With the success of Saturday’s Daytona 500 qualifying session still fresh on their minds, David Hyder and the crew of the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion returned to Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday and spent the day converting their car from a qualifier into a racer.
Instead of searching for pure speed, as they did for last Saturday’s qualifying session, where they were fourth fastest overall and best of the go-or-go-home teams, they focused on a chassis combination that gives Bill Elliott a car that will not only be fast, but also drive well on the 2.5-mile oval.
The first true test of the car’s handling characteristics will come in Thursday’s first 150-mile Gatorade Duel, where Elliott will line up third behind pole-winner Mark Martin and Ryan Newman. The race is set to get the green flag at 2 p.m. with live coverage on SPEED.
The finishing order of the Duels, as well as qualifying results from Saturday, will set the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Elliott and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew are assured of a starting spot because of their qualifying success last Saturday.
But Hyder and crew are looking for bigger things than just a starting spot. They’re focusing on the Daytona 500. But, like his fellow crew chiefs, he will have to be at his best with pre-race adjustments, as NASCAR mandates many components of the cars, including rear shocks and rear springs. “We’re really limited as far as what we can do,” he said. From the early indications at Daytona, getting a car to drive well is a big challenge. “The cars are moving around a lot,” Hyder said.
As for the Duels, Hyder points out that, like any other Sprint Cup race, it’s almost impossible to map out a race strategy ahead of him. But it’s there that he has an advantage over most teams. “I’m just going to leave the strategy up to Bill,” he said. “If you’re going to pick out a driver to have in the car for this type of race, it’d be Bill Elliott.”