By Ben White
Eric Ralph, shop foreman for Wood Brothers Racing and driver Ryan Blaney, experienced his first NASCAR race at Nashville Speedway while following one of his local heroes that became a stock car legend.
“That was in the late 1980s with my family at the Nashville Fairgrounds,” Ralph said. “I’m from southern Indiana so I was a fan of Darrell Waltrip. He was always one of the ones that did so well there.
“We had a small local track (in Indiana) and my Dad sponsored a dirt late model driver. We followed NASCAR growing up, and a lot of friends and myself were involved in Go-Kart racing around the area. One thing led to another, and we just went racing.”
After graduating from Purdue University in 1991 with a degree in Landscape Architecture, he continued working on local short track cars at Nashville Speedway until finally answering the call to come to NASCAR in 1995.
His first full-time job in racing came with Xfinity (then Busch) Series driver Stevie Reeves and team owner Mark Thomas. Other opportunities arose with Diamond Ridge Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Brewco Racing and Fitz Bradshaw Racing before joining Wood Brothers Racing in 2004 as his first job in NASCAR’s Cup series.
“With the Wood Brothers team being such a small organization, you pretty much do whatever you need to do,” Ralph said.
QUOTE: “The Wood brothers are first-class team owners. Racing is all they know. They are definitely hands on. They really take care of you and treat you like family.”
EXTRA LAPS WITH ERIC RALPH
CHILDREN: Carissa (9), Olivia (7)
HOMETOWN: Hamestadt, Ind.
FAVORITE VACATION SPOT: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
FAVORITE SEASON: Fall
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: Christmas
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
FAVOROTE MOVIE: Cars
FAVORITE MUSIC: Country and classic rock