Wood Brothers and Menard ready to tackle 2018

Matthew T. Thacker/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

As the offseason is in full force across NASCAR, Wood Brothers Racing (WBR) is preparing to welcome Paul Menard as their 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver.

After seven years at Richard Childress Racing (RCR) driving the No. 27 Chevrolet, Menard was announced in July as the full-time driver of the infamous No. 21 WBR Ford as Ryan Blaney will move to Team Penske with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as the third member of the organization.

In 2015, Blaney began his Cup career on a part-time basis. In 2016, WBR returned to a full-time driver since 2006 with Ken Schrader. Going back to full-time racing has put a pep in the step of the organization.

“It means a lot,” said Eddie Wood. “After you race part-time like we did for those years, just being able to get back full-time is a big deal. It brings back everything that it is supposed to. When you’re at home watching, it’s just not the same. You feel like you’re supposed to be somewhere else. You sit there and watch them all day and then when it it’s over, you have this empty feeling because you are not heading to get on a plane and go home. It’s just a good feeling knowing you are going to race them all.”

Although WBR knew that Blaney was on loan from Roger Penske, they are proud of his success with their organization.

“Obviously we are going to miss Ryan. If we go back to 2014 when we signed a deal with Penske, it was really Blaney could be our driver for two years. There was a plan for him in 2017 for a third car. It wound up to taking an extra year to get to that point. Though he was never really our driver for this year, we’ve had a really good year with him,” said Len Wood.

E. Wood echoed the sentiments of his brother when it comes to Blaney moving to the third Cup car at Penske.

“In the back of your mind, we knew Ryan was going to leave at some point, we just didn’t know when,” said E. Wood. “We were fortunate enough to keep him another year or so than was originally planned. It all worked out for us. He is going to be in the third Penske car. That is kinda the way it was supposed to unfold. It did. It’s good for everybody. Everybody wins.”

Despite Blaney leaving, the technical alliance remains the same for the organization with Team Penske. The only thing that will change is having four cars sharing information instead of three. WBR and Team Penske know that Paul can bring a fresh perspective to things as he has been with different organizations and manufacturers.

“It won’t hurt,” said L. Wood. “It’s a different opinion. Paul has been driving different brands of cars for different teams. There may be one thing he brings from another team that we didn’t think about. I see Paul trying to learn all he can from Keselowski, he would have to be termed the senior member of the group minus Paul, but he is the senior member already there.”

“I can see him leaning on them to make sure what he is feeling. I see him soaking it up like a sponge trying to be as good as he can be. He told us that he would race his butt off for us. That’s all I can ask for and I want to believe it”

In his 252 starts driving the No. 27 Chevrolet, Menard only posted one win, 17 top-fives, 50 top-10’s and only one pole. While the WBR saw success with Blaney, many people began to wonder if signing Menard, 37, would be a step back for the organization considering the performance at RCR. The Woods do not see this as a step backwards as the organization has experienced this before.

“It’s a different step. I wouldn’t call it a step back. We have had David Pearson to Neil Bonnett to Buddy Baker; that was three old timers. We then went to Kyle Petty, back to Neil Bonnett to Dale Jarrett to Morgan Shepard. That is old and young. We have done it before. We have had success with all of them,” said L. Wood.

Although his facial expressions sometimes shows little emotion, Menard is excited to be joining WBR. He is excited to drive the cars provided, but also excited to see how the technical alliance and sharing of information will work with Team Penske.

“First and foremost, they have really fast cars. They have shown that the past several years, especially this year. I am excited to drive the cars and how the relationship with Penske works and how they share information, trying to learn from Brad and Joey, contributing where I can and try to make something that really good,” said Menard.

With the high bar set by Blaney, Menard feels pressure to perform. However, his expectation is to go out and raise the bar even more with WBR. With hard work and finding the synergy with Greg Erwin, crew chief for 2018, and the team, Menard believes WBR can do great things.

With plans in place for 2018, WBR and L. Wood believe they have the chance to go out and win the Daytona 500 in February with their sixth driver.

“I am 100 percent confident when we show up at Daytona, Paul Menard has a shot to win that race. My expectations are having a sixth guy win the Daytona 500 for us.”

One Comment

  1. Ed gibbs

    December 12, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Ok, If Stewart Hass is close to signing Kurt Bush, does that mean Monster is staying on the car?
    More important has Monster decided to re-up? or Does SHR have a new sponsor for the 41 car and
    Monster is done? When KB signs it likely means the Monster decision is made. For both SHR and NASCAR.
    If KB is not signed then Matt Kensenth just found his ride for 2018.

    EDITOR’S RESPONSE: Monster and Kurt will return to the No. 41 but the final details of the contract are being worked out. Kenseth is planning on spending time with his family. – Jerry Jordan

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