Ryan Blaney is driving the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Ford in 18 races this season.
Randy Sartin/Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
The Wood Brothers have missed the past two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky and Daytona, respectively, when rain washed out qualifying and set the field according to the NASCAR rule book.
As a result, the oldest continually operating organization in NASCAR has gone home early the past two weekends because of circumstances beyond its control.
Prior to the qualifying rainout at Daytona, the Wood Brothers had qualified for 90 consecutive races since going to a part-time schedule in 2009.
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To make matters worse at Kentucky and Daytona, the team had reason to believe its iconic No. 21 Ford was fast, based on Blaney’s practice speeds.
But it was all for naught when the rains came.
"This would be what I would term missing races on account of the situation rather than poor performance," team co-owner Len Wood said in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com. "To me, if you miss a race on poor performance it’s a much bigger problem trying to fix it, where with this we know what the rules are."
But knowing the rules doesn’t do away with the disappointment of missing a race — much less multiple races — for a team that was founded in 1950 and has fielded cars for some of the sport’s greatest drivers of all time, including Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buddy Baker and Dale Jarrett.
Len, who owns the single-car team along with brother Eddie and is the son of team founder and NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood, called the feeling of packing up and leaving a rainy racetrack early, "not good."
"It’s kind of a pit in your stomach, I guess you’d say," he said. "You feel like you’ve got unfinished business. It’s a tough deal. When you miss it because of lack of performance, there’s embarrassment that goes with that. This doesn’t have that part. We understand the rules. The rules have been in place for years. It’s certainly not what you want to do."
With only 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and one of those cars behind the Wood Brothers in owner points, Blaney is all but guaranteed of racing this weekend.
But just making the show isn’t enough to satisfy the Wood Brothers, winners of 98 races in NASCAR’s top series but none since the 2011 Daytona 500.
"One thing Jeremy (Bullins), our crew chief, mentioned after Talladega — we finished fourth down there and we were all like jumping for joy like, ‘Boy, we did good today’ — and he was kind of like, ‘Listen, we want to get to the point where we’re not jumping for joy over fourth. We want to win,’" Len Wood said. "That kind of carries over to this. I’m not going to go up there and jump up and down and jump off the top of the truck or anything like that, but it would be a good feeling to make that race (at New Hampshire). I don’t think you would see it outwardly on my face or Eddie’s face, but, yeah, it would be important to make that."
As for the impact that missing back-to-back races has on a relatively low-budget operation like the Wood Brothers, Len Wood called it "not the end of the world."
"It’s certainly not what you want, but we think about these things as we’re going throughout the year," he said. "It’s kind of important to point out that we made 90 races in a row facing the same situation. So we’re sitting on top of (missing) two in a row. I kind of made the comment to (wife) Nancy once we missed Daytona, ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if it hit us a time or two in a row.’ And it did.
"But we’ve had really good fortune on qualifying — 90 in a row. We went through a bad patch in 2008 when we missed a number of races that year and that was due to poor performance, and that’s much harder to deal with than what we had at a rainout."
Glen Wood, the team’s founder and patriarch, turns 90 on Saturday, so it would be extra gratifying for the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford to deliver a stout performance at New Hampshire — especially in light of the past two weekends.
"That would be good," Len said. "Get him a birthday win, maybe."