months we’ve gotten our cars better as far as Fords in general. I think we’ve all made gains, especially the 4 car. He’s been really fast, so there are a handful of us that have made really big gains and hopefully, like Len said, we’re peaking at the right time to where we can really capitalize on the speed in our cars and try to advance and make it to Homestead.”
LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “There are still three races to go right now, not four – not yet.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY POINTS YOU MIGHT NEED TO ADVANCE TO THE FINAL ROUND? “I don’t really know. The stage points are huge. They’re gigantic. Hopefully, we can gather a bunch of those, but I’m not really sure how many it’s gonna take. You can probably run 10th in every single race in this round and not advance. Stage points matter. I think you’re gonna have to get at least 12-15 stage points a race and finish inside the top 10 just to even have a prayer because the competition is so good right now. It’s eight of the best cars, so I don’t really know a number, but I think 12-15 points a race and then top 10 just to have a shot at it.”
EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – HOW LONG HAS YOUR DAD BEEN USING VHS TAPES? “When it first came out, some of you may remember that, but he’s got his own little tape recorder and he’s got drawers and drawers of them. If you guys need a tape of five years ago somewhere, he’s got it. He never duplicates or never tapes over one he’s already got. He just gets new ones. I didn’t know you could still buy them, but he’s still got it. He’s got a stack of remote controls. He’s got satellite and all that, but he’s got a stack of remote controls and got them all numbered and every now and then his TV – you know how it is, you hit the wrong button and things go haywire. He’ll have that every now and then, but he’s got a knack for figuring it out, but he analyzes all these races just like we all do.”
LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “In fairness, daddy does have an iPhone, but he uses it to take pictures of all his wood cutting and yard trimming and brush cleaning, stuff like that, more so than answering the phone. He doesn’t text.”
EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “He doesn’t text, but he knows how to send a picture. He’ll cut a big tree down and send us a picture of it, and when I’m talking about a big tree I’m talking about a one-and-a-half to two-foot thick stuff. He’ll cut it down by himself, clear it up, chop it up, and then put it in his tractor and carry it away. He’s the woodchopper. He could outwork us put together, I’ll say that.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – WHERE DO YOU FEEL THE WOOD BROTHERS ARE IN THE FORD CONTINGENT IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I think we’re, I’m not gonna say we’re last in line, I think we’re one of the top. We’ve shown it. We’ve shown good speed and it’s nice to have three Fords in the eight. That’s a pretty good number and it’s nice to be just a part of that group. We’re just happy to be here and we’re gonna make the most of the opportunities that are presented to us, but I think we’re just as competitive as the other two Fords and just as competitive as the whole field. Obviously, there are a couple cars that have been great all year and you’ve got to give those teams credit, but I think we’re next in line and we’re getting closer to where we need to be and hopefully we can get to where we need to be here pretty soon and be able to step up and rise up to the occasion and do well.
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED -- THERE ARE FOUR FORMER CHAMPS IN THE EIGHT. IS THAT AN INTIMIDATION FACTOR AT ALL? “Honestly, I didn’t even know there were four left. I don’t really pay attention to that. All I know is we got into the next round and I look forward to Martinsville and doing what we need to do to be good here. It was the same question last week of there’s the 20 and the 18 and the 48 and us right there. They’re just other guys I’m racing. I respect everybody what they’ve done and I’ve looked up to a lot of those guys growing up racing, I watched them when I was just getting started, but they’re just other races. That’s how you have to look at it. You can’t get intimidated or things like that because then you’re already kind of behind, but I didn’t even notice there were four. We just want to put work in and worry about our own team. I feel like when we worry about ourselves we’re our best, when we’re not paying attention to everybody else. When we can focus on the 21 car that’s when everybody is at their best – myself and the whole team, pit crew, I think that’s when we succeed.”
RIS NASCAR Editor. Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.