It’s a sure sign of progress when a Sprint Cup team and driver outside the top 35 in car owner points and not assured a starting spot, are somewhat disappointed with a top-15 qualifying effort.
Trevor Bayne turned a lap at 181.354 miles per hour in his No. 21 Good Sam/Camping World Ford Fusion to earn the 14th starting spot for Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Bayne, however, had bigger goals in mind.
“I needed to hustle it a little more,” Bayne said. “It felt like a pole run to be honest. The car was solid and felt good, and I thought we would have a shot at it today.”
There’s still Sunday’s race, and he’s thinking positive about it too after posting the ninth fastest overall lap time in the final “Happy Hour” session, a practice in which teams typically work solely on race set-ups.
“I am a little disappointed to qualify 14th, but on the other hand we are in the show, and can race from there and have a good race-trim car,” he said.
Eddie Wood said Bayne’s qualifying effort was stronger than it might have seemed because of the time he went out on the track. During Friday’s first practice, which sets the qualifying order, Bayne was fourth fastest.
“You have to go as fast as you can in the first practice to see what you have,” Wood said, adding that a quick lap in the opening practice wound up being a disadvantage because it put Bayne on the track later in the day on Saturday when the track was hotter and slicker.
“Trevor did a good job in qualifying. You’ve got to be fast, but you also have to be careful not to overdrive the car, especially with the track being so much hotter than it was when qualifying started.”
Just like his young driver, Wood is optimistic about his team’s chances on Sunday.
“The race set-up was really fast,” he said. “I think we’ll be OK.”
The Geico 400 is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on ESPN.