The Fifth Roush Team

On paper, NASCAR Winston Cup Series team owner Jack Roush will field only four teams for the upcoming racing season.

But is that really the case?

Considering the extent of Roush’s relationship with the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, one might as well call that team part of the organization.

Even though the doors recently closed on Roush’s No. 16 team (with former driver Kevin Lepage), don’t think for a second that Roush is letting his hold on having the most teams in Winston Cup be challenged. Instead of worrying about finding a sponsor, Roush is adding the Wood Brothers and driver Elliott Sadler into the fold of what is essentially a fifth Roush Racing team.

As they’ve been doing the past couple of seasons, Roush is supplying engines, chassis and technological information to the Virginia-based Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford team.

There are several key players making the deal pay off between the two organizations. One of those is new Sadler crew chief Pat Tryson, who, ironically, spent the 2000 season as crew chief for Lepage at Roush Racing.

“We’re basically another Roush team except for the ownership,” says Wood Brothers Racing team co-owner Eddie Wood. “Pat came to us from Roush Racing, and he will still be in direct contact with all the other Roush crew chiefs and all the goings-on they have. That should help get us going in the direction we need to be going.”

Roush Racing President Geoff Smith, who oversees the efforts of nine NASCAR teams, says what started out as leasing motors to the No. 21 team has developed into much more heading into 2001.

“It's just more and more indistinguishable,” Smith says. “The 21 team is basically a fifth team that is just located off premises. Especially with Pat Tryson moving over there to be the crew chief with Elliott, it’s kind of like he just got re-assigned a different job in our organization. We have one more point of comparison for our teams, and that’s important.”

Tryson will stay in the Charlotte area in order to be a part of Roush’s Tuesday post-race meetings, and make the nearly two-hour commute north to the Wood Brothers’ shop in Virginia when not at the track.

“It was kind of a 50-50 type deal,” Tryson says of his switch within the Roush camp. “I’m excited to be with the Wood Brothers because they’ve been around this sport for a long time. Hopefully we can get things going with Elliott.

“The plan for next year is to have a meeting each week in Concord (N.C.) so we can talk about what we’re doing. It will be a step in the right direction for everybody.”

Being involved in NASCAR since its infancy, the Wood Brothers realized the ever-changing world of stock-car racing was beginning to pass them by. They’ve sought assistance to help their struggling one-car team, which finished 29th in the final Winston Cup points standings in 2000, get better.

“We’ve been using motors from Jack since 1998,” Wood says. “That deal has grown into where this coming year we’re going to be using Roush chassis, bodies, and his aero program in addition to the motors. We still haven’t gotten to where we need to be yet, but with us running the same chassis and motors that Mark Martin and Jeff Burton are, we will now have something to compare. Our cars will all be in the same wind tunnel, and at most places we test there will be another Roush team there.

“Elliott Sadler will be able to compare what he feels in the car with other Roush drivers because we have the same equipment. Before now, we didn’t have that. Instead of it being like comparing apples and oranges, it will now be like comparing oranges to oranges.

“The single-car teams just haven’t been doing that well. There’s so much technology and information to share, and if you don’t have somebody to share that with you’re going to be out there on your own.”

But Tryson stops just short of saying single-car teams are fighting a losing battle as far as having a chance to win in Winston Cup racing.

“They’re fighting an uphill battle,” Tryson says. “I don’t know whether they’re losing or not, but they’re definitely fighting uphill.

“A perfect example of that would be Bud Moore, who was in NASCAR as long as the Wood Brothers, but he didn’t align himself with anybody and kinda got left out in the cold. The Wood Brothers were fortunately wise enough to get some help and jump on board with somebody so they could keep on trucking.”

In fact, the marriage of forces between Roush and the Wood Brothers dates back almost 25 years.

“More than anything, this is a payback from Jack Roush to the Wood Brothers for them helping him get started in the racing business back in 1976 at the Daytona 500,” Smith explains. “Jack was building drag cars and was looking to get his hands on some good used parts. So Glen and Leonard Wood helped Jack find sources for parts, and that core part business was the core part of the start of Roush Industries. The Woods helped him and Jack is extremely loyal.

“The past five years, it was pretty apparent that the single-car teams were going to face more and more difficulties. So we slowly began to do some engine work with the Woods so they could see what we were doing, but they also shared things with us, so it was mutually beneficial. Ultimately, they found it was easier for us to supply them with engines. And it kind of evolved to where they were just one of us.

“Next year, all their chassis are going to be produced by us. So they helped out Jack when he needed it, and now he is helping then when they need it.”

Wood agrees if the help offered to his team by Roush shows anything, it’s to never burn any bridges along the way.

“This relationship with Roush has been going on for a few years, it’s just now reached the point to where we’re going to be sharing information,” Eddie Wood says. “It started back with Jack and my family back in 1976, which is really how far this all dates back. And it’s more than a business relationship. My dad and Leonard helped him with some drag racing parts and pieces when Jack was first starting out in drag racing.

“Then when Jack came south to start his Winston Cup stuff, we also helped him then. Now, Jack is helping us. There are not a lot of teams that get to work under the Roush Racing umbrella, so we feel very honored and fortunate to be a part of his world now. It’s going to be very good for us.”

Wood says that the biggest winner in all this is Sadler, who heads into his third full season at NASCAR’s top level.

“This addition is going to help Elliott to get the confidence level because he’s got the same equipment everybody else has,” Wood says. “There’s not going to be that question whether what he’s working with is not as good as what some of the others are using. That will really help his confidence a lot.”

Tryson agrees with Sadler having the same resources as Martin and Burton, it will give his driver a lot of confidence as he tries to make his mark in the sport.

“For the most part, it seems like it takes most drivers a couple of years to get used to everything, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart being exceptions,” Tryson says. “Elliott has had a couple years of hard knocks, but he’s learned the tracks and what Winston Cup is all about. If he blossoms, we as a team will blossom together.”

And if all goes as expected, the Wood Brothers may just have a good chance to make it to victory lane for the first time since 1993.

“That's why we are living and still here in racing,” Wood says. “It's still why we wake up in the morning.”

And it’s why the Wood Brothers are now really Roush Racing’s fifth Winston Cup team.

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