Rookie Driver, Veteran Team Find Success At Texas

For most of their 60 years in NASCAR the Wood Brothers racing team has enjoyed the most success with veteran drivers behind the wheel of their No. 21 Ford. But on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, they showed that they could accomplish a lot with a rookie behind the wheel.

Trevor Bayne, at age 19, will make his Sprint Cup debut in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion after qualifying 28th – best of the drivers who had to qualify on speed for the AAA Texas 500.

Overall it was a big day for Ford Motor Company as Ford Fusion drivers swept the top three starting spots and four of the top five.Bayne said that having to qualify his way into his first Cup race at a blazing fast place like Texas Motor Speedway was quite the nerve-wracking experience. He ran his qualifying lap at 191.090 miles per hour.

“Those butterflies were flying around in my stomach like they’ve never flown before,” he said. “It sure feels good to get qualifying done. If I had gotten to pick the place to make my Cup debut, Texas would have been at the bottom of the list, but now I’m pretty pumped up about the race.”

He said that he knows he left some speed on the table during qualifying, as he was 16th fastest in practice earlier in the day. But he knew he didn’t need to wreck the car in an attempt to post a really fast time on the scoreboard.

“I was trying to do a good job of walking that line of pushing it to qualify but also not crossing that line and doing something stupid,” he said. “Now we can all sort of take a deep breath and get ready for Sunday.”

Team co-owner Eddie Wood was among those impressed – and relieved – about Bayne’s performance.

“He had the weight of the world on his shoulders – a kid making his Cup debut at the fastest place we go, but he stood up and got it done,” Wood said.

But the Woods didn’t totally abandon their age-old strategy of employing veterans. They had long-time NASCAR crew chief Donnie Wingo and Bill Elliott atop the hauler working with the young driver. The team went about its business like it had been together for years.

“It was a pretty solid day,” Wingo said. “Things went pretty smoothly. Every time we went out in practice we got faster.”
Wingo pointed out that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion is faster than the qualifying results show, but he knows that a little caution on Bayne’s part during qualifying was a smart strategy

“He did what he had to do,” he said. “All in all, it was a good day.”

Now Bayne, Wingo and the team turn their attention to Sunday’s race, and Bayne said his strategy for the 500 is to be “patiently aggressive” especially since he’ll be racing around the three top contenders in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

And as Wingo pointed out, there’s a big difference in driving a Cup car and the Nationwide Series cars that Bayne has been driving, so the race will be somewhat of a learning experience for the driver.

 But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to give the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion a good workout.

“We’ve got a good race car, and we’re here to race,” Bayne said.

The AAA Texas 500 begins just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on ESPN.