It was a roller coaster ride this past weekend for NASCAR past champion Bill Elliott and the #21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion team. The weekend started with high hopes as the team brought a new set-up to the track. Unfortunately, the car didn’t respond the way they hoped, which resulted in a 39th place qualifying effort.
On Saturday the team was back at it for two practices. During Saturday’s first practice, the car still needed some work. By the second practice, Bill posted the 5th fastest lap. With the car posting consistent lap times, it was also experiencing a small vibration.
On Sunday morning, the team replaced the transmission. Because of this change, the #21 was forced to start the race in the rear of the field.
As the race started, the car felt a little loose. The team made adjustments for the loose condition. The adjustments coupled with the cooling condition of the track caused the car to become too tight.
By the half-way point, Bill was running laps as fast as the leaders – unfortunately two laps down. On lap 172, the team made the decision not to pit under caution and take the “wave around.” The gambled paid off when the caution flew again on lap 178. The team had gotten one of its two laps back.
On lap 224, the caution again flew and the decision was made to stay out and again take the “wave around.” This time the gamble didn’t work out. Bill was forced to pit under green and resulted in the #21 going one lap down.
With only 22 laps to go misfortune struck as fourth gear broke, forcing the team to retire from the race. Bill Elliott and the #21 were finally scored in 34th place.
The Wood Brothers #21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion will make its final 2009 appearance in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford 400.