Assuming Trevor Bayne successfully qualifies the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Sunday’s GEICO 500 will mark the Wood Brothers’ 400th start on a Sprint Cup speedway two miles in length or longer.
Throughout their history, the Woods have focused on NASCAR’s biggest, fastest tracks. And they’ve had some of their biggest successes on them. They have 36 victories on the superspeedways, with more than half of them at Talladega and its sister track, Daytona International Speedway. The Woods have five Talladega wins and 15 at Daytona. The other victories came at Michigan International Speedway, where the team has won 11, at the old Ontario Motor Speedway, where they had three wins, and at Pocono Raceway, where the Woods won twice.
Nine drivers have delivered wins for the Woods on superspeedways with NASCAR Hall of Fame member David Pearson accounting for half of them.
Another Hall of Famer, Cale Yarborough has six superspeedway victories for the Wood Brothers. A.J. Foyt has four and Neil Bonnett three. Hall of Fame member Dale Jarrett has one, as do Tiny Lund, Donnie Allison, Buddy Baker and Trevor Bayne, who got the team’s most recent win in the 2011 Daytona 500.
Success on the big, demanding tracks also helped propel two of the original Wood Brothers, team founder Glen Wood and the team’s long-time crew chief Leonard Wood into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
“Getting to 400 superspeedway starts isn’t just another number,” said Eddie Wood, one of the team’s current co-owners. “It’s something we are proud of.”
Wood also said the number of victories achieved on the bigger tracks means a lot more to him than the starts.
“It shows that our team has performed consistently well on those size tracks,” he said. “We’ve always had more success on the bigger speedways.”
“They just seem to suit us for some reason.”
Continuing their team’s emphasis on the bigger tracks, the Woods and the current Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew, led by veteran crew chief Donnie Wingo, will head to Talladega with a brand-new Ford Fusion, one that has shown good aerodynamic numbers in the wind tunnel and produced good horsepower on the chassis dyno.
Having a fast car at Talladega isn’t enough to be relatively certain of racing on Sunday.
Since the Woods are without a guaranteed starting spot for the race, Saturday’s knock-out qualifying session will be nerve-wracking.
With the qualifying drivers divided into two groups, and each group having just five minutes on the clock, there will be little room for error.
Drivers will have to get up to speed in a hurry and quickly find a drafting partner to turn a lap fast enough to make the starting field.
“Everyone will be trying to leave pit road as soon as the session starts. It takes close to a minute to get back to the start-finish line to start the clock on your first lap, leaving only enough time for 3 or 4 laps at full speed,” Wood said. “It will be important not to get caught by yourself without a drafting partner.”
Qualifying for the GEICO 400 is set for Saturday at 4:40 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on ESPN.