Among the many things the Wood Brothers have learned over the years from fellow Ford team owner Jack Roush is that as a race team owner you’re always working on something for the future, even if you don’t know exactly what the future might bring.
That was the case a year ago when the Woods went to Texas Motor Speedway for the first time with Trevor Bayne as their driver and Donnie Wingo as crew chief.
It wasn’t exactly what they’d planned, but it worked out just fine, as the next time out, the new combination delivered one of NASCAR’s most popular wins as Bayne, in just his second Cup start, scored the team’s fifth Daytona 500 triumph.
Len Wood, co-owner of the team’s No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, recalled that when the decision was made to run Bayne at Texas the Woods weren’t thinking as much about the future as they were simply trying to get to the next race after their crew chief suddenly quit.
“It was kind of a quick decision,” Wood said. “We moved to Roush cars and engines, and Trevor came with the package.”
Roush had intended to run Bayne at Texas, as the rookie driver needed to race on an intermediate track to be approved to run the 2011 Daytona 500. Wingo was to be his crew chief.
Then when the Woods approached Roush looking for a crew chief, he sent Wingo – and Bayne – over to the No. 21 shop.
“We needed help, and we agreed to run Trevor,” Wood said.
It was a risk though, as Bayne had never attempted to run a Cup race and the Woods weren’t among the top 35 in car owner points and therefore had to make the race on their qualifying speed.
The results turned out to be a pleasant surprise all around. Bayne qualified 28th, safely earning a starting spot. He had to start from the rear after the team changed the transmission between qualifying and the race, but once the green flag dropped it was pretty clear that the Woods had a lot more going for their future than they thought they did before they went to Texas.
“We had a really good run,” Wood said. “Trevor passed about 140 cars. It was a great day for us.”
According to NASCAR’s stats, only Kasey Kahne, who drove by 145 cars, passed more than Bayne, who led all drivers in passing differential as he was only passed 104 times, giving his a difference of 36, tops among the 43 starters in that race.
Then Bayne followed that up with a Daytona 500 victory the next time out.
“To start with we were just helping get Trevor approved for Daytona,” Wood said. “Little did we know we were working on more of our future than we thought.”
As Bayne, Wingo and the Woods return to Texas a year after their first race together, they’re coming off two strong runs – at Charlotte and Talladega – even though their finishing positions didn’t reflect the speed of their Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. At Talladega, the car performed well all day, but Charlotte a problem with the fueling system robbed them of a chance at a really strong finish.
“We easily had a top-10 car at Charlotte,” Wood said. “I’d like to think we had a top-five car.”
It’s that same Fusion that the Woods are taking to Texas.
“We’ve got a really good engine again,” Wood said. “Hopefully we can go out there and get us a win.”
Qualifying for the AAA Texas 500 is set for 3:40 p.m. (4:40 Eastern Time) on Friday, with the race getting the green flag on Sunday just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern) with TV coverage on ESPN.