Sprint Cup races at Charlotte Motor Speedway are something to look forward to for members of nearly every team, as the track is within a few miles of most NASCAR race shops, which gives drivers and crews a chance to perform in front of the home town folks.
For the Wood Brothers race team and the crew of their No. 21 Good Sam/Camping World Ford Fusion, races at Charlotte; especially the fall event, are more special than most.
It was at Charlotte, the track’s second-ever Cup race, that the Woods got their first superspeedway victory, with Speedy Thompson driving the team’s 1960 Ford.
“I always look forward to racing at Charlotte, just because of what it meant to my Dad for the team to get that win with Speedy Thompson back in the first National 400,” said Eddie Wood, the son of team founder Glen Wood and one of the current co-owners of the team.
The Woods, who had already won three times that season with Glen Wood doing the driving, won again the next week at Richmond with Thompson again behind the wheel. Since then, they have increased the team’s total to 98 Cup victories, the most recent coming in last year’s Daytona 500 with the team’s current driver, Trevor Bayne.
Donnie Wingo, crew chief of the Good Sam/Camping World Ford Fusion, is bringing a proven car to Charlotte in hopes of pushing the team total to 99 victories, but first there’s the matter of making the starting field.
With 47 entries and the Woods not among the top 35 in car owner points, Bayne will have to qualify on speed to make the field for Saturday’s Bank of America 500.
Wingo said the car he’s chosen has only two races on it, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, and he believes he and the team can take what they’ve learned in those two races and squeeze even more speed from it.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend,” Wingo said. “We’ve learned some things in the last couple of intermediate-track races that we can apply to this car. I believe it will race well.”
The veteran crew chief also expects the Good Sam/Camping World Ford Fusion to be fast in qualifying. In the last three races at Charlotte, the Wood Brothers Ford Fusion has two top-10 starts and an average start of 10.7.
“It’s always in the back of your mind that something could go wrong in qualifying, but we’ve been qualifying well at Charlotte,” Wingo said, adding that he likes this weekend’s schedule as it has separate practice sessions for qualifying and for the race.
There’s practice followed by qualifying on Thursday, then a race practice on Friday before the race on Saturday night.
He also said the fall race is simpler to prepare for than the Coca-Cola 500 at Charlotte in May.
“The 600 starts in the daytime and ends at night,” he said. “But the fall race starts pretty close to dark, so the track doesn’t change that much.
“We ran really well last fall, but we had problems with the fuel system,” he said. “I think we’ll be good to go this time.”
Qualifying for the Bank of America 500 is set for Thursday at 7:10 p.m., and the race is scheduled to start on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with TV coverage on ABC.