Although the final result didn’t truly reflect it, Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers left Las Vegas Motor Speedway looking a lot like the driver and team that won the Daytona 500 two weeks ago.
Early in the Kobalt Tools 400, Bayne had driven his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion from his 16th starting position up to as high as third place and was giving all appearances of having a top-five car for the remainder of the race. But a penalty for speeding as he entered pit road on a Lap 56 pit stop put Bayne nearly two laps down.
Undaunted, the rookie driver restarted the race in 32nd place and eventually worked his way back into position to get the free pass that goes to the first driver not on the lead lap when a caution flag flies. On Lap 150 the caution flew with Bayne in the free pass position, and the No. 21 Ford Fusion was back on the lead lap.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood noted that Bayne and the team didn’t have to resort to gambles like taking the wave-around option. Instead they made up the lost ground through hard driving under mostly green-flag racing conditions.
“Trevor drove his way back onto the lead lap,” Wood said. “He did it on his own.”
Once back on the lead lap, Bayne quickly moved back into the top 20, but with 48 laps remaining, he bounced off the wall after contact with Matt Kenseth. The damage to his car ended his forward march, and he had to settle for a 20th-place finish.
“We were just biding our time after we got back on the lead lap, but the 17 got into us and it flat-sided the car,” Wood said.
Still Bayne and the Woods left Las Vegas pleased with their performance.
“I am proud of our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team today,” Bayne said. “They did a great job to keep us in the race, get us back on the lead lap.
“I am just really proud of my team today. We will learn from it and head to Bristol in a couple of weeks, and I am really looking forward to that.”
Wood pointed out that the team moved up one spot in the car owner standings to 18th and that the team had a strong run on an intermediate track, which is where the Woods historically have had their best runs.
And he said it was encouraging to see his Daytona 500-winning driver and team quickly bounce back from a disappointing outing at Phoenix the week before.
“This kind of evens things out,” he said.
Bayne and the Wood Brothers will enjoy a NASCAR off- weekend before returning to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Jeff Byrd 500 on March 18-20.