Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team head to Michigan International Speedway, the home track of the team’s long-time backer Ford Motor Company.
The team will use a special paint scheme to honor the company’s first class of 20-Year Senior Master Technicians in the Consumers Energy 400.
The Wood Brothers team, along with dignitaries from Ford, will host 74 of the original class of 78 Senior Master Technicians for Sunday’s race, and all of their names will appear on the sides of the No. 21 Mustang.
To earn that status, the techniciansfirst had to complete 15 classroom courses, 57 online classes and have five years of service at a Ford or Lincoln dealership. To keep their Senior Master status, these technicians have taken all new required training and two electives per year, for the last 20 years.
Eddie Wood said that while the names of the technicians on the side of the No. 21 aren’t as familiar as the driver’s names that appear over the doors of Cup cars, they are
deserving of the honor.
“When it comes to preparing and maintaining Ford and Lincoln vehicles, these people are heroes,” Wood said. “And to remain loyal to Ford, to their customers and to their jobs for 20 years is an amazing accomplishment.”
Menard’s job will be to deliver the 74 honorees the best finish possible, and he’s confident he can do just that.
“We ran at Michigan two months ago and were fairly competitive,” he said. “We’re coming back with a different package to try to get more speed out of the car.”
Menard said that with the new lower horsepower/higher downforce rules package, racing at Michigan again will take on the characteristics of a superspeedway like Daytona or Talladega.
“It’ll be pretty easy to run wide open,” he said. “You may lift a little in traffic, but it will race like a superspeedway.”
One change from the June race at Michigan will be the application of a traction compound to the racing surface, a process that is becoming fairly common at Monster Energy Cup Series venues but will be a first for Michigan.
Menard said the effect of the traction compound will depend on exactly where on the track it is applied.
“If it’s in the right place it’ll be a good thing,” Menard said.
Menard also acknowledged that his hopes of securing a playoff berth now rest on winning one of the four remaining regular-season races.
“We’ve been maintaining the points gap the last month,” he said. “We haven’t lost ground but we haven’t gained ground.
“We’ve got to win a race and get in the Playoffs, and if we can do that, the rest takes care of itself.”
Qualifying for the Consumers Energy 400 is set for Friday at 5:05 p.m., and the race is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.