Trevor Bayne and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will be in the starting field for the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, but that prized spot had more to do with good fortune than it did with the speed of the car.
Normally, when Sprint Cup qualifying is rained out the field is set according to the rule book, which means the top 36 teams in the car owner points standings get starting spots, with the remaining 7 spots going to car owners based on owner points and race attempts.
With 44 cars entered and just 43 spots available, one part-time team would miss the show.
Because team owner Glen Wood has more attempts this season, his No. 21 Ford Fusion will race while the No. 81, owned by Joe Gibbs and driven by Elliott Sadler, will miss the race because that car has made just one attempt to qualify this year, but had the No. 19 of Mike Bliss not withdrawn from the race earlier this week, he’d been racing and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew would be absent from the starting field.
“We’re really fortunate to be able to race,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said, adding that since the Wood Brothers’ team only runs a limited schedule, every qualifying session brings more drama than one might expect.
Once it was determined which cars made the race, the starting line-up was based on speeds in the first practice session on Friday, and Bayne’s best lap of 198.372 miles per hour earned him the 15th starting spot.
Like nearly every other driver and team in that practice session, Bayne and his Donnie Wingo-led crew knew that qualifying likely would be rained out, so they were going for maximum speed.
“Almost everybody was out there trying to run in the pack or catch the pack to get a fast lap,” Wood said. “Trevor was running with Carl Edwards, who wound up on the pole, and they had a really fast lap going but the No. 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) pulled down, and Trevor had to check up at the last moment.”
Given the circumstances, Wood wasn’t too disappointed, and as a bonus, spending time drafting that otherwise might have been spent getting ready for a qualifying run should allow Bayne and the crew to be better prepared for actual racing conditions.
“I think we’re in good shape for the race,” he said.
The Aaron’s 499 is set to get the green flag just after 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.