For more than 50 years, people in the NASCAR world have said the only place to experience Memorial Day weekend is at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which hosts the sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600.
Eddie Wood and the Wood Brothers have spent most of their Memorial Day weekends in the garage and on pit road at Charlotte. They’ll be there again Sunday after Trevor Bayne qualified the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in 14th place.
“We’ve been coming to Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend for a long, long time,” Eddie Wood said. “We’ve had a lot of success in this particular race, but more than that, it just feels like this is the place we’re supposed to be this weekend.”
The Woods won the 600 in 1974 and 1976 with David Pearson, in 1982 with Neil Bonnett and in 1987 with Kyle Petty.
Wood said that in recent years, the team’s tradition has been to arrive at the speedway early in the day, watch the opening laps of the Indianapolis 500 on track owner Bruton Smith’s giant TV screen, then get to work preparing the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion for the 600-mile grind.
Wood said he was proud of his team’s start to the weekend. Despite skipping last week’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte, which many teams used mostly as a test session for the 600, Donnie Wingo and the crew hit the track on Thursday ready to go.
Bayne was 25th fastest in practice with a best lap of 189.195 miles per hour. Then in the first round of knockout qualifying, he was 18th fastest, which allowed him to advance to the second round, where he posted the 14th best time.
“I thought during the practice sessions we were close,” Bayne said. “It’s kind of hard going back and forth between the Cup cars and the Nationwide cars because they drive so different.
“I was pretty satisfied with our first run, picking up four tenths [of a second per lap]. Donnie and those guys have done a great job all day. It seemed like every run we’d get faster and faster, making the right adjustments. The second session I got a little tight and missed (moving on) by 5/100ths.
“We’re in the race in the top half, and we get to run on Sunday, so that’s good.”
The Coca-Cola 600 is set to get the green flag on Sunday just after 6 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX.