The new format for knock-out qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway made for some anxious moments, but in the end, Trevor Bayne and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team wound up with a solid 16th-place starting spot for Sunday’s GEICO 500.
In the opening round of qualifying, Bayne was part of the second group of cars to run against the clock, and the group didn’t leave pit road until more than half of the five-minute session had elapsed.
That meant little time for error as Bayne, crew chief Donnie Wingo and spotter Chip Ross had to decide just when to go so Bayne could catch the draft just right and get a speed that would put them in the starting field.
For team co-owner Eddie Wood and the rest of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team on pit road, the anxiety level was about as high as it gets.
“It was one of the most tense moments I’ve had at a race track in a long, long time,” Wood said. “It’s like when your car is leading on the white flag lap and goes out of sight and you don’t know what’s happening until it comes back into view.”
“But Trevor and Donnie and Chip did a great job. They had to make decisions in split-seconds, and they got them right.”
As Wood pointed out, his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team, like all of its competitors in qualifying, had little control of their own destiny. Bayne’s speed in his session was dependent on the speed of the cars around him, and his overall speed also was determined by how fast his group went in comparison to the other half of the qualifiers, who ran a separate opening session.
“Everybody was at everybody’s mercy,” he said.
Bayne made it into the second round and eventually knocked out, but the primary mission was accomplished, and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will race on Sunday.
“We made the race, and we’ll get after it tomorrow,” Wood said. “It’s a fast car.”
The GEICO 500 is set to get the green flag on Sunday just after 2 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on ESPN.