Bill Elliott and the crew of the Wood Brothers No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion can put a check mark beside Friday on their racing calendar. Their mission is accomplished. They're in the starting field for Sunday's Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, and they did it without having to rely on Elliott's past-champion provisional.
The team's qualifying run wasn't exactly what they wanted, but it did the job. Elliott's best lap of 187.839 miles per hour was 36th on the speed chart, but it put him safely ahead of the other drivers in the race who had to qualify on speed. With the Woods running a limited schedule, they're forced to qualify on speed every time they race, making Friday afternoons a nerve-wracking time in the No. 21 garage stall. But team co-owner Eddie Wood was upbeat about the effort, saying conditions unrelated to the car cost the team some time on its run against the clock. And he was pleased with the overall performance of the brand-new car the team brought to Texas. "We went out late in the day. The track had cooled off quite a bit, making it a lot tighter. That hurt us a lot," he said. "The last several cars that went out also seemed to be too tight."
Because the Woods aren't among the top 35 in car owner points, their car is among the go-or-go-home group that qualifies at the end of the qualifying session. Elliott and his David Hyder-led crew spent most of Friday's practice session working on a qualifying set-up, as they didn't want to simply rely on Elliott's provisional from his 1988 championship. But now the team can turn to working on a race set-up, and in recent runs on tracks similar to Texas Motor Speedway, they've been able to find combinations that put them in position to drive their way toward the front of the pack. "David Hyder and the guys always manage to find some things on Saturday that make us a lot better in the race," Wood said. "I see no reason this weekend will be any different."
The Samsung Mobile 500 begins on Sunday April 18th at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX.