Wood Brothers NASCAR Charter Press Conference - Daytona Speedweeks

Daytona Speedweeks got started in earnest Friday afternoon with a pair of Sprint Unlimited race practice sessions. Prior to cars hitting the track, Eddie, Len and Jon Wood of Wood Brothers Racing met with media members to discuss the upcoming 2016 season in which they will race full time, and address the team not receiving one of 36 NASCAR charters for the year.

EDDIE WOOD, President, Wood Brothers Racing – THIS WEEK THERE WAS A STRONG OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT FROM YOUR FANS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. DO YOU WANT TO ADDRESS THAT? “Yeah, it is really overwhelming the amount of response we got on social media and phone calls and emails and things. All of our fans are supporting us. That really makes you feel good because you never really know what is out there until something triggers those guys to speak up. They have really been supporting us and I just want to thank all of them. It is really amazing.”

LEN WOOD, Chief Operating Officer, Wood Brothers Racing – LAST YEAR WAS A TOUGH YEAR WITH RAIN AND THAT COST YOU SOME RACES. YOU GET THE DEAL TO GO BACK TO FULL TIME RACING AND NOW THE CHARTER THING HAPPENS. DOES IT FEEL LIKE A MIXED BLESSING? “I think with our performance this last year, qualifying in these races shouldn’t be an issue as long as we perform like we know we can. I think the rain out situation, last year we missed those three races and if it had been using the qualifying speeds then we were in the top-10 all three races that we missed. So, that has changed for this year now so I don’t foresee that as being a problem. Now, if the car don’t crank or he goes out and hits a wall or something, then we have a problem. We have talked about in the past that as long as it is a performance related issue like we can’t run fast enough, that is when we have a problem. It is hard to overcome something like that. If you are fast enough ever week that shouldn’t be an issue.”

JON WOOD, Director, Business Development, Wood Brothers Racing – “I think that is the encouraging part about the way the new structure is. Not only were things done differently for the charter cars but the other cars as well. Instead of whatever it used to be based on it is more on performance now. The fastest four cars make the race. The fastest four in practice if it is rained out – there are no shenanigans anymore. It is black and white.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “The changes NASCAR made this year for qualifying are a lot better this year. Some of those rules we have been going by, there was a reason they were like that and it goes way back to the older days that not many of you probably remember. Al Pierce would. Anyway, the changes NASCAR made are definitely a positive because it is really more about performance and that is what qualifying should be.”

HOW HARD DID YOU GUYS TRY TO GET A CHARTER? ALSO, IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT NON-CHARTER TEAMS GET SIGNIFICANTLY LESS MONEY PER RACE THAN THE CHARTER TEAMS. DID YOU GUYS HAVE TO GO BACK TO FORD OR ANYONE AND ASK FOR MORE MONEY FOR THE YEAR? “I will answer your last question first. No. The way the thing is structured, if you do what you are supposed to do and are capable of, it will all work out. We have been in racing a long, long time. Actually Len brought it up this morning. Last year and ever since we went part time we have not been a part of any of the plans. I will let him tell you.”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “We haven’t been part of Plan 1 or Plan C or the Winners Circle Plan or the Champion Owner Plan or eligible for any season ending bonuses. So, that is not a huge issue to us. When we went part-time, limited schedule, we had to be more efficient. That is when we looked at everything from motels to tire bills and things like that and where we would race. We raced where we thought we had the best performance. That shouldn’t be an issue either.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “As it pertains to the charter situation and what we knew about it, it is probably simpler to give a timeline. Around this time last year, the owners group invited us to be a part of their discussions. The first time that we went to one of those meetings was the weekend of the 600 in May. It was at that point when we sort of saw the proposed framework and the direction that they were wanting to go. It was fairly close to what it turned out being. That being said, we kind of knew right then that if it went down that road that it would certainly change things for us but we didn’t know if that was it yet. Fast forward a few more months to when NASCAR had an owners meeting in September and that is when they formally said this is what they were going to do. At that point we knew that rather than worry about it we needed to put our heads together and figure out how to make things better for ourselves. It is kind of hard to explain. You can’t really blame anybody for the way it went. Everybody wants what is best for themselves. We are just in a different situation. Being on a part time schedule, you can’t look back and say that this is what we should have done or really argue with anybody because, again, what benefits one doesn’t necessarily benefit the others. We just – there we are.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “That being said, the owners group that helped put all this together, had we been racing full time from 2008 to now we would have been right in the middle of it because we would have been one of them. We just happened to be in a different spot. I guess we created our spot because in ’08 when the economy was kind of on the down slide and everyone was struggling to find sponsorship we had like three choices. We could have did what we did, which was race part time but when we show up we are competitive and spending enough money to get all the right stuff, the right people and right driver. That actually turned into a Daytona 500 win. The other choice we would have had was to do a start and park or race as best you can and that is not really fair to your sponsors. Ford Motor Company stood by us so long it wouldn’t be fair to them. Or we could have quit. Looking back, if you told me I could go back six years and if we wanted to run all the races and you would have a charter, would you swap? No, I probably wouldn’t. We wanted to race in a model that fit us at the time. You can’t take that away. That was one of the biggest wins in our career, certainly my career. It is all going to work out. We have talked to our sponsors and it is going to be okay.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “To add to that, my grandpa didn’t start this team in 1950 to make a pile of money. It was a completely different environment then. It was all about racing and that is it. That has been engrained in these two and you can’t really change that business model. If what you do is race, and you are not a business man first, then you can only make the best decisions you can make. Whatever it takes to have the best performance, not limp through on some kind of hope of something down the road where you can cash in.”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “It would have been an embarrassment to our family. Our uncles and our dad if we just showed up and took a check. We didn’t. We tried to perform every time we showed up. It didn’t always work out that way, but that is what we tried to do. That is the way I look at it.”

