Bill Elliot puts Wood Brother back in the 500

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Bill Elliot puts Wood Brother back in the 500

Post  luckyGordongrl on Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:45 am

Elliott puts Wood Brothers back in 500



By MIKE HARRIS, AP Auto Racing Writer Feb 8, 6:29 pm EST
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP)—A year ago, Bill Elliott failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 and the Wood Brothers team had to pack up their famed No. 21 Ford and go home.
It was only the third time in 50 years and the first time since 1962 that the NASCAR pioneers were out of the lineup for The Great American Race.
This time, Elliott made sure one of the sport’s iconic teams will be around for stock car’s biggest day.
Their only disappointment is they didn’t win the pole, although the 52-year-old Elliott came close. The two-time Daytona 500 winner locked up a spot in the 43-car field on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
“I have such mixed emotions,” Elliott said after posting a fast lap of 187.739 mph, the fifth fastest of 56 drivers who made qualifying attempts. “The whole team—(crew chief) David Hyder, (co-owners) Len and Eddie (Wood)—they really put a good plan together to come down here for the 500 this year, and I’m so proud of what they’ve done.



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“I’m disappointed for those guys that we didn’t sit on the pole, as good as we ran yesterday in practice,” added Elliott, who was fastest in the opening practice sessions on Saturday. “But on the flip side, I looked back a year ago when we ended up loading that Motorcraft Ford up and going home. It’s such a fine line.”
NASCAR’s rules dictate that the top 35 in owner points from the previous year are guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races of the season. At Daytona, which has its own unique qualifying format, everyone outside the top 35 has to either make it on speed in Sunday’s time trials or in one of Thursday’s twin 150-mile qualifying races.
The three fastest of 21 “go or go home drivers” entered Sunday earned a starting spot, no matter what happens in the 150s.
Besides Elliott, Yates Racing’s Travis Kvapil was eighth at 187.574 mph and two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, making his debut with his own Stewart-Haas Racing team, was 10th at 187.236. If any of them should transfer into the field in one of Thursday’s races, next in line from time trials would be Regan Smith, 14th at 186.924, and Joe Nemechek, 19th at 186.807.
But the Wood Brothers team and Elliott, the 1988 Cup champion who earned the nickname Awesome Bill from Dawsonville (Ga.) early in his career, were the feel-good story of the day.
The team was founded by Eddie and Len’s father and uncles in 1953, and helped build NASCAR with drivers such as Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, Cale Yarborough and Buddy Baker. The program has amassed 97 wins over the years, but hasn’t reach Victory Lane since 2001.
Feeling the effects of the economic crunch, the Wood Brothers were forced to cut back this season to a 12-race schedule. But Eddie Wood said the team isn’t going away any time soon.
“We made up our minds we weren’t going to do something, No. 1, we couldn’t afford to do and, No. 2, we couldn’t do well,” Wood said. “We’ve got enough sponsorship and backing from Ford Motor Co. and Motorcraft to do what we’re going to do correctly. Just like coming down here.
“It was a full-blown effort from October. That car that we have here started to be built in October.”
Wood said the team may be disappointed to have missed out on the pole, but he isn’t.
“Being locked in is just as big to me as being on the front row or the pole,” he said. “If you ever sit this thing out, being back in it is a good thing. My goal was just to be in it. We’re happy. We’re just happy to be here.”
And everybody involved in the team can now begin preparations for the race, rather than sweating out the 150s.
“We don’t have to worry about the next three or four days,” Wood said, grinning. “We can go and run our race and get all our tire data and data from the car that’s necessary to do this thing right. It’s a real good feeling.”

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