History repeats itself. At least Wood Brothers Racing hopes it does.
The team that fields the No. 21 Ford has been turning the clock back all season in its first year with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel. Blaney earned two straight top-10 finishes at Las Vegas and Phoenix. It was the first time the team had accomplished that feat since 2005.
This season is also its first competing full time in the Sprint Cup Series since 2008 with the help of a technical alliance with Team Penske.
The 2008 season also was the last year the Wood Brothers raced at Richmond International Raceway, where the Sprint Cup Series will be this weekend for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.
Richmond is the site of some history that the team would like to replicate. History that took place with NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty.
In 1985, much like in 2016, the Wood Brothers returned to full-time racing after a part-time schedule the year before. They returned to the track with Petty, who was in his sixth season of Cup racing at the age of 25.
They fielded the No. 7 car sponsored by 7-Eleven. The car, the number and even the sponsor had come with Petty from his time racing for Petty Enterprises.
“At that point, Richard Petty, Dale Inman, and Kyle, of course, had left Petty Enterprises, and they were only going to run a few races that year,” co-owner Eddie Wood said in a team release. “Kyle told us about this new short-track car that was partially built but hadn’t been finished. It was just a bare chassis with a Thunderbird body. That car was exactly what we needed, so we bought it.”
The car first visited Richmond for the first time in the 1985 Miller High Life 400, where Petty finished seventh.
“There were very few places the car ran better than at Richmond,” Wood said.
The short-track car peaked in 1986, once again at Richmond. In the Miller High Life 400, Petty was running third when Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Darrell Waltrip made contact with three laps left, crashed and collected other cars at the entrance to Turn 3.
“I was on the radio with Kyle,” Wood said. “I saw the smoke on the backstretch and knew Kyle hadn’t gotten there yet. He was in the middle of turns one and two when the wreck started, so when he came by the start-finish line I knew he was leading the race.”
Petty slowed to a crawl to avoid the wreckage and assumed the lead. Two laps later, he had his first of eight Sprint Cup wins and the Wood Brothers’ first since 1983 with Buddy Baker.
“It was a big moment for us,” Wood said of the Richmond victory. “When Kyle came to drive for us, a lot of people didn’t think it would work because our families had been rivals for so many years, but it worked perfectly.”
The winning car would be a part of the team’s stable until 1991 and a crash at Bristol Motor Speedway.
If Blaney finds his way into victory lane, it would be his first Cup win and just the third win for Wood Brothers Racing at Richmond.