As we roll into this weekend's race at the Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR's oldest, and most beloved race team, the Wood Brothers, will once again be around for the festivities.
The Wood's have been racing at Michigan, well, since the beginning. Cale Yarborough won the inaugural race here in 1969, winning just $17,625 for the win.
Now, 41 years later, the Wood Brothers Racing team is still holding strong after two sixteenth-place finishes at Michigan in 2009.
They have never missed a race here, ever, and with future Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott behind the wheel, they will once again be in contention at a track that the team has amassed 13 victories at.
But the road to triumph wasn't always a clear one for the No. 21 car.
The team has had 97 wins in the Sprint/Nextel/Winston/Grand National Cup series. One in every decade from the 1960's until the 2000's with their win in 2001 with Elliott Sadler at Bristol being their last.
Thirty-one of the 97 wins came in the 1960's, 54 in the 70's, nine in the 80's, two in the 90's, and one in 2001.
And over the past few years it seems like the win at Bristol in 2001 would indeed be their last.
In 2007, out of desperation, they hired long-time veteran driver, Bill Elliott, to drive. He did 20 races in both 2007 and 2008.
After 2008, they lost sponsors Little Debbie and US Air Force and all that was left was Ford Motorcraft, in a year where they missed their first ever Daytona 500.
In 2009, they announced that they would only run 12 races.
Some fans and people around the sport were skeptical and wondered if the Wood's would compete, and if the once dubbed, "Awesome Bill," had anything left in the tank.
I'll never forget it. I was working on register on my winter job. My twin brother, a life long, die-EXTREMELY-hard Bill Elliott fan, was sprinting to me with the biggest grin on his face since Homestead in 2001.
He came up, shook my hand and said, "fastest in man in Daytona right now, well, I guess that's why they call him, 'Awesome Bill from Dawsonville!'"
A smile was on my face the entire speedweeks.
They went out and qualified fifth fastest, and battled for the lead in the Gatorade Duel race. Then a faulty transmission ruined their great speedweeks, but it was great while it lasted.
Since then, the Woods have seriously competed.
The fans in Indianapolis stood up and loudly applauded Bill Elliott when he qualified fourth for the Allstate 400.
He was in the top-15 all day long until bad luck struck.
On the final pit stop of the day, the changed the left front tire. The lug nut that came off the car, got lodged into the tire coming on the car, and then the tire was tightened. They were forced to pit again for a loose wheel, and Leonard Wood said that that was something that he's never seen in his 60 years of racing.
Three more top-20 finishes in the remaining five races of the 2009 season, had the Wood Brothers competing again.
Once again the Wood Brothers are at the top of their game. Doing things the hard way, and defying all odds.
It's going to be interesting to see how the Wood's do at a track that combined, them and Bill Elliott have 20 wins at, how they will fare once again at Michigan.
I know I'll be rooting for the new FordParts.com Ford. I hope it continues for another 57 years.
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