BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Eddie Wood was determined not to get involved in the torturous, unpredictable wrangling of silly season. Instead, he and Ricky Rudd became the lead domino, and now they can sit back and watch everything else unfold in front of them.
Wood's last-minute push to get Rudd behind the wheel of his family's No. 21 Ford paid off when the two signed a three-year deal Tuesday.
For nearly four months Wood said he would wait until Rudd and other top drivers signed with other teams before he'd get involved in filling the vacancy at one of the most storied racing operations in the history of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
When it became apparent Rudd was having problems working out details to drive for either Chip Ganassi or Jerry Jones in 2003, Wood finally made his own sales pitch. Twelve hours later, the deal was done.
Rudd, whose relationship with Robert Yates Racing turned ugly when it became ap parent Yates was going to replace him with Elliott Sadler, was close to signing with Gan assi. The team called for and canceled two news conferences announcing the deal.
Motorcraft, the sponsor for the Wood Brothers, got involved earlier this week when it asked Wood what it would take to get Rudd. Wood told the sponsor, and they gave him the green light to do whatever it took to steer him toward the No. 21 Ford.
Not only did the Wood Bro thers who have 97 career wins with drivers including David Pearson, Neil Bonnett and Cale Yarborough get Rudd, but they also got a contract extension from Motorcraft. That commitment from both team and sponsor was enough to sway Rudd away from other offers.
With Rudd off the market and the vacancy at Wood Brothers Rac ing filled, the rest of the silly season now will shift into overdrive.
Ganassi still has a position available for a planned third team, and he hinted last week at Michigan that he might have another spot open if Jimmy Spencer doesn't get up to speed.
Bobby Hamilton, who an nounced two months ago he was leaving Andy Petree Racing's No. 55 Chevrolet, is a leading candidate at Ganassi. Hamilton owns two Dodge Ram trucks on the Craftsman Truck Series and it's no secret he wants to be in a Dodge Intrepid next season.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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