Number 286: The 2017 Great Teams Issue


Adversity can be a great teacher, but it’s often an enigmatic one. Motorsports provides plenty of proof of that.

Wood Brothers Racing has seen its fair share of difficult times, if only by virtue of being the oldest existing team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Its years of winning almost at will, exemplified by David Pearson’s 11 victories from just 18 starts in 1973, eventually gave way to an extended fallow period while the little team from Virginia scrambled to keep pace with broader changes taking place across the sport.

The two constants during all of those years? Unswerving loyalty to Ford, and its quiet dignity, regardless of where the famed No.21 was finishing. As Eric Johnson relates, starting on page 56, those admirable traits played into the Wood Brothers’ gradual revitalization, and help to explain why Ryan Blaney’s drought-breaking win at Pocono in June was so well-received across the paddock.

It’s safe to expect a similarly universal hug to be directed toward Toyota if the Japanese marque finally wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year. We already know it will be there: Toyota president Akio Toyoda confirmed it in the emotional statement he issued immediately after this year’s quest for redemption could only deliver more heartbreak following the infamous near-miss in 2016. Toyota’s pain is evident, but even before the bruises have faded, so is its resilience.

Takuma Sato knows something about that. When his best shot at winning the Indianapolis 500 ended in the Turn 1 wall after a misjudged last-lap move on Dario Franchitti in 2012, Sato took a disaster and used it as a learning opportunity. This year, those lessons paid off.

There’s a lot to be learned from how teams and drivers respond to success. But as the Wood Brothers, Toyota and Sato have shown, it’s even more instructive to see how they respond to failure.

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