Wood Brothers fails to make 500 for first time since 1962

Updated: February 17, 2008, 6:58 PM ET

AP Photo/John Raoux

Bill Elliott couldn't qualify the No. 21 Wood Brothers entry for the 2008 Daytona 500.

No Wood Brothers Entry At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla . -- Bill Elliott was at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. So was Eddie Wood, the owner of the No. 21 car that the 1988 Cup champion is scheduled to drive in 17 races this season.

The car was back in North Carolina.

The 50th running of the Daytona 500 began without the Wood Brothers in the field for the first time since 1962 and for only the third time in the history of the event.

"It's different," Wood said. "People go through it every week. Today happened to be our turn. It's not a good feeling. You just move on. You can't let it eat at you. It'll gnaw at you for a long, long time, but you've got to continue to do the best you can and not let it work on you."

Elliott lost a gear in last Sunday's qualifying and then finished 16th in Thursday's first qualifying race. Those results left Elliott and his organization, which has won the "Great American Race" three times -- 1963 with Tiny Lund, 1968 with Cale Yarborough and 1972 with David Pearson -- on the outside looking in.

Elliott later officially said that the 2008 campaign is his last season in Cup. He also said that would be willing to give up some of his schedule for Marcos Ambrose and Jon Wood, scheduled to run the other 19 events.

Eddie Wood said there are no current plans to change the schedule, adding Elliott will be behind the wheel when the team reports to California on Friday.

"We didn't even talk about that," he said. "We were talking about the race and next week."

Elliott began driving for the Wood Brothers last season in an attempt to get the car into the top 35 in points guaranteed a spot each week. The car finished 36th, meaning it has to qualify for the first five races before NASCAR reverts to this year's points.

"He didn't come back to drive for us because he had to," Wood said. "He just wants to help, and he is helping. To me that means more than anything. He's doing something he absolutely didn't have to do. It's hard and aggravating, but he just wants to help."

-- David Newton

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No Cup Work For Ward Burton

Ward Burton

Burton

Of the Daytona 500 winners on hand Sunday for the 50th running of the event, many of them haven't turned a lap at speed -- at least not in a competitive setting -- in years.

And that's why Ward Burton stood out from the crowd. No, Sterling Marlin wasn't in the starting lineup, either, but he at least had his chance to earn a spot via Thursday's Gatorade Duel.

Burton never had the chance -- and suspects it'll be tough for him to get another chance at making a NASCAR start. Burton made 16 starts with Morgan-McClure Motorsports last season, but he wasn't expecting to be with that team this year -- even if Morgan-McClure had found the sponsorship to keep it in operation.

So Burton was on hand Sunday, but he has no idea when he'll next visit a Sprint Cup track.

"I don't like being at the racetrack at all [if he's not driving]," said Burton, who won the race in 2002. "I've enjoyed seeing people and hanging out with Bobby Allison and some of the other [past winners], but I'll still probably always have the fire in the belly and it's just not a lot of fun.

"But what a great event -- and what I owe racing is really beyond words for the things I've been able to accomplish off the racetrack. ... I'm glad to be here for the 50th running, but I'll be glad when I go back to Virginia, also."

Burton is busy focusing on his family and business interests in addition to doing a lot of work toward wildlife conservation.

"And I'm catching myself getting involved with all kind of federal issues like carbon credits and different things," he said. "All find and dandy. No time to sit on the couch, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

-- Mark Ashenfelter

Bubba In The Garage?

Could James "Bubba" Stewart leave motocross to pursue a career in NASCAR?

"I'm trying to convince him four wheels are better than two," said Max Siegel, the president of global operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Stewart was Siegel's guest on Sunday; it was the first Cup event he has attended. The 22-year-old phenom said Siegel has "hinted around with it a lot" about putting him in a developmental program.

"Yeah, I'd like to try it," he said. "Once I came down, saw all the people, all the merchandise, that definitely interests me."

Stewart reminded that there were five times as many people at the 500 [185,000] as there are at a motocross event.

-- David Newton