Bayne backed up his chart-topping performance in the final Happy Hour practice by taking the No. 21 Ford Fusion to the front of the pack and running there for most of Sunday’s race.
He could move through the field with apparent ease, coming from the back of the pack to the lead group in just a few laps on several occasions. He ran in the top 10 for much of the mid-portion of the race and led six laps, from Lap 113-118.
As the laps began to wind down, he was poised to contend for the win before being collected in a multi-car crash off turn four on Lap 137 of 188. His Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was too damaged to continue, and Bayne was credited with a 41st-place finish.
For team co-owner Len Wood, the positives of the day helped soothe the disappointment of a wrecked race car and a lost chance to race for a victory.
“We had a fast car and led some laps,” Wood said. “We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. When Brad Keselowski got loose, Trevor was right behind him and had no place to go.”
Wood said that given a choice he’d rather see his driver wreck while running in the lead group than be swept up in a crash while riding at the back waiting to make a move at the end of the race.
“At least this way, you know what you had,” he said.
Wood also was encouraged by the performance of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew, which put on a solid performance, from strategy calls by crew chief Donnie Wingo to the pit stops by the over-the-wall team members.
“It was the best day they’ve had all year,” he said, adding that a strong day at Talladega gives them momentum heading into the team’s next race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend.
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team won’t be running on All-Star weekend, but with the cooperative effort among the Ford race teams, Wood expects his team to have all the data needed to tune the No. 21 Ford Fusion for the 600.
“We’ll consult with our engineering teammates after the All-Star race, and that will help us decide where to start for the 600,” he said.
Then there’s the matter of building another fast superspeedway Ford Fusion before the next restrictor-plate race at Daytona International Speedway on July 5.
“We’ve had two wiped out this year,” Wood said, referring to an earlier crash in the Daytona 500. “We’ll just build another one.”