Officials at the Atlanta Motor Speedway are offering a good weather guarantee for this weekend’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, hoping to reassure fans that there won’t be a repeat of bad weather like the weekend in 1993. That year, a blizzard dumped nearly a foot of snow on the track and forced the postponement of the Motorcraft Quality Parts 500 until the following Saturday.
Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney, is among those who wouldn’t mind a repeat of ‘93.
That weekend started out fairly well for the Woods and their fellow competitors. Daytime temperatures were in the 70s, mild for mid-March, when the teams arrived in Atlanta. Morgan Shepherd qualified the No. 21 Ford in seventh, and the Woods were looking for a strong run at a track where they’d already won 11 times, beginning with Marvin Panch’s sweep of the races in 1965.
But on Saturday, the area’s storm of the century struck, and with roads impassible, the Woods were forced to sit out the storm at the Holiday Inn in nearby Griffin.
“I don’t think we ever lost power, but we ate all our meals at the Waffle House next door,” Wood said. “I mean all three meals every day.”
Finally, on Tuesday, the roads were cleared and the Woods returned home, but were back in Atlanta that Saturday for the race.
Shepherd was a contender throughout the day, leading for a 29-lap stretch midway through the race. As the laps wound down, it looked like the race could be won on a fuel-mileage strategy, so that’s what the Woods pursued.
But a flat tire just before the team’s final scheduled pit stop forced them to stop early and appeared to ruin that strategy.
Still, they told Shepherd to save fuel.
“He started backing off early entering the corners, and he actually started running faster,” Wood said, adding that his personal concern was about the left front tire he’d just changed. “I only got three lugs tight, and every time he came by I was hoping that wheel wouldn’t start vibrating.”
About that time, fellow Ford driver and reigning Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, who had dropped out of the race earlier, came to the Woods’ pit area and began encouraging the team to stay with its fuel-saving strategy.
As the laps wound down, leader Jeff Gordon had to stop for fuel, giving the lead to Shepherd with 12 laps remaining.
He held on and delivered the Woods their 12th Atlanta victory.
“Alan stayed there with us all the way to the end,” Wood said, adding that Kulwicki ended up presenting the Woods with one of their most cherished trophies after that event.
“When he won the championship the year before, we sent him a bottle of Dom Perignon. After we won Atlanta, he sent us a bottle. It’s in our museum in Stuart today.”
Sadly, it was one of the last visits the Woods had with Kulwicki. The current nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame was killed in a plane crash 12 days after the Atlanta race.
The Woods have run 102 races at Atlanta, dating back to the inaugural year of 1960, and have run well both on the old true-oval configuration and the current quad-oval layout. They have run just once there since 2010, but will be regular competitors there now that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team is back on a full schedule.
“It’ll be good to get back there,” Wood said. “Atlanta has always favored us and favored Fords.”
Qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is set for Friday at 5:45 p.m., and the race should get the green flag just after 1 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.