The scene in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane garage area at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday was a tale of two race cars. On one side of the aisle, there was a battered No. 21 Ford Fusion, one that led more than half of the first of two Budweiser Duel qualifying races, but was later wiped out in a crash.
On the other side sat a brand-new Fusion, one that had never even been rolled on asphalt before it was unloaded from the Wood Brothers’ hauler.
The first car, despite the damage, did its job. It was third fastest in qualifying, assuring Trevor Bayne and the team a starting spot for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Bayne will start 33rd, one spot worse than he started in 2011 when he won the 500.
The other car now is poised to pick up where the first one left off. First, there’s plenty of preparation to be done by crew chief Donnie Wingo and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew.
“We may not even practice on Friday, but that’s OK,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “We didn’t practice on Friday in 2011, and we won that race.”
There also is a final practice session set for Saturday, and Wood said he was confident the new car would be race ready by then.
Despite the battered car in the background on Thursday, Wood and the rest of the Motorcraft crew seemed upbeat.
“You can’t be disappointed when you lead more that half the race,” he said.
Indeed, for a time, Bayne and his red-and-white Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion looked like winners in the first of Thursday’s Budweiser Duels. Bayne started on the outside pole and passed pole-sitter Danica Patrick on the opening lap. He led the first 36 circuits, but slid entering pit road, flat-spotting his right-front tire, and setting up a four-tire change.
Still, he was in position to race his way back to the front when he was swept up in a multi-car crash on the backstretch with six laps to go.
“It is unfortunate because we had a fast race car, and you don’t want to tear that stuff up,” Bayne said. “I know they have a good back-up car for me, and we will try to get it on Sunday.”
The 55th annual Daytona 500 is set to get the green flag on Sunday just after 2 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX.