2012-01-12 / Sports

Bayne And Wood Brothers To Return

By Gerald Hodges


Joey Logano, left, and Trevor Bayne at Talladega in 2011. Joey Logano, left, and Trevor Bayne at Talladega in 2011. THE RACING REPORTER

The Wood Brothers, the longest continuous operating team in NASCAR, will return for the 2012 season with Trevor Bayne as their driver.

Bayne, who delivered the Woods their fifth Daytona 500 triumph in just his second start in the No. 21 Ford Fusion, said he’s pleased to be putting any off-season uncertainty behind him. Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he too is happy to have Bayne back behind the wheel of his family’s race car.

“It’s taken a long time to get to this announcement, but it’s good to be back together,” Wood said. “We all wanted to do what was best for Ford Motor Co. and its young drivers, and to be sure everybody had a place to race.”

Bayne, one of the younger drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, was made even more aware of the team’s history and heritage and its longstanding relationship with Ford Motor Company when he watched a video on the team’s history at the company Christmas party.

“There’s no question at all that since the beginning, the Woods and Ford were going to stick with each other,” he said. “The Woods are such a great racing family, and it’s amazing that they’re the only one of the original teams that has survived since the beginning.”

Beginning next week, the team will be back at Daytona International Speedway for Preseason Thunder testing and trying to figure a way to adapt to a new rules package and defend their 500 victory.

“It's going to be very different at Daytona,” Bayne continued, referring to a rule change that will block off air to the car’s radiator and thereby limit the two-car tandem racing that Bayne so quickly adapted to. “It’ll be like starting all over again, but that’s OK. We’ll just go try to do it again.”

Rusty Wallace Racing closes shop

Rusty Wallace Racing has shut down its racing shop as it continues to look for sponsorship for it’s two-car operation.

Drivers Steve Wallace and Michael Annett were expected to compete in the Nationwide Series this season, but now both must find new rides.

“This was a tough decision to make, but it was the prudent one from a number of perspectives,” Wallace said in a statement. “While we had several great partners on board for 2012, we just didn’t feel like we had enough sponsorship in place to accomplish all of our goals.

“A lot of teams would have run with the level of funding we have now, but we want to ensure that our team has the resources necessary to compete and to improve our operations. I promised myself and my family long ago that if the team wasn’t funded to a level with which we were comfortable, we just wouldn’t run it. I’ve worked way too hard to put part of my life savings into a race team.”

The organization will keep some of its business staff in place to look for sponsorship programs for Steve and for future seasons.

Almirola getting another chance

Aric Almirola is one of the few drivers that has gotten another chance in the NASCAR Cup series.

This season he will be sitting behind the wheel of perhaps the most recognizable car in NASCAR history: Richard Petty’s No. 43.

Almirola comes to the No. 43 after finishing fourth in the Nationwide Series in the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Obviously, it’s going be my first year running full time in Cup, so there will be some growing pains,” Almirola said. “I realize that I’ve got a lot of learning to do. I don’t expect to just go out there and win six races and run for the championship, but I do expect to be competitive. I do expect to run really good on a regular basis.”

Joe Gibbs gave Almirola a one-shot run in 2007, and later that season he was chosen to partner with Mark Martin on the short-lived Bobby Ginn operation. Teresa Earnhardt added him to her DEI roster in 2008, and when she “merged” with Chip Ganassi for 2009, Almirola kept the ride for the first seven races. James Finch then picked him up for a few races in 2010; Petty ran him in that year’s last five races.

Almirola is the first driver to come out of NASCAR’s diversity program and make the top series. His grandparents came to the United States from Cuba in 1966 on the Freedom Flights. They gave the Cuban government everything, including the wedding ring of Almirola's grandmother, to chase the American dream.

“When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate it,” Almirola said of his heritage. “I didn’t really think it meant anything, but the older I’ve gotten, and to now pay my own bills and now that I’m married and possibly thinking about having a family, I understand a lot better what they went through when they gave up everything they had … to create a better life, not only for themselves but for their family.”

Petty’s No. 43 has made 451 starts without a victory. Since Richard Petty won his last race in 1984, the No. 43 has been to Victory Lane only three times in 855 starts with nine drivers.

It would not only benefit Petty and Almirola, but all of the NASCAR- nation if Almirola could get it back in victory lane.

Preseason testing set

NASCAR Preseason Thunder, the annual threeday NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the season opening Daytona 500, will be held on Jan. 12-14.

All NASCAR Preseason Thunder test sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Each includes a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m. Race fans can also rev up their new year at the NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest – the companion event to the January test sessions. Along with watching NASCAR Preseason Thunder track activity from the Sprint FANZONE, fans can enjoy two Fan Fest driver sessions – from 5-9 p.m., on Thursday, Jan. 12, and from 5-7 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 13.

Racing trivia question: Richard Petty has 200 career Cup wins, the most of any driver. Who is number two?

Last week’s question: Which year did Kurt Busch win the Sprint Cup championship? Answer. It was 2004.

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