Rookie Trevor Bayne got his formal introduction to Sprint Cup racing at Bristol Motor Speedway in Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500. His Wood Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team got reacquainted with racing on the high-banked bullring after being absent there since 2008.
When the checkered flag fell they had a 34th-place finish but left Thunder Valley with some positives to draw from their experiences.
“We’ve been re-initiated into Bristol again,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said.
Bayne said he quickly learned that Cup racing at Bristol is far different than anything he’d experienced in the Nationwide Series.
“Everybody always talks about how tough the [races] are here in Bristol, and I’m like, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,’” he said. “But this is totally different. You’re beside somebody the entire time. It never singles out. You never just ride.
“With that said, also, it’s 200 more laps. You get to 300 when you’d normally be done, that’s when you finally get a little fatigued – around 300. But then you have 200 left. You’re counting down every lap. It’s a tough race – mentally, physically, everything.”
The weekend started satisfactorily, with Bayne qualifying the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion in 19th place. He held his own for first half of the race, getting involved in a few typical Bristol fender benders, but generally holding his own. Eventually, he lost a lap on a long green-flag run despite a spirited effort to remain on the lead lap.
After that, the day began to unravel for the Daytona 500-winning team. Bayne was collected in a multi-car crash on Lap 437.
Amazingly, his crew took a car that looked like it was done for the day and had it back on the track and turning respectable lap times while losing only about 15 laps.
“The crew fixed the car pretty quickly and saved us about four spots,” Wood said. “And it was pretty fast after the wreck. Even without the hood and a couple of fenders, it was turning laps within a couple of tenths [of a second] of the leaders.”
The team now turns its attention to next week’s 400-miler at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway, the type of race track where the Woods have focused their efforts for most of the team’s history.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to our bread-and-butter tracks,” Wood said.