They’re taking a brand-new Ford Fusion to the Duck Commander 500, but it won’t exactly be an unknown because they have a list of set-up notes from their most recent race on a similar track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Texas Motor Speedway is one of the places Bayne knows best. It was at Texas in November, 2010, that Bayne made his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 21 Ford Fusion, driving it to an impressive 17-place finish in the AAA Texas 500. This weekend marks his eighth appearance at Texas in a Cup car, more than any other track in his relatively brief, 48-race career.
The No. 21 Ford Fusion that Bayne will drive this weekend is all new, just like the car he raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 9, but crew chief Donnie Wingo said this time is different because of their experience at Vegas.
“We’ll be able to build on what we learned at Vegas,” he said, adding that among the things the Motorcraft team will work on in practice is determining what the optimum ride height will be now that NASCAR has relaxed some of its rules on measuring heights at the track.
Wingo also will be participating in his first qualifying session since cool-down units were allowed on pit road.
“The biggest difference is that we won’t have to ride around the track to cool down the engine,” he said.
Since the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team runs a limited schedule and therefore is not eligible for a guaranteed starting position, the knockout qualifying sessions carry the very real possibility of being knocked out of the starting line-up in the first qualifying session.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that for his team, the pressure is on once the opening session begins.
“We just need to get locked in the race,” he said. “Then once we’re assured of racing on Sunday, we can get on with the following two qualifying sessions.”
When it comes to Sunday’s Duck Commander 500, Wingo said one of the keys for crew chiefs and drivers will be tire management, especially with the increasingly worn asphalt at Texas.
“Most of the time, you will take four tires on a pit stop,” he said. “But if the circumstances are right and you don’t have too many laps on your tires, you can do just two.”
Wingo also said he doesn’t anticipate another round of tire issues like the ones at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., two weeks ago.
“I think that’s more related to flatter tracks like Fontana, Pocono and Indianapolis, and to the roughness of the track at Fontana,” he said.
Qualifying for the Duck Commander 500 is set for Saturday at 3:10 p.m. Eastern Time and the race is schedule for just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.