As the laps wound down in the final 20-lap segment of Saturday’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Eddie Wood had plenty to be happy about even as it was evident that the team’s famed No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion would not advance to the All-Star race. Wood saw a car that he feels will be formidable when the green flag drops next Sunday to start one of NASCAR’s showcase races, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
After some helpful chassis adjustments on the one pit stop in the non-points Showdown, Bill Elliott and the No. 21 were turning fast lap times as he worked his way up through the field, moving from 19th position with 18 laps to go to 12th in just six laps. Elliott wound up 12th as Ford drivers swept eight of the top-12 finishing positions in the preliminary event for the annual Sprint All-Star Challenge.
“Bill’s lap times were really good the last few laps, as good as anybody’s,” said Wood, the co-owner of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford. That’s especially encouraging because the car the Woods used in the Showdown is the same one they’ll run in the 600. And that’s the same car that was fast in the closing laps at Texas Motor Speedway last month. “We learned a lot this weekend, and we got through the Showdown without tearing up the car,” he said. “All in all, it was a good tune-up for the 600.”
Wood said that Elliott and crew chief David Hyder were able to use the Showdown to work on both a qualifying set-up for the 600 as well as some adjustments to use in the day-to-night marathon next Sunday. “We were a little too loose in qualifying and then we were a little too tight in the Showdown,” he said. “But now we have a better idea of what we’ll need next week.” Wood said he was especially glad to see that the team’s adjustments on the one pit stop in the Showdown improved the handling and speed of the car, and he was proud to know that the car ran well under a setting sun, since that’s what they’ll have to deal with next week in the Memorial Day weekend classic. “We’re focused on the 600 now,” Wood said.