After seven years on a limited part-time basis, Wood Brothers Racing is to return to full time competition in 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship for the first time since 2008.
The organisation confirmed that current driver Ryan Blaney will be retained and run a full 36-race schedule next season with Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Ford Performance returning as anchor sponsors and Jeremy Bullins continuing as the crew chief for the #21.
"It has been a dream come true," said Blaney at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday. "Growing up in the garage with my dad racing and seeing what he used to do when I was a kid and now being able to be a part of a full season in the Cup series and be with a couple great organizations like the Wood Brothers and Ford will be amazing.
"I am looking forward to next year," he added. "They made it happen. I believe we have been pretty good this year and that gives us great momentum for next year. I can't thank Motorcraft and the Quick Lane boys enough for what they do for this car on the race track and I am just really excited about it.”
“We are beyond excited to make this announcement about going back to full time competition,” contributed team co-owner Eddie Woo. “It has been something we've worked toward since 2009 when we started running limited schedules.
“It'll be fun to see just how good Ryan Blaney, Jeremy Bullins and our team can be over a full season," he added. "I have to thank Ford's Dave Pericak and Raj Nair, Edsel Ford, our technical alliance partners Team Penske and Roush Yates Engines, as well as everyone at Motorcraft, for working with us to make this day possible."
Formed in 1950 in Stuart, Virginia by Hall of Famer Glen Wood, Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team in the series with one of the best wins records in NASCAR history with 98 victories (including at least one in every decade out of the last seven) and 117 poles in NASCAR's top-tier series. Glen's brother Leonard - still active in the garage - is renowned for pioneering the modern pit stop.
Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. The team's link-up with Penske has made the #21 a serious competitor in the races it has competed in this season. Thus far in 2015, the team's best finishes were fourth in the spring Talladega race, 12th at the Brickyard, 14th in the fall Charlotte race and seventh in the most-recent Kansas race.
However, the part-time status of the #21 entry made it vulnerable on weekends where practice was rained out and the grid decided by owner points, which frequently meant that the team ended up going home early.
"It'll be great not to have to worry about rain anymore on qualifying day," admitted Wood.