A long weekend at Texas Motor Speedway rolled over into a long Monday afternoon for the Wood Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane team when an early-race shock change went awry and put the team in a hole it was never able to dig itself out of. With rains washing out practice on Saturday as well as the race on Sunday, combined with the change to a spoiler instead of a wing as the aerodynamic device on the rear of the Sprint Cup cars, the Woods, like the rest of the teams in the garage, had to use a good bit of guesswork in determining a race set-up for the Samsung Mobile 500.
David Hyder and his crew made their best estimation and bolted the chosen parts onto the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. Driver Bill Elliott’s first experience with a spoiler-equipped Car of Tomorrow running in traffic came at the drop of the green flag. He started the race in 36th place, and it was evident from the results of the early laps that a major chassis change was needed. The decision was made to change the right front shock during the next caution period, a move that has often worked in the team’s favor in the past. But not this time. “Changing a shock under the yellow flag normally is not a big deal,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “But the bottom bolt got cross-threaded, and we ended up losing three laps.” The bright side of the situation was that the performance of the car improved dramatically. “It just got better and better,” Wood said.
But Elliott and the Woods never really got a chance to overcome their early-race setback and contend with the leaders. The timing of caution flags seemed to work against them every time. They’d take advantage of the wave-around rule that allows drivers who choose not to make pit stops under caution to move around to the rear of the field for the restart. The wave-around works in a team’s favor, as long as they don’t have to pit again before the leaders hit pit road. But on Monday at Texas, the chips rarely fell the Woods’ way.
“We’d make up two laps and lose two laps,” Wood said. “If we hadn’t had that problem on pit road, we would have been on the lead lap.” That could have proven to be really interesting, especially after 10 front-running drivers wrecked with 17 laps to go. Even though the field was running in a tight pack at that point, Elliott steered clear of the melee and was able to bring the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion home in 25th place, despite having to make a late-race pit stop to change a flat right-rear tire. Still, Elliott pointed to the rained-out practice session as the chief cause of the team’s race-day struggles. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.
Elliott and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew return to the track on May 22 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge.