Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion, finished 16th – and fifth among teams that didn’t finish last season in the top 35 in points – in the Gatorade Duel #1 on Thursday, failing to qualify for Sunday’s Daytona 500. The Wood Brothers had competed in 47 of the previous 49 Daytona 500s, including the very first one in 1959. The Woods won the The Great American Race in 1963, ’68, ’72 and ’76. Elliott won the Daytona 500 in 1985 and ’87.
BILL ELLIOTT – No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion (Finished 16th) – “I don’t think there are words that can describe it, but that’s life. There will be days like this.” DID THE LAST CAUTION, LATE IN THE RACE, HELP OR HURT? OR, DID IT NOT MATTER? “I don’t know. I’m just bummed out.”
EDDIE WOOD – co-owner, No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion – “Let’s say there are 10 things you do that you shouldn’t do, but you’re going to do them because if you don’t, you still get beat. Let’s say nine out of 10 work and one didn’t, that’s what kind of started it. You know, it is what it is. Everybody talks about the top 35 and what they need to do, but if I was running this show, I don’t know what I’d do about it. I’m not saying anything against it. I was always brought up to say, ‘If you can’t make it any better, don’t say anything.’ I wouldn’t know what to say or how to change it or make it any different than what it is. So, that being said, it is what it is, and here we are. I’m really proud of my guys, the whole group. Our race team is better than it was last year, by far. We don’t have the results. Our practice times and everything we did this week were better than what we’ve had in the past. It’s hard being a single-car team like we are. We didn’t make the Daytona 500, but we were here to attempt to make the Daytona 500, and there are a lot of people that can’t say that. All the sponsors I have and all that, are very loyal to us, to continue to sponsor us this year – knowing full well when they signed on that we were out of the top 35. And that makes you feel good that they’ve got confidence in you that you can turn your stuff around, and we’re going to turn our stuff around. We’ve been doing this too long not to. Like I said, it is what it is. I don’t know another word for it.”
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE HERE ON SUNDAY? “I’m going to be here. The car won’t be. I don’t know what that’ll feel like. I’m sure it’s going to be bad.”
DO YOU FEEL WORSE ABOUT MISSING THE DAYTONA 500 OR THAT THIS PUTS YOU BEHIND IN YOUR QUEST TO GET BACK IN THE TOP 35 IN POINTS? “Both. One’s just as bad as the other. That top-35 thing is just a night-and-day fight, day-in and day-out. This starts it. But, we won’t be alone. There’s going to be company with us. You can’t let it get the best of you because it will. It will eat you alive. You just have to stand up and continue to do what you’re doing because the worst thing you can do is panic. If you panic, you’re done. You’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ve come a long way with what we’ve got going. Like I said, we don’t have any results to prove that; you’ll just have to take my word for it. It is a lot better, and it’s going to be better. So, we’ll just continue on.” CAN YOU PUT MISSING THIS RACE IN PERSPECTIVE? “The Daytona 500 is just not another race. It is the Daytona 500. To me, it’s bigger than the Indy 500 and all that. We’re still a part of it. We’re not going to be there Sunday. I’m going to tell you a story. The Tuesday that we had off, you know the lighthouse down at the other end? Where they used to turn left on the beach? I went down there. I walked up it, which I won’t do again. As I was leaving, I went through the little gift shop and they had some DVDs of old ’50s and ’60s racing, and I had to buy it. I left there, and the lighthouse is kind of inland a little bit, a couple of blocks.
EDDIE WOOD, continued – “So, I was sitting there in the street and I knew that they turned left there and went across and came back up the other side, and I didn’t which street it was, so I called my dad [Glen Wood]. I said, ‘Which street was it that was turn one?’ And he said, ‘It was Peach Street.’ I looked up, and that’s where I was. I left there, and I’m getting ready to pull out, and I look over, and there’s Richard Petty. He was there, too. That’s what the Daytona 500 is.” WHAT DID BILL ELLIOTT
SAY AFTER THE RACE? “He’s down. But, he’s been through hard stuff in his career, too. Bill doesn’t have to help us. He didn’t have to come back and do what’s he’s doing, but I think he wants to help us rebuild. It’s not about the money, or this or that. Bill wants to help. And he has. That, to me, is big.”
LEN WOOD – co-owner, No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion – DID THE LATE CAUTION HELP OR HURT. OR DID IT NOT MATTER? “I think I would’ve liked to have it, but about five laps extra, not just a couple laps shootout. Enough to get a line straight going, a line to choose, but it didn’t work out.”