YOU ARE FINALLY COMING BACK FULL TIME AND NOW THEY ANNOUNCE THIS CHARTER SYSTEM. DO YOU FEEL LIKE MAYBE THE GOALPOSTS ARE MOVING A LITTLE BIT? “The whole world in changing, we know that. You can read everything on your phone now.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “When you have raced as long as we have, just about the time you think you have one thing figure out something else happens and you have to worry about that. It has been that way forever. Whether it is making races or if your car is fast enough. In years past when you come to Daytona, you start working on your cars in September or October for Daytona and you worry all winter if you will be fast. The longest two minutes in all of racing is the first practice, and it will happen tomorrow, and you get on top of your hauler and you wait for that thing to go by. It takes about two minutes. That is the longest in racing because then you know if you are fast or not. It is almost like those alligators that you see the kids at the circus they take a hammer and hit one on the head and two pop up. We have grown up like that. The Whack-A-Mole. That is what it is. You just keep going.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “What you don’t do is change your business model. You don’t become what you should be. You don’t embarrass yourself. That is the simplest way of putting it.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- “We have come too far to change our racing personality.”

WOULD YOU BE OPEN TO GETTING A CHARTER IN THE FUTURE? WOULD YOU BE OPEN TO PURCHASING ONE IN THE FUTURE? “This whole charter thing is probably going to take a life of its own. No one knows a year from now, two years from now what it will look like. Certainly we would like to work our way into one. It is going to work out really well for a lot of teams and it may not work out quite as well for some others. Who knows? It is going to take a life of its own and things will happen that nobody even thought of, just like everything else. There are a lot of pathways for us to get a charter, not now but later on to work your way into one. There are only 36 of them and they won’t be issuing more, so you have to get an existing one and there are ways to do that but for right now the biggest thing we are concerned about is just having everything in place to run this year and we are really happy about that and we are concentrating on having fast cars because we have to qualify every week.”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “I think Ryan Blaney said it pretty good on Twitter when he said, ‘What is next for the Wood Brothers? We are going to go race.’ Starting with this one, the Daytona 500. If we win that, it will make number six for us. That is the goal right now.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “The way that qualifying, the procedure, the way it has changed it follows what I was saying earlier about the fastest four cars. It is encouraging that there are two ways to make it. Two of those spots are the fastest two cars and that gives you incentive to build fast cars and not just have a five dollar motor and hope you make it because everybody wrecks.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “Whether you are an open car or charter car, everything is performance based which in the end the race fan wins because you will have better racing. Everyone is trying harder, driving harder and all that. Everyone tries as hard as they can but there is another level of it when pride and money is on the line and that is kind of what they have done. Like I said, to all our fans, we are going to be okay. I promise you we are going to be okay.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU WOULD NOT BE RECEIVING A CHARTER? DID ANYONE TELL YOU OR DID YOU NOT KNOW UNTIL THE LIST CAME OUT? AND WHAT DID YOUR FATHER THINK? “He was upset. I think that is probably because the three of us had been involved in the whole thing along the way and watching it evolve and I think it was just a surprise. Once he sort of digested the whole thing and realized that it was for the betterment of the sport, he is okay with it. That says a lot about his character. Again, it is about what makes NASCAR better as long as it doesn’t push us out. That was tough to see but I think it is okay now.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “When this whole thing kind of started it was just Len, myself and Jon and we talked about it all the time. Riding in the car, everywhere we would go we talked about it 24 hours a day. We didn’t really involve anyone else because it changed so much. Every day there was something you would hear that was different and we didn’t want to get anyone else all spooled up in the deal. Once we explained where we are now, especially the new qualifying rules because that rain out stuff tore him up. There are better plans in place now thanks to NASCAR on that. Once we understood the positives that are there, he was fine.