Saturday, April 1, 2017

Wood Brothers and Blaney Looking Forward to Homecoming

Wood Brothers and Blaney Looking Forward to Homecoming They were seated behind the stage, in the media center, at Martinsville Speedway. A crew chief, Leonard Wood. Car owners, Eddie and Len Wood. A driver, Ryan Blaney. Had it been early on Sunday evening it would have been a perfect end to the weekend as the Wood Brothers and Blaney would have been celebrating a win in the STP 500.

Wood Brothers and Blaney Looking Forward to Homecoming

However, this was a Wednesday, and the foursome was on hand to promote race weekend and the Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang that will pace the race. That doesn’t mean reuniting in Sunday evening wasn’t on their minds.

Martinsville is a home race for the Wood family, who are from the Town of Stuart, just 25 miles away from the track.

“You guys probably don’t know it,” Hall of Famer Leonard said. “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.”

“It’s a big race for us,” said Eddie, Leonard’s nephew and Hall of Fame driver Glen’s son said. “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.”

Blaney also looks at Martinsville as a homecoming of sorts. Not just because of the team he drives for, but because he’s from just across the state line, in High Point, N.C.

“High Point is about 45 minutes away from here,” Blaney said. “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.”

While Leonard has 70 years of experience at Martinsville, Blaney is a relative newcomer to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and despite the nearly 60 years in age difference, the 23 year old Blaney still soaks up all of the knowledge he can from the 82 year old Wood when it comes to getting around Martinsville.

“How can you not,” Blaney asked rhetorically. “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.”

Of course Leonard, in a way that only he can, offered an explanation as to why he can connect with a driver young enough to be his grandson.

“I think my personality is like when I was 30 years old,” he said. “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.”

Of course the biggest piece of advice that Wood has passed down to Blaney is something that has been handed down from the first lap that was ever turned at Martinsville, 70 years ago.

“I think the best thing is just patience,” Blaney said. “That’s the biggest thing that everyone preaches here and I’ve heard it multiple times. That word is very key for this place.”

If the patience pays off, Leonard said there is no better time for the foursome to be reunited in the media center than this Sunday after the race. Celebrating a win. At home.

“I just think 70 years later would be a really good time to win,” Leonard said.


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