Schrader Comes Through For Wood Broth­ers Rac­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - On The Air Sun­day Morn­ing -

Wood Broth­ers Rac­ing didn’t get any break from the ten­sions of qual­i­fy­ing for this week­end’s Nex­tel Cup race at Martinsville ( Va.) Speed­way, even though the fa­mous team’s shop used to be just a few miles from the track.

Co- owner Len Wood and the rest of the team had to sweat out qual­i­fy­ing be­cause of a rule that forces driv­ers not in the top 35 in own­ers points to race their way into the field. It can make for a har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“ Ner­vous prob­a­bly would be a good term,” Wood said yes­ter­day.

Wood Broth­ers Rac­ing showed up Fri­day 40th in own­ers points with its Car of To­mor­row but with veteran Ken Schrader be­hind the wheel, the No. 21 Ford qual­i­fied fourth for to­day, one of eight teams to race its way into the field.

Dur­ing prac­tice, “ when Schrader popped up high on the [ speed] charts, I had a bet­ter feel­ing and then, as ev­ery­body else started go­ing out, we fell down to what would have qual­i­fied about 40th or 41st,” Wood said. “ He went back out for his next run and he popped it right back up. I felt bet­ter then, but I kept say­ing to my­self, ‘ You’ve got to do it when it’s time.’ He did a re­ally good job.”

Schrader said Martinsville is just like ev­ery other place is, and will con­tinue to be, un­til they get in the top 35 and show up know­ing they’ll be able to race.

“ It’s just pres­sure ev­ery week,” he said.

Schrader’s qual­i­fy­ing laps put his Ford Fu­sion right out­side Jeff Gor­don’s Chevro­let Im­pala in the Goody’s 500.

A week ago at Bris­tol, in the de­but of the COT, Schrader qual­i­fied 15th and fin­ished 28th, his best fin­ish in the four races he’s run in the No. 21 this year.

Schrader slipped back to 17th fastest in yes­ter­day’s fi­nal prac­tice, but the strong early show­ing boosted by the ex­pe­ri­ence of a veteran racer al­lowed Wood to at least en­ter­tain the pos­si­bil­ity that a 34- year team los­ing streak here will end to­day.

“ There are ob­vi­ously a lot of fac­tors like not get­ting torn up, get­ting in some else’s mess and not mak­ing your own mis­takes,” he said, “ but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

The Woods, whose 96 vic­to­ries in the pre­mier se­ries came mostly in the 1970s and ’ 80s, have their team’s own strug­gles to blame for their spot in the stand­ings.

Driv­ers of the new Toy­ota Cam­rys are hav­ing to build pro­grams from the ground up. That means they only get what they earn un­til they have shown they be­long, and helps ex­plain why rookie A. J. All­mendinger was high- fiv­ing and hug­ging his team on pit road Fri­day af­ter qual­i­fy­ing 40th, only the sec­ond race he’s made in six tries.

“ They made 14 changes to the car be­fore qual­i­fy­ing and I just tried to turn a lap that I thought might be good enough to get in the show, and it worked,” he gushed.

Jeremy May­field, who qual­i­fied for the first time in five tries this sea­son last week­end at Bris­tol Mo­tor Speed­way, will start 14th in the race, also in a Toy­ota.

“ It makes you tough and those weeks that we had to go home just makes you stronger,” said May­field, who has qual­i­fied for the 10- race play­off twice. “ I think we’ve han­dled the pres­sure pretty well. We’re not get­ting down. That’s all we can do with it. We can’t let it get to us and can’t let our con­fi­dence get down.”

There were some who thought Toy­ota would make a big splash once it joined the se­ries, but two Toy­ota teams were among the six that didn’t make the race, and the sec­ond- best Toy­ota on the start­ing grid to­day will be Dave Blaney. He’s 22nd.

Gor­don isn’t sur­prised to see the new­est man­u­fac­turer strug­gle.

“ Once they get in to their groove and they get some things rolling, if they are a good solid team like the teams that are up high in the points, run­ning good and win­ning races, then you will see them have suc­cess as well,” Gor­don said.

— From News Ser­vices

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