Most people are wondering why the Wood Brothers would go from young drivers like Trevor Bayne and Ryan Blaney to having Paul Menard in their driver lineup for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. The historic team has had legends driving for them over the years, and in recent seasons had a youth movement.
So, why would the Virginia team, with currently 99 Cup victories to their credit, hire a veteran in Menard who has just one career Cup victory in 383 career starts himself?
The answer is simple – money and resources.
In 2010, the 60th NASCAR season for the Wood Brothers, they and their Ford partnership landed them with an alliance deal with Roush/Fenway Racing. Part of that deal meant putting Bayne in their car for the foreseeable future. See, RFR didn’t have all the money and resources to put Bayne into one of their rides full-time on the Cup level, so they formed an alliance with the Wood Brothers are placed their young driver there.
It was a perfect fit.
Bayne, won the 2011 Daytona 500. But, due to tight funding, the team would scale back to a part-time operation in the years to come. They’d remain that way until Team Penske came along.
RFR would bring Bayne to their Cup stable in 2015, leaving the Wood Brothers open for a possible suitor. In came Penske.
Like RFR, Penske had a young driver they were wanting to slowing bring along in Ryan Blaney too. They needed somewhere to put him. Enter the new alliance set up between the two sides for the 2015 season. Blaney, would run limited races that year, before Penske upped the funding and brought the historic team back on a full-time basis for 2016 and again this season in 2017.
This was an even better fit. Blaney, nearly made the playoffs last year and has actually won a race in 2017 at Pocono and will be playoff bound in the Fall. But, it was only a matter of time before Penske wanted Blaney to be part of their lineup in Cup action as well.
On Wednesday, the move was made for Blaney to drive the added third car full-time with Penske for 2018 and beyond. Again, this would leave the Wood Brothers without an alliance, funding or driver.
So, in comes Paul Menard and Penske again.
The Wood Brothers have been back near the top in the sport the last two years and are having fun again. They certainly don’t want to scale back to a part-time team again or worse, close the doors after tasting success again. With having a long lasting relationship with Ford, it was either find another Ford team to have an alliance with, or scale back their program.
See, Penske is a smart businessman and a loyal guy. He didn’t want to leave the Wood Brothers high and dry. See, on the Verizon IndyCar Series side, Penske and John Menard have a great relationship, one in which the two had an agreement to partner up for select races in sponsoring Simon Pagenaud. They run Indy together, run Menards home race in Elkhart Lake together and even win a championship in their first year of a partnership.
That expanded into a bigger role in 2017.
Well, Penske and Menard have wanted to work together on the NASCAR side too. Well, it just so happens that Paul Menard’s deal with Richard Childress Racing also came to an end after the 2017 season. John Menard sponsors his son Paul Menard in NASCAR. Well, with Penske expanding to a third car on the Cup side, he needed somewhere to put Paul Menard and his sponsorship from Menards in order to make this partnership grow on the NASCAR front too.
Enter the Wood Brothers.
Penske could keep the same deal going with the team if they would allow Menard and his sponsorship to come over to them. The Wood Brothers would continue to get cars, chassis, engines, etc, if Penske could place Menard in their famed No. 21 Ford.
Um…that’s a no brainer.
The Wood Brothers not only gets to keep the same exact deal open and get all of Penske’s resources, but they get a sponsor too for 22 of the 36 races. That means their normal Motorcraft/Quick Lane funding can continue but scale back actually and spend that money elsewhere, meaning even more money and resources.
Win-win-win for all sides.
The Wood Brothers actually comes out even further ahead in this game with this move.
So, when asking why they’d do this deal, it was a no-brainer, one that will still make them competitive for the foreseeable future now as well.