Ford Performance NASCAR: Martinsville 1 (Ryan Blaney/Wood Brothers Media Availability)

Ford Performance NASCAR Notes and Quotes                  

Event: Ford GT350 Pace Car Media Event
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Martinsville Speedway (.5-mile paperclip)

Wood Brothers Racing, Ryan Blaney, driver of the No 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, spoke to media members Wednesday introducing the 2017 Shelby Mustang GT 350 as the official pace car for this weekend’s NASCAR event at Martinsville Speedway. Joining Blaney were Wood Brothers, Eddie and Leonard Wood.

RYAN BLANEY (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion) – WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU IF YOU WERE BACK IN THE MEDIA CENTER SUNDAY AFTER THE RACE? “It would be really big.  Historically, this hasn’t been my best race track, but it means a lot.  For the Wood Brothers, it’s a home race for them and it’s my crew chief’s favorite race track, so that’s given a lot of extra incentive and I thought we’ve gotten a lot better here over the last couple of years.  I know what we need and we’ll try to run up further toward the front, so it’s just all about putting 500 laps together, saving the car and just trying to stay out of trouble the whole race.  It would mean a lot, for sure, and it would be a really good feeling to try to make that happen.”

EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner — No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion — “It’s a big race for us.  We live 25 miles from here.  We’ve known Clay Campbell’s family all my life.  We used to hang out with his grandfather.  He was always out promoting the race and he would come to our shop in Stuart and we’d have lunch and play cards and do all kinds of things.  It’s just great to be racing back here.  We raced part-time for a while and now we’re back full-time.  Probably the most special thing for us is to be back racing here.  This is home.  It’s a hard race to do well in.  Like Ryan said, you have to put together 500 laps and stay out of all the calamity that happens and not try to create any of your own, so I’m looking forward to it.  Like he said, our crew chief, Jeremy Bullins, loves this place and so do we.  Ryan’s got two races under his belt, plus Truck races, so I think he’s underestimating his track time here.  I think he’ll be just fine.”

LEONARD WOOD, NASCAR Hall of Famer — No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion — “I’d just like to say, you guys probably don’t know it, but Glen and I were standing on the backstretch over here at the very first race ever run here 70 years ago, so I think it would be really cool for us — 70 years later — for us to be sitting right here Sunday evening after the race and put that Ford Fusion and Motorcraft Ford in front.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED — YOU’RE FROM HIGH POINT, NC, SO DO YOU FEEL THIS IS A HOME RACE FOR YOU AS WELL?  “Yeah, a little bit.  High Point is about 45 minutes away from here, so I grew up closer to here than I did Charlotte Motor Speedway, so this is kind of a home track for me.  I have a lot of friends and family that come back and watch this race.  I’ve been coming here ever since I can remember.  This is probably the race I came to most as a kid just because it was so close to our house where I grew up and my dad was racing, so I do consider it a home race as well just because I grew up down the road, so that’s pretty neat.”

HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE SOCIAL MEDIA PART OF THIS SPORT WHEN YOU’RE WITH THE OLDEST TEAM IN RACING?  “That’s the first time I’ve been called a social media darling before, or a darling for that matter, but I think it’s great being with the Wood Brothers, being with the oldest team in NASCAR.  There’s definitely a ton of history there.  The technology side of it away from racing is something we kind of have to do nowadays, whether it’s social media or other things like that, so that’s something NASCAR highly encourages us to do.  If I had my pick, I wouldn’t do any of it.  I know I’m not a big tech savvy guy, but it’s kind of the game we have to play now away from the racing side of it off the race track, so there’s kind of two parts to it now.  There’s racing and that’s the main thing, and then on the side you have to keep everybody happy, whether it’s the sponsor side or the social side, just to try to do that.  And also it’s a good thing for fans to get involved with as well.  Twitter and Instagram, that’s a pretty big tool for fans to get inside knowledge on the teams, what we do away from the race track, what’s going on during the race.  That’s pretty big if they’re not at the race track or don’t have a radio, they don’t know what’s going on and they can listen online or on Twitter, so that’s something you kind of have to utilize.”

WHO HAVE YOU LEANED ON FOR ADVICE ON HOW TO RACE AT MARTINSVILLE?  “There’s been a few people I’ve tried to talk to and get information out of.  My dad has been a pretty big help for me here.  He always ran fairly decent at this race track and that’s something he’s always helped me out with.  He’ll be out here hopefully Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I think he’s gonna make it up for practice and everything, so that will be nice.  But Brad and Joey have become really good racers here.  They haven’t won a race here, but they’ve always run up front and put themselves in position to win one, so those guys have been a good help for me.  They teach you as much as they want to teach you.  They’re not gonna tell you everything, but it’s nice to kind of get that little bit of knowledge.  There are things in the offseason that me and my team sat down and I’ve struggled on the short track side of it and we sat down and picked out the race tracks where I feel like we struggled most — Martinsville and Richmond and Phoenix — and I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit better at those places, whether it’s from understanding what the car needs to me driving them different, so hopefully those changes in the offseason will pay off.”

