2007 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 4
by Pete McCole

January 25, 2007

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Wood Brothers and JTG Racing
Harold Hinson/LMS

The 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Media Tour hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway wrapped up on Thursday with a trio of press conferences at the official headquarters for the tour, the beautiful new Embassy Suites Hotel about a mile west of the speedway.

Starting off Day Four were the Wood Brothers and JTG Racing. One of the longest active teams in Nextel Cup, the Wood Brothers have seen first-hand many of the changes that have come along in NASCAR – and developed a few innovations themselves - over the last 54 years.

For team co-owner Eddie Wood and the Wood Brother, change has been nothing new.

“When it’s all said and done, I think ’07 is going to be the biggest change since ’81, when we downsized the cars,” said Wood. “That was going to be the end of the world, they said ‘it’ll never work’. But it was basically seamless, and everybody went on. Nobody even remembers it now. Once the Car of Tomorrow runs one race, these other cars that we’re racing now will look odd.

“NASCAR has made changes to their manner of doing business, and their rules for years, and very seldom do they make a mistake, and if they do, they’re big enough to make it right. I learned a long time ago, when (NASCAR) does make a change or they had something in mind, sometimes I’ve agreed with it, sometime I haven’t, and I didn’t say anything, because at the end of the day, they’re usually right.”

For the first time since 1964, a member of the Wood family will be behind the wheel of a car in NASCAR’s premiere division when Eddie Wood’s son Jon makes his debut in the no. 21 Ford Fusion at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 11.

For the 25-year-old Jon Wood, not only does the history of his family-owned team rest on his shoulders, but perhaps their future as well.

“How much pressure is it on me? Imagine being able to lift this building, and me being under and then drop it on top of me, that’s how much pressure I’m feeling right now,” said Jon Wood. “It’s one thing to get an opportunity to drive for a well known race team and have a car owner, but it’s another when the owner is you dad, and you mix family and business.

“That being said, my dad can give me better coaching, and you don’t take it so personal. In past times, driving for other race teams, you sometimes get a sit-down taking-to, and it always ends up with you getting mad and you don’t believe what they say even though they’re right, but when it comes from your dad, or your uncle or your grandpa, it’s a totally different story.

Ray Evernham Racing
Pete McCole

Following the Wood Brothers was a press conference with Dodge’s flagship team, Evernham Motorsports.

Evernham led all Dodge teams in wins behind driver Kasey Kahne – the only Dodge driver to qualify for the Chase for The Nextel Cup. Under the new points system announced earlier this week, Kahne’s six victories would have seeded him first in the Chase standings in 2006.

Kahne hopes the new points system will benefit him again in the coming season.

“I think it's a neat rule. It's something different,” said Kahne. “It puts a little more on winning and the consistency isn't quite as big a deal, but it's still going to be huge. Consistency is going to be a big part of winning the championship, but also winning races is going to be a little bit bigger, too.”

Evernham has long been the leader in technical innovation in the Dodge camp since the nameplate made its return to NASCAR in 2001. With all the changes coming to NASCAR in the coming year, Evernham believes only the teams that stay technologically ahead will be successful.

“If you're not committed and constantly focused as a team looking at the future - six, 12 months, even years ahead to gain that advantage you're going to be left behind,” Evernham said. “Every year that technology budget doesn't go up by hundreds of thousands, sometimes it goes up by millions. When you look across the board, most big companies spend two-three percent on research and development. That tells you what direction racing is going.”

Jeff Green and his Best Buy car
Pete McCole

The tour then hit the road for the next stop at Haas CNC Racing, where the team showed off their brand new, 150,000 square-foot race shop, which will now house both Jeff Green’s no 66 Chevrolet, but also his new teammate, Johnny Sauter.

Green has also been reunited with crew chief Harold Holley, who led Green to a Busch Series title in 2000. Green hopes their chemistry together will take his team to the next level in 2007.

“We were a top-15 car last year, but just could never finish off, we couldn’t put a whole day together.” said Green. “I think Harold will bring that consistency for me in my cars, that’s what I was lacking a bit last year. One week we’d run good, and the next week the car wouldn’t drive the same, and as a driver you want to be able to feel the same thing each and every week no matter what race track you’re at, and Harold gives me that.”

Closing out the 2007 Media Tour was a trip to downtown Charlotte, N.C., for the groundbreaking of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Charlotte HOF groundbreaking
Harold Hinson/LMS

NASCAR President Mike Helton joined dozens of NASCAR celebrities including drivers Buddy Baker, Jack Ingram, Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Rusty Wallace and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team owners Ray Evernham, Chip Ganassi, Jack Roush, Felix Sabates and Rick Hendrick as they turned over the ceremonial first layer of dirt.

“Today is a special day,” said Helton. “We set out several years ago with a goal to create a NASCAR Hall of Fame to preserve and honor our past as well as give a glance into the future. Today, we took a very important step forward in making that goal become a reality.”

Charlotte was announced as the site of the Hall Fame last March, beating out Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Fla., Richmond, Va., and Kansas City, Kan. The $107.5 million dollar facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2010.

The author can be contacted petem@autoracing1.com

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