When the checkered flag fell, Elliott and the No. 21 had moved up 13 positions to an 18th-place finish, the team’s second top-20 finish in seven starts so far in the 2010 season. The other was a 16th-place run at Texas Motor Speedway.
On Sunday at Indianapolis, the Wood Brothers team took advantage of some skillful driving by Elliott, a former Brickyard 400 winner, along with some smooth pit stops and good pit calls by Hyder to run among the top 20 for most of the afternoon and come away with a solid finish that they hope will lead to even better results when the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team returns to action in three weeks for the Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Elliott’s driving skills were key to making it past the first lap at the Brickyard. When Kyle Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. spun just in front of him triggering a multi-car crash, Elliott steered the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion through the smoke and spinning cars, emerging without a scratch on his car.
“That was close, real close,” Elliott said.
He also managed to avoid several other incidents and stayed on the lead lap throughout the race, even as some of the top contenders fell a lap or more behind.
In the closing laps, Elliott was involved in some of the closest racing of the day, and in doing so got himself and his team some quality TV time from the ESPN broadcast crew, which pointed out to viewers what a strong run the Wood Brothers team had going.
In the end, many of the drivers who had fallen a lap or more down took advantage of the wave-around rule to rejoin the lead lap. But Elliott held his ground in the final run to the checkered flag and delivered the team a momentum-building finishing position.
“It was a good day all around,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “The car was good. The FR9 engine was strong. Everything seemed to come together.
“We had good calls on the pit stops. Hyder and Bill [Elliott] worked together to make the car better, and Bill drove a really good race.”
Wood said he believes the progress the team made with a brand-new car at Indianapolis is a sign that the struggles of mid-season are behind them.