The anniversary is a significant milestone for Bayne and the team, but for crew chief Donnie Wingo, it also means that his driver will be racing at a track where he has as much Sprint Cup experience as one could expect, given his limited number of starts.
Assuming Bayne makes the starting field for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, it will be his 33rd career Cup race and his fifth at Texas, the track that also is the site of his first Nationwide Series victory. This victory came last fall after he passed Carl Edwards with six laps to go and finished ahead of Edwards and three other Cup regulars.
Bayne will be racing the same Ford Fusion that he drove to a 16th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway this year, and Wingo said he expects the Wood Brothers team to continue to build on their experiences both at Texas and at other similar tracks this year.
“Even though we wound up getting in a wreck at Kansas, we gained on it a little there,” he said. “We’re getting better at making the car better during the race.”
Wingo attributes these small milestones to getting the car tuned better for the start of the race and Bayne having a better idea of what he wants as far as a chassis set-up.
“That comes with experience, and the more experience he gets the better he will be,” Wingo said.
Experience also plays a factor in Wingo’s race-day decisions, and he believes track position once again will be key as the laps wind down on Sunday. He said that while the aging track surface means teams will benefit from taking four tires on pit stops, it still will be important to make the right strategy decisions for the final run to the checkered flag.
“You’ll have to do whatever you can at the end to be up front,” he said.
Qualifying for the AAA Texas 500 is set for Friday at 4:40 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on ESPN.