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “The hard part for him was that there was this big announcement, confetti flying and we were kind of not a part of it. Maybe we should have explained it before hand because it would have made more sense and not been such a surprise and catch him off guard.”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “He is fine. He is coming down here tomorrow. This will be daddy’s 70th year for Speedweeks in Daytona. He said something about it being his 70th Daytona 500 but there have only been like 68. He came down here in 1947 to watch his hero, Curtis Turner, race on the sand. Daddy started racing in 1953 on the sand himself.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “To answer your question about when we found out, we were pretty sure. We were told how it was playing out. We were pretty sure. It started out likely in May and then gonna happen in September and for absolutely sure going to happen on Tuesday when the announcement was. We had an idea all along.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “We weren’t sitting there waiting like we were going to win the lottery or something. We knew the rules that were set forth for you to have one about racing the last three years. We knew all that. We hadn’t done that. We knew. We are going to be okay.”

DO YOU FEEL THIS IS GOOD FOR THE SPORT, EVEN THOUGH YOU AREN’T INCLUDED? ALSO, DID YOU EVER SEE THIS COMING BACK WHEN YOU STARTED OR DURING THE “GOLDEN ERA”? “A few years ago, I will say in the ‘90’s, this thing was boiled up then about doing it. You had a lot of guys that came into the sport thinking that. There were guys that weren’t racers, people that thought it was going to turn into something like the NFL or something like that and that they should get in it. It never really happened. As many people as have been working on this thing and as many smart people – I believe when you get that many smart people in a room and let them argue it out and figure out what they need to do it usually comes out okay.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “If this change makes the sport better, then of course we are happy about that. That still will trickle down no matter what position you are in as long as you are still racing. You don’t want to get pushed out but I don’t really see that. Again, if you are there to race you won’t get pushed out. It is to make the overall sport better. To elude to what you said about the line drawn in the sand, I saw Jeff Burton’s piece about it and at first it kind of bothered me because it was like, ‘have some sympathy here’ but he is exactly right. You can’t make everybody happy. We can’t go back and change anything that we did. You can’t look at it like that. Hindsight it always 20-20. The rule is the rule and it absolutely is. I think we are sitting up here just to convey that we are okay with that and that there is no problem.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED –“If you come to race every week, charter or open car or whatever, in the end this is about making racing better to where it gets to where it is number one in the world. We are okay. I don’t know how to say it any different. I think we are going to be fine.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED -- WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE WOOD BROTHERS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RTA IN THE WAKE OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT THIS WEEK? “Once everything was finalized and we knew for sure that our objectives were not really aligned with theirs, out of respect for them and out of our sake we distanced ourselves from them and resigned from the RTA but again, those are two totally different ideas and approaches. Ultimately we have to look out for what is best for us.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “I think we were putting them in a bad spot because we were a square peg trying to be put in a round hole. It couldn’t work. I think we were putting them in a bad spot because we have known all the owners all our life. That was just the best solution. We just want to be a part of this thing and go race.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED -- DEEP DOWN INSIDE, ISN’T THERE A PART OF YOU THAT THINKS, “WE GOT SCREWED”? “What was it we talked about? If we got one of these questions, I wasn’t supposed to answer it?”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “Al, I thought you remembered where the cookie jar was.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- DO YOU GUYS KNOW WHAT RICHARD PETTY SAID TO AL PIERCE THE FIRST RACE HE WENT TO? “He said, ‘Boy, you don’t know much about racing do you?” (Laughter) “In 1969 Al is in Dover. I am going to tell this story because you put me on the spot. He is at Dover in 1969 and Richard Petty wins the race and crawls out of his car. Okay, everyone in this rooms knows you crawl out of a race car, you don’t open a door. He raises his hand and asks Richard Petty why he crawled out through the window and didn’t open the door?” And Mr. Petty said, “Boy, you don’t know much do you?”

