The #21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion and former NASCAR Champion Bill Elliott showed that it is not how you start the race – it’s how you finish.
Bill took the green flag in 9th position after a strong qualifying effort and good practices all weekend. He reported the car to be loose at the start of a run, but noted that it improved by the end of a long green flag run. On lap 54, the team made its first pit stop under green flag conditions. Unfortunately, one of the air hoses was outside the pit box, the team was black flagged, had to do a pass through and went one lap down.
Despite the mishap, Crew Chief David Hyder and the team knew they had a good car and would get back on the lead lap. On lap 156, during a caution, the team made the decision not to pit and to take the wave around hoping to get back on the lead lap. The strategy paid off as another caution flew on lap 193.
With 74 laps to go and temperatures falling, the team kept adjusting the car. On restarts the car wasn’t as good as others but on longer runs the #21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion was one of the fastest cars on the track.
During the final pit stop on lap 218, more adjustments were made preparing to go to the checkered flag. Bill was scored in the 26th position as the green flag fell for the final 50 laps. As the race wound down, Elliott passed 10 cars to finish in 16th place with lap times equal to the leader.
After the race, Elliott reflected on the day, "We ended up having a little mishap there in the pits. I got a lap down pretty early. We got fortunate and got that back. Man, I just wasn't very good on short runs. The longer I ran, the better that thing got. It was awesome there at the end. But, we gave up too much track position, so we just need to get better on those short runs."
When asked if he thought the season was successful, Elliott added, "Oh, absolutely. Last year we couldn't finish in the 30s, and this year we were consistently in the top-20s. I mean, we're out-running teams that are mega-bucks teams, and that's what we need to continue to do."
Homestead ends the 2009 race season. The Wood Brothers team will spend the off-season preparing for another successful season in 2010.
Wood Brothers Racing would like to thank Motorcraft and The Ford Motor Company and for their continuing support. Motorcraft will be celebrating ten years with the Wood Brothers in 2010, while The Ford Motor Company will celebrate sixty years with the team next year!