Trevor Bayne has left us with lots of feelings since his stunning victory in the Daqyton 500 last Sunday, among them utter amazement and sheer joy.
For marketing whiz Jim Farley, the result for Bayne and his No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion was a triumph for the Blue Oval in terms of exposure and impressions on national television — a 200-m.p.h. winning advertising campaign.
But there’s more to it, said Farley, Ford Motor Company’s group vice president for global marketing, sales and service. It’s a story about good people doing great things in difficult times.
Farley, a former marketing guru at Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, met a couple such folks in spring 2008 — brothers Eddie and Len Wood, co-owners of Wood Brothers Racing, for whom Bayne is driving a partial NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
The Woods have been associated with Ford for the past 61 years.
One of the proudest Cup teams, boasting over the years drivers Junior Johnson, Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Marvin Panch, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd and Bill Elliott, they’d fallen on hard times recently, failing to put a car in the 2008 Daytona 500.
That’s when Edsel Ford II, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and a racing enthusiast, introduced the Woods to Farley. The brothers flew to Dearborn from their race shop in Harrisburg, N.C., to meet him.
“They told me a story that really impacted me,” Farley told the Free Press on Thursday. “It was when Ford pulled out of racing altogether (in 1966) and their family decided to still race Fords. And we went through the details of that story, and I could quickly see this was a team at the crossroads … and in the worst of times in terms of economics.
“I really decided after we met them that we at Ford needed to make this a successful program. I made a commitment to them that if they were open to ideas, that we would work through this very difficult time.”
Farley laid out a strategy for the Woods to go to a partial Cup program, get technical support from Ford Motor Company and other successful Ford-backed teams, including Roush Fenway Racing, and share data.
Farley won’t take credit alone for the improved fortunes of the Wood Brothers the past couple of seasons. “A lot of it was Alan’s vision of how we work together … that the Wood Brothers should not be a second-tier team,” said Farley, referring to his boss, Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally. “That they should be part of our Ford Racing team and that they should have the same support of the other teams.”
The Wood Brothers’ loyalty to Ford had been unfaltering, so Farley thought Ford needed to step up and repay them.
“The Wood Brothers have fought tooth and nail to protect their family’s business and history,” Farley said. “The Wood Brothers’ success is good for NASCAR and good for the fans.”
Last Sunday’s Daytona 500 hasn’t hurt Ford aftermarket sales, either.
“We just got the numbers from the race, and what it means to Ford Motorcraft (parts division), especially,” Farley said. “It looks very positive.”
As for Bayne’s incredible victory, Farley said he sat alone for the end of the race, not wanting to be disturbed.
“I cried briefly all by myself,” after Bayne crossed the stripe, Farley said. “I knew this could be a moment in history when a 20-year-old from the Wood Brothers wins The Great American Race. I cried like a baby.”
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