Trevor Bayne, back in the driver’s seat of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion for his first race in more than two months, scored a solid 16th-place finish in the Heluva Good 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Bayne and his Donnie Wingo-led Wood Brothers crew spent the early portions of the race adjusting the chassis of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion to compensate for a handling issue that saw the car be tight into the center of the corners and loose off. Then they had to use strategy to overcome the loss of a lap when the caution flag flew during a mid-race round of green-flag pit stops in which they had stopped but some of the leaders hadn’t.
Using the wave-around rule to their advantage, the Wood Brothers team got back on the lead lap and held on until another caution flag flew. Then two quick late-race pit stops, both in the 13-second range, put Bayne in a position where he was able to surge to 16th at the checkered flag.
“It was a good ending,” team co-owner Len Wood said. “The crew adjusted on the car all day long and got it a lot better on the last two pit stops. It was a good comeback.”
It also was a good comeback personally for Bayne, who was running his first Sprint Cup race since April 17 at Talladega Superspeedway. After 400 miles, he seemed no worse for the wear and showed no signs of the illness that took him out of action for most of the past two months.
“I feel fine, so I’m ready and I’m back and it was good to finally get back in this Cup car,” he said. “It wasn’t too bad for our first run back there, 16th-place finish.
“This team is doing a really great job this year.” Bayne, racing at Michigan in a Sprint Cup car for the first time, said he learned things that will help him in the future at Michigan and at other similar tracks.
“I learned a lot about how to apply the brakes to keep the car turning all the way through the center of the corner, and I think that’ll transfer to everywhere, every race track we go to,” he said. “So I’m going to keep trying to use that.”
Bayne, who has just 10 career starts in NASCAR’s elite division, added that he still has a lot to learn.
“I’ve got to get better at figuring out what this thing needs in practice and telling exactly what it needs so we can get better in the race,” he said. “But we’ll keep working on that as well. It was a pretty hard-fought 16th. We got a couple of them there at the end. At least we were moving forward there at the end of the race.
“The No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion still looks good. There are not too many bumps and bruises on it, so we can keep running this thing.”
He also sounded pleased to have a strong finish at the home track for his and the team’s sponsor.
“I love the Ford people being here in Michigan (including Frederiek Toney, Vice President of Ford Customer Service Division and Brett Wheatley, Director, Marketing, Ford Customer Service Division),” he said.
Bayne and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team will return to the track on July 2 at Daytona International Speedway for the Cup circuit’s first time back at the famed track since February when Bayne scored the Wood’s fifth victory in the Daytona 500.