Bill Elliott and the crew of his No. 21 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ford Fusion considered Friday’s efforts at Charlotte Motor Speedway a big success even if the qualifying result wasn’t what they’d hoped for.
Elliott qualified the Wood Brothers Fusion, painted in a blue scheme instead of the usual red Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors, in 37th place, but he was much more pleased with the car than the numbers might indicate.
“The car was good,” he said. “I just kind of underestimated where the track would be.”
Practice at Charlotte was held in the afternoon and qualifying after dark, when the characteristics of the track change, due to the cooler conditions.
But even before he made his qualifying run, Elliott already was anxious in getting back in the car on Friday and continue building his working relationship with new crew chief Donnie Wingo. “It’s hard to build a dialogue when you’re doing one-lap qualifying runs and having to do them in a hurry,” Elliott said. “I’m looking forward to getting the race set-up under the car and working with Donnie in practice, where there’s a little more time.”
And he expects Saturday’s race to be even better. “I really think we’ll race well,” he said. “We learned a lot of new stuff [on Thursday] and we keep gaining, so the goal is to just try and keep getting better.”
Like Elliott, team co-owner Eddie Wood is pleased to have made the starting field for the Bank of America 500 on speed, without having to rely on Elliott’s past-champion’s provisional, especially on a day when six teams failed to make the race.
And both Elliott and Wood are glad to be able to represent the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Saturday’s race. Wood said he’s particularly pleased that Carson Luther, the eight-year-old from Wildwood, Mo., whose “Fired Up for a Cure” design was selected as part of a contest presented by Ford’s Customer Service Division, will see his car on the track Saturday night.
And Elliott said he’s planning to give the car a good ride and in doing so, advance the Foundation’s cause.
“It’s great to have this new paint scheme with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on our hood,” he said. “And I hope we can bring more awareness to this cause by running well in the race on Saturday night.”
The Bank of America 500 is scheduled to get the green flag just past 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with TV coverage on ABC.