NASCAR-style restrictor-plate racing can be quite unpredictable, but when Donnie Wingo looks at the results of recent trips to Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, he finds facts that give him confidence heading into this weekend’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Wingo, crew chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Trevor Bayne, looks at past stats and sees that the Ford camp is unloading some fast race cars.
“The Fords have been fast for sure,” Wingo said. “A lot of the credit for that goes to Doug Yates and the people in the engine shop. They’re a big part of restrictor-plate racing.”
At Daytona earlier this year, Ford drivers; including Bayne, took six of the top nine spots in Daytona 500 qualifying. At Talladega, the other NASCAR track where restrictor plates are used to slow speeds, Ford drivers; Bayne among them, took six of the top 11 spots in qualifying for the Aaron’s 499.
Wingo also is confident in the Ford Fusion he and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew have prepared for Saturday’s 400-miler. It’s the same car the team ran at Daytona and Talladega earlier this year, but it’s undergone some recent tweaks intended to squeeze a little more speed from it.
“It’s been a good car and we feel like we’ve made it a little better aero-wise,” he said.
The veteran crew chief said that while Daytona still isn’t the handling track it was before a recent repaving job, it does require driver and crew to come up with a chassis set-up that will compensate for some decline in the grip level.
“We may have to tighten the car up for qualifying,” Wingo said.
In the race, keeping the water in the radiator will be a challenge for Bayne, since NASCAR’s rules to limit two-car tandems cause overheating if cars run too close for too long.
“The drivers will have to pay attention to the water temperatures and not let the water spew out,” he said.
Wingo said that he hopes Bayne will qualify among the top 10 and run there during the race, as opposed to hanging out in the rear for most of the race, as some drivers and teams choose to do in an effort to avoid being wrecked.
Even so, Wingo figures the key to victory is being positioned in the line that’s moving forward when the checkered flag is in sight.
“It’s probably going to come down to a green-white-checkered finish, and you just want to be in the right line,” he said.
Qualifying for the Coke Zero 400 is set for Friday at 4:10 p.m., with TV coverage on SPEED. The race is scheduled to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. on Saturday with coverage on TNT.