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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Driver Ryan Blaney, in just his second Cup season, finished third a week ago at Kansas Speedway to qualify for the third round of the playoffs, which begin today at Martinsville Speedway.

Sunday, October 29, 2017 1:00 am

Old VCR helping young Blaney excel

Wood driver remains in Cup contention

JENNA FRYER | Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – If the Wood Brothers need any advice for today's critical playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, the team can turn to family patriarch Glenn Wood.

Just 30 minutes up the road from the speedway, the Hall of Famer is still based in Stuart, the Virginia town where one of NASCAR's oldest teams was formed. Wood is 92 now, only uses his iPhone to take pictures of trees he's cut down on his land, but relies on technology to follow Ryan Blaney's breakout season.

Wood, it turns out, records every race on a VCR. Then he calls sons Eddie and Len, who now run the team, to talk about the race.

“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?' ” Eddie Wood said Saturday at Martinsville.

“He's got his own little tape recorder and he's got drawers and drawers of (tapes). 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 analyzes all these races just like we all do.”

The whole gang expects to hear from Wood as the No. 21 Ford unexpectedly begins this third round of NASCAR's playoffs. It's not that Blaney doesn't deserve to be in this elite round of eight, it's just that few predicted the second-year Cup driver would make it this deep into the playoffs.

Blaney drove his way into this round a week ago at Kansas Speedway, where a penalty dropped him to 40th on the starting grid. But in a drive that Eddie Wood deemed worthy of David Pearson, the Hall of Famer who made this team so competitive so many decades ago, Blaney finished third.

“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 were one of David Pearson's greatest assets,” Eddie Wood said.

Blaney, at 23 years old, is a historian of the sport and thinks the Pearson comparison is way overboard.

“You're crazy, Eddie, if you think that I'm even capable of that, but it was really nice of you to say,” Blaney said. “That was really neat to hear, but I don't agree with you.”

Blaney is going to need another huge run today to remain in contention for one of the four spots in the championship race. A victory in any of the next three races earns an automatic berth into the finale, and fellow Ford driver Brad Keselowski has already said his team believes it must win Martinsville to advance.

Only problem: All eight drivers still racing for the championship have that same mentality, and the field includes nine-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson. It was his victory on the paperclip last year that vaulted Johnson to his record-tying seventh Cup title.

There are four former series champions – Johnson, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – and somewhat overlooked is Denny Hamlin. A five-time Martinsville winner, Hamlin has been overshadowed by Toyota drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Busch.

Truex has a series-best seven wins this season and is favored right now to win the title, while Busch has simply been better than Hamlin, his teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.