Epaulets! The Penske-Wood connection goes back further than you think

Amid the cascade of feel-good stories after Ryan Blaney’s hard fought Pocono win yesterday, car owner and NASCAR legend Eddie Wood was asked about the state of his team’s alliance with the powerhouse Penske Racing organization.

Wood says the relationship goes back a lot further than the recent technical partnership.

How far? This far:

“The relationship ‑‑ see, our relationship with Mr. Penske goes back to the early ’70s,” Wood said. “We actually met Roger in Riverside, California, the first race he showed up that we were there in ’72 or ’73 with Mark Donohue and a Matador, and they won that race, and we were parked beside those guys, and in those days we all wore white rental clothes, white shirt, white pants. Everybody did.”

“Well, when the Penske crowd showed up, they had black pants and they had these white shirts with these things on the top. I don’t know what they were. They were epaulets. I had never seen one, and I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever saw, and they all had their shirt tails tucked and they were all proper, and we looked like a bunch from no‑telling‑where.”

Epaulets! Who knew?

Mr. Wood continued: “But at that point, we just made a friendship, and then when this opportunity came to team up with Jeremy and Ryan, it just all kind of fell into place, and a lot of people were involved in making all that happen. Our good friend Edsel Ford, he was part of that with Mr. Penske, and just things really happened. It’s just a great relationship. I mean, as the results show.”

And whatever became of that old Matador? Last we saw, it was riding behind Roger Penske’s truck.

You’ve come a long way, Captain. Thanks for the ride.