CLOSE QUARTERS RACING HERE AT MARTINSVILLE, HOW HARD IS IT KEEP YOUR COOL AND STAY IN A STRAIGHT LINE? “That’s one of the biggest things you fight here is staying calm and patient. All drivers at some point in the race will get frustrated and whether they act upon it or not is up to them. We try to stay as emotionless as possible. I think that’s the best thing to do and try and keep a cool head. Granted, that really hasn’t been the case before. I haven’t really gotten emotional here before. It takes you a whle to calm back down, but you can never really calm back down when you get like that, hot in the head.  I think the biggest thing here is qualifying up front to make sure you’re up front at the beginning of the race and try and stay there. That’s where it’s the cleanest and away from trouble. That’s something that we’ve put a big emphasis on, trying to qualify up front at this place, so you’re not mid-pack, that’s where things go down. That’s half the battle here.”

LEONARD WOOD, NASCAR Hall of Famer — No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion

YOU’VE BEEN COMING HERE SINCE 1947, IS THAT RIGHT LEONARD? “Yes, 70 years ago. We used to come over here and Clay (Campbell) would let us practice when there wasn’t a rule about practicing. I would drive the car around and tune carburetors and stuff like that. The key to this place is to get your car setup and handling well enough where you don’t have to use your brakes up. It’s very important to have some brakes at the end of the race. It’s been a great experience coming over here, close to home and we always want to win here more than anywhere because it was your hometown. We’re looking forward to coming over here and watching Ryan win this next race.”

IT HASN’T BEEN A GREAT TRACK FOR FORD. IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR REASON? “I think all the tracks are great for Ford. We’ve been running Fords from Day 1, that’s all we’ve ever run.  We’re proud of them. Proud that we’re still a big part of their program.”

CAN YOU IMAGINE WINNING ON SUNDAY? PEOPLE WOULD STAY UP A LITTLE LATER IF YOU GUYS COULD PULL THIS OFF? “I just think 70 years later would be a really good time to win.”

LEONARD, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE EDSEL FORD II DRIVING THE PACE CAR ON SUNDAY? “I look forward in seeing him coming. I think it’s a great idea to have him come and drive the pace car. The track started 70 years ago and I think it’s going to be a big celebration. This Mustang, Glen and I bought two of the very first Mustangs that ever came out. We’re looking forward in Edsel driving the car.”

LEONARD, THERE IS SUCH A GENERATION GAP BETWEEN YOU AND RYAN. DOES YOUR DRIVER EVER LISTEN TO YOU (SMILES)? “I let Jeremy (Bullins, crew chief) and Joey (Logano) and Brad (Keselowski), they’re really close. I think my personality is like when I was 30 years old. I still feel like I have the same personality, but everything isn’t the same. I feel like I do carry on to the younger age.  Me and my two nephews, Len and Ed, we used to work together and we all were about the same age then. They knew exactly what I was thinking and what I was going to do next. without me even telling them. If I was going to change an engine, they could sense that I was going to change an engine.

“I’d just like to say something about my nephews, Len and Ed. We’ve worked so close together over the years.  They used to help me and now, of course, I’m there if they need me if anything out of the ordinary. I think they still like me hanging around. I really appreciate all that they’ve done for me.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED — RYAN, DO YOU LISTEN THEM? “Yeah, how can you not? I’m not going to not listen to them. It’s been nice to have Leonard around and Eddie and Len around every single weekend. It’s been nice to get their feedback on things. That’s just more knowledge that they can put toward the team.”

RYAN, WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE THEY’VE GIVEN YOU ABOUT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY? “I think the best thing is just patience. That’s the biggest thing that everyone preaches here and I’ve heard it multiple times. That word is very key for this place.”

FORD HAS THEIR PERFORMANCE (TECHNICAL) CENTER DOWN IN CONCORD. ARE YOU ABLE TO USE THAT FACILITY TO HELP PREPARE FOR MARTINSVILLE? “Yeah. So Ford has a simulator down at their performance center in Concord (NC).  We utilized that a lot last year.  We would do a pre-race and post-race and we’d go to every single race track. (Here) was a place that I thought it was pretty big to get some laps on as far braking and how you brake and how you lift and where you lift off the throttle. It’s just as easy as it sounds. Lifting and mashing the brake, there’s a lot of technique to it and it and you can kind of play with it. That simulator was really useful when it comes to that. We didn’t get on it this year before the race, but we’ll probably do a post-event. That Ford simulator has really helped out a lot of teams and drivers prepare for the weekend, for sure.”

HAS THE NEW STAGE FORMAT CHANGED THE STRATEGY AS TO HOW YOU RACE AT MARTINSVILLE? “A little bit. I think the strategies have changed a lot at every race track for the segments. You see teams do a ‘backwards race’ from each segment. Where you pit at? If you stay out or not? There’s a lot of that gambling. I think there will be a lot of that here. If you get a caution with 20 to go before a segment there may be a lot of teams stay out. Or there may be a lot of teams that pit or vise-versa. It kind of depends where you’re at in the field, so that always shakes things up. We’ve seen that multiple times. You do race a little bit different with the segments. There’s a lot more aggressive racing on restarts, especially towards the end of a segment to try and get some points. We’ve been fortunate enough this year that we’ve been in the points a lot at the end of these segments. That’s been really nice to get those points. You’ll definitely see different racing on the driver’s side and on the strategy side when it comes to segment stuff.”

RYAN, WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT RACING AT MARTINSVILLE? “I think the atmosphere. Short-track racing atmosphere, you can’t beat it and can’t really replicate it at any other race track. To me, it sticks with me as a kid watching my dad (Dave) race here and at Bristol what sticks out to me is how many fans come to the races and how excited they get for short-track racing.  The cars being inches apart the whole race for 500 laps. To me that stuck in my mind as a kid and made it a special place and always looked forward to coming to. I got that sensation as a child and always enjoyed it.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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