On a day when gas-mileage strategies and long green-flag runs scrambled many a team’s best-laid plans, Trevor Bayne and the crew of his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion stretched their final tank of fuel to the finish to score a 23rd-place finish in the rain-delayed Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Bayne and his Donnie Wingo-led crew spent the first two-thirds of Monday’s race tuning their Fusion to adapt to a race track they hadn’t been on since Saturday because of persistent rain. But each time Bayne came to pit road, Wingo and the crew tuned on the car, and with 100 miles or so to run, it was turning the kind of lap times they were looking for.
“We got the car really fast at the end,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood.
But they were unable to fully capitalize on the speed they’d found. They raced their way into the “Lucky Dog” free pass position and stayed there lap after lap, but no caution flag flew to allow them to rejoin the lead lap.
Then on the race’s final green flag run, Bayne, like many others in the field, was forced to take a conservative approach to try to make it to the checkered flag without running his gas tank dry. He almost got there under full power, but began slowing in the final two corners and coasted across the line in 23rd place.
Wood said the fuel strategy worked out just right. “We ran out at exactly the right place,” he said.
“It started running out in Turn Three, but Trevor made it across the line without losing any positions.”
Wood said he and the team were upbeat afterwards about their performance.
“Trevor did a good job,” he said. “Donnie made some good calls in the pits. We had good speed. We were just a little off at times, but at the end the car was the best it had been all day. And the pit crew did a good job.
“It wasn’t a bad day at all.”
Bayne and the Wood Brothers return to the Cup circuit next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500 on Oct. 15. The weekend will be especially important for the Woods and their fans as the paint scheme for that race will be a tribute to team founder and 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Glen Wood.