How the Wood Brothers’ Announcement Changed the Dynamic of Ford Racing

by August 16, 2014

Photo credit: NASCAR via Getty Images

In an announcement made on Thursday, Wood Brothers Racing not only announced that current Camping World Truck Series points leader Ryan Blaney would be their driver in at least 12 races next season, but they announced that they were forming a technical alliance with Team Penske as well.

What intrigues me about this announcement is not the part-time arrival of Blaney (who does deserve it in my opinion), but the new alliance formed with Penske.

With the loss of Robert Yates Racing as a full-time team at the tail end of last decade, Roush-Fenway moved into sole ownership of the title of being the leading Sprint Cup team for Ford – that is until Team Penske moved over to Ford from Dodge for the 2013 season.

While Penske’s adjustment to working with Ford started off slow last year with only two victories being split between Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, the two-car team have caught fire this year with five victories being split between the two drivers through 22 races. Roush-Fenway Racing on the other hand have only two victories that have come with Carl Edwards behind the wheel.

With the announcement of the Wood Brothers moving to work with Penske, this is where things get interesting.

While Richard Petty Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, and Team Penske prefer to go it alone (albeit with Roush-Yates engines, which all Ford teams use) in terms of constructing their race cars, Wood Brothers Racing had an existing relationship with Roush-Fenway Racing that featured the two teams sharing technical knowledge with each other.

The two teams not only shared technical knowledge with each other, but they also shared talent as well.

From 2010 until the end of this season, the Wood Brothers have employed drivers from the Roush-Fenway development program to drive their vehicles. In the five years since this started, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. raced in the legendary No. 21 Ford for one race while Trevor Bayne will complete the 2014 season with 53 career races in the Motorcraft Ford underneath his belt.

Despite all of the Ford teams in the Sprint Cup Series covered under the same technical ‘umbrella’, the Wood Brothers’ move to a Penske affiliation should come as a sobering realization to Roush-Fenway Racing that they are no longer the top dog in the Ford camp. Going off of the performances by each of the full-time organizations this year in the Sprint Cup Series, the Wood Brothers move only confirms what some pundits have been claiming since the early stages of this season.

It has been a tumultuous last several weeks for Roush-Fenway Racing with Carl Edwards being announced as being out of the organization starting next year, 3M announcing their move from Greg Biffle’s No. 16 car to Hendrick Motorsports, and now with Wood Brothers Racing ditching them for another Ford organization. The Wood Brothers’ dissolution of their alliance with Roush-Fenway should come as no surprise though as for the first time in well over a decade, Roush-Fenway Racing are in second-place (as of August 16th) in terms of wins victories earned by the organization (two to Team Penske’s five.)

In terms of overall performance, Roush-Fenway are no longer the seemingly invincible pillar that has held up Ford Racing in NASCAR. For the Wood Brothers to ‘jump ship’ over to a different organization may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, however, for Roush-Fenway Racing to be dethroned as the top Ford team means a lot for the manufacturer. To put it in perspective, this would be like a different Chevrolet team such as Stewart-Haas Racing or Richard Childress Racing replacing Hendrick Motorsports.

With Roush-Fenway now losing a technical alliance with a part-time team, one has to wonder how much further back the team could potentially slip. If anything, WBR’s move should serve as extra motivation for Roush-Fenway to get back out on the track and claim more victories and to have a strong showing in the Chase – and what better place than to do that in their own backyard this weekend in Michigan.