IS IT FAIR TO SAY YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED? “Yeah, we are disappointed but it gets back to what I said that the model we used to stay racing in 2009 caused this not to happen. I wouldn’t turn around and switch it for that win with Trevor (Bayne) here if you gave me two charters. That is how much winning the race means. It is this race. Not just a race, the race. This race is above all others. I don’t care if it is Indy, Le Mans, this race is above all others.”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED -- IF IT BECOMES POSSIBLE TO BUY A CHARTER DOWN THE LINE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER SELLING PART OF THE TEAM TO FINANCE THAT? “Yeah, I am sure that would be foreseeable. We are still owned by our family and have been the whole time we have been racing. We are in the Guinness World Record Book for the longest family owned operation in sport. If would be a difficult decision to make. Right now, if we were to make a decision we don’t have a board room to go to. Typically it is lunch at momma’s house and we sit down and talk about it. We don’t have to spend two months thinking about it.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “There is no vote, it is just, let’s go do it. That being said, I am sure we will do whatever is necessary to continue to race. If that is what it leads to, partnering up with an investor or partnering up with a team that has a charter or something like that. Whatever it takes to continue racing. I want some more Daytona 500 wins.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – THERE ARE A LOT OF FANS FIRED UP ABOUT THIS. DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU HOW IN DEPTH ALL OF THAT HAS BEEN? “Yeah, they are very supportive and if you want to go to war, I would think our fans would be the ones you want behind you. They are very passionate about our race team. We have fans that are older than you and I, certainly, and we have a big range of fans that I didn’t really realize were there. I knew all the people that were Pearson fans in the ‘70’s and’80’s were still there but it seems like from some of the responses we got on Twitter and Face Book and just emails and things there are a lot of young people too. There is a whole range and that really made me happy. I guess you have kids of fans and grand kids of fans. In our world, once you are a Ford fan, you are there for life. That is kind of the way it is.”

LEN WOOD CONTINUED – “I think we were very fortunate in 2011 to go back to the red and white paint scheme with the gold 21 on it and go out and win the biggest race that year. That pulled a lot of the old timers back into the sport I think and then having Trevor Bayne as a young kid that pulled new fans for us, young fans.”

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – “I think that is where the young fans come from, the 500 victory. It connected the older generation fans to the younger ones which I think is what everyone needs. All of us need that. Again, I would just like to thank our fans because they really put it out there.”

JON WOOD CONTINUED – “The day of the announcement, I guess it was Tuesday, I saw a comment on Twitter and it was from some reporter and he said, ‘two things I have learned, there is a big change and people pay too much attention to this Wood Brothers situation.’ It is crazy to say that because we are not asking for that. The people that you are complaining to are the people that are doing the talking. They are the ones that have chosen to feel the way they feel and that is just more encouragement and determination to change your underdog status to something better. Everybody likes an underdog, well at least everyone but that reporter I guess.”

DID YOU GUYS HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BUY ONE OF ROB KAUFFMAN’S CHARTERS OR GET IN THE BIDDING FOR THAT? “No, we knew pretty much – we heard the same thing you guys did and we were in some meeting and discussions with both sides of it all and it was pretty evident that the two that Rob had were going to go to the 19 and 41. So we couldn’t compete with that so we really never went there. As for the price, I have no idea. I don’t know what they are going for.”

YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD OUT BID? “I didn’t think I could out bid Gene Haas and Joe Gibbs, no.” (Laughter)

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