A quick trip around Daytona International Speedway on Sunday afternoon assured Trevor Bayne and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion a starting spot in next Sunday’s 55th annual Daytona 500.
In pole qualifying, Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner, turned a lap at 195.976 miles per hour to post the third-best qualifying time, so no matter how he finishes in Thursday’s 150-mile Budweiser Duel, he’ll be in the line-up for next Sunday’s Great American Race.
“It’s a big sigh of relief,” crew chief Donnie Wingo said as his Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew pushed their Ford Fusion, the fastest of the Blue Oval contingent, through the inspection line.
As Bayne pointed out in his post-qualifying interview, speed in qualifying at Daytona is more a result of preparation by the crew than driver performance.
“The Wood Brothers know how to do it, that is for sure,” he said. “That is what is so cool about qualifying here. It shows all the hard work that they put into these cars. Once you get in the race and get beat up a little bit, it doesn’t matter quite as much, but qualifying shows all the hard work they put into it.”
Wingo didn’t disagree.
“This is a tribute to everbody in the engine shop at Roush Yates Engines and the people at Roush Fenway Racing who build these cars and to our Motorcraft/Quick Lane guys who put it together and got it right,” he said.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he too was relieved to be in a position to race in The Great American Race no matter what happens in Thursday’s Duels. Only the top two qualifiers are locked into their starting spots. The remainder of the field is set by the results of Thursday’s Duels, and there are additional spots reserved for the top qualifiers not otherwise in the starting field with the final spots going to teams based on car owner point standings. Also, there is one final spot that is reserved for a past champion, if it’s needed.
“With the uncertainty surrounding how these cars are going to drive and so many unknowns with a new car, it feels good to know we’ll be in the race,” Wood said, adding that it’s important to the current team members to have a strong Speedweeks this year. “It’s a tribute to Leonard [Wood] being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and to Tiny Lund and Marvin Panch.”
A replica of the Ford Galaxie that Lund drove to victory in the 1963 Daytona 500 in relief of Panch who had been burned in a sports car race, is on display in the Fan Zone adjacent to the garage at the speedway. After Speedweeks, it will spend a year in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte to commemorate Wood’s recent induction.
Bayne and the 2013 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, which carries the same paint scheme and the same colors as the ’63 Galaxie driven by Lund and Panch, will return to the track to determine their Daytona 500 starting spot on Thursday in the first of two 150-mile Budweiser Duels. Those qualifying races are scheduled to start at 2 p.m., with TV coverage on SPEED.
The 55th annual Daytona 500 should get the green flag just after 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24, with coverage on FOX.