Trevor Bayne and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team overcame a back-row start because of a blown engine and a flat tire in happy hour practice, an unscheduled pit stop to remove trash from the grille in the early laps of the Coca-Cola 600, a loose-handling condition mid-race and a lack of wave-around opportunities to post a 16th-place finish in Sunday’s marathon race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The final result in the Wood Brothers’ 1,400th Sprint Cup start wasn’t exactly what Bayne and the team were hoping for, but the performances of driver and crew exceeded expectations.
In a race that saw many of the front-runners eliminated in crashes, Bayne dodged disaster on at least two occasions to bring his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion home unscathed. He was running just behind Aric Almirola and Mark Martin when the two touched on the frontstretch and triggered a multi-car melee with 74 laps to go. Bayne drove onto the apron and out of harm’s way.
With 66 laps remaining, he had to make another evasive maneuver to avoid being swept up in the crash that knocked Jimmie Johnson out of contention for the win.
On pit road, crew chief Donnie Wingo and his race strategists figured out adjustments to correct a loose-handling condition that contributed to Bayne being two laps down by the halfway point. But once they got the car back up to speed, the strategies employed by the teams on the lead lap closed the door on any wave-around opportunities for drivers like Bayne. If any leaders stay on the track during caution periods, there is no wave-around opportunity for drivers a lap or more behind to regain the lost ground.
“Trevor did a really good job missing those wrecks,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “And Donnie and the crew were able to make a couple of small adjustments and fix a car that was so loose that we thought there was something broken with the suspension.”
“We were really happy to get that fixed, because if you have speed, all the rest will work out sooner or later.”
Wood pointed out that overcoming obstacles is what the annual 600-mile grind at Charlotte is all about.
“We started out in a bad spot because of the engine problems on Saturday, which meant that we basically had no happy hour practice,” he said. “Then we had to stop to get trash off the grille and got a lap down early. But everybody on the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team hung in there, and we were fast at the end.”
“For us, it was a good thing that the race was 600 miles.”
Bayne and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew return to the Sprint Cup Series in three weeks for the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.