The iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion returns to the track this week at the Daytona International Speedway to start the 2017 Monster Energy Cup season. It’s the second-straight year that the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will be competing on a full-time basis, but the team’s history in the elite division dates back to 1953, further than any active team on the circuit.
This trip to Speedweeks marks the Wood’s 59th appearance in the February classic at the Daytona International Speedway, dating back to the inaugural event in 1959. That’s in addition to numerous trips to the old Beach/Road Course that preceded the superspeedway.
The Wood Brothers have 15 points-paying victories at Daytona International Speedway, including five in the Daytona 500.
The team’s sophomore crew chief Jeremy Bullins said he and driver Ryan Blaney, also a sophomore on the elite NASCAR circuit, are anxious to get back on the track after spending the winter months preparing for the upcoming campaign.
“Daytona can’t get here fast enough,” Bullins said. “It doesn’t take long of being in the shop every day of the week to miss the race track.”
“Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team is really excited about our second full-time season together, and we have a lot of good things going on.”
A new addition to the team, lead engineer Andrea Mueller, will be joining Bullins atop the pit box.
“She and I worked together on Team Penske’s Xfinity program and had a lot of success,” Bullins said. “I know she will bring a lot of value to our team.”
Also new this year for all teams is a change in the race format, which breaks each Cup event into three stages, with championship points paid for all three.
“There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the new race format and more opportunity to gain points by being in the top 10 at the end of those segments,” Bullins said. “There will be a lot of opportunities for us this year to get our cars up front and keep them up front, and we look forward to that challenge.”
“Anytime there’s an opportunity for a strategy call I get excited because it’s a chance for us to try to gain an advantage on our competitors.”
“Regardless, your cars will still have to have speed, and we feel like we can produce that, so it’s up to us to capitalize when we have fast cars. I think having a year under our belt full time together we all feel more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”
For team co-owner Eddie Wood, this year’s trip to the Daytona 500 will be much more relaxing than in recent seasons. The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team has rented a charter, which guarantees a starting spot in the Great American Race as well as the other races on the schedule.
“This year is the first time we’ve been guaranteed into the race since we won it in 2011,” Wood said. “And that year we had the owner points from Richard Petty Motorsports.”
Wood said it’s hard to explain just how much pressure there is on a team that is not assured of being in the starting field.
“You worry about it all year long, not just when it comes time to go to Daytona,” he said. “The worries start multiplying as soon as Homestead is over, and it never really lets up.”
“We’re fortunate this year to have rented a charter, and being guaranteed to start races is good for us, but more importantly it’s good for Motorcraft and Quick Lane and all of our other partners.”
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is set for Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3:10 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX. The Can-AM Duel 150-mile qualifying races are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1, and the Daytona 500 should get the green flag on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX.