Wood Brothers Racing U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion Finished 31st in Pocono Long Pond, PA (June 9, 2008)- The Pocono 500 was a race full of cautions, a red flag and gambles on fuel as the no. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion took a gamble to keep track...
Wood Brothers Racing U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion Finished 31st in Pocono
Long Pond, PA (June 9, 2008)- The Pocono 500 was a race full of cautions, a red flag and gambles on fuel as the no. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion took a gamble to keep track position and ended with a 31st final finish. Yet in the end, with many U.S. Air Force guests in the pit stall including Four Star General Bruce Carlson and his wife Vicki watching from the pit box; everyone was happy to see the no. 21 on the track and racing.
Bill Elliott began the Pocono 500 in the 29th starting position, however, had to move to the back of the pack with several other race cars for utilizing the backup car rather than the primary used in qualifying. The Wood Brothers Racing no. 21 was damaged during the second lap of the qualifying run on Friday evening, June 6th when Elliott got loose in turn two and the no. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion slid into the wall causing enough damage to need the use of the backup car. Ultimately, Bill took the green flag in the 42nd position.
On lap 10 of the event, Elliott radioed into the crew that he was fighting a loose condition and would try to run a different groove of the race track. Crew Chief Mike Smith radioed to Bill and the crew that they would pit during the green flag on lap 28 and to their advantage the caution flag waved on lap 27 for debris on the race track. Smith decided to make an adjustment to the left front shock and get four tires and fuel. Elliott restarted the race on lap 31 in the 39th position.
As the 21 team watched how the race was unfolding, it appeared as if no one was passing and teams were not racing hard. Another caution came out on lap 41 and the team decided to pit for two right side tires and fuel only in order to gain more track position since passing on the track was difficult. As Bill Elliott pulled into the pit stall, the speedy 21 pit crew made the changes that were called for and sent Bill to the track in the 33rd position gaining 7 spots with a 6.3 second pit stop time. Yet another caution flag had flown on lap 46 where the team decided that the race car worked better with 4 tires rather than two so they decided to change four tires and fuel. As the caution laps went on, Mike Smith decided to bring the no. 21 back down pit road to top off for fuel and Elliott restarted the race on lap 50 in the 42nd position.
As another caution flag flew on lap 57, Elliott radioed to the crew that the car was improving and they decided to just pit for fuel only. The no. 21 restarted in 26th on lap 63. On lap 70, rain began to move into the area as it dampened the track. A decision from NASCAR to bring out the red flag and stop the race until the rain stopped on lap 71. After the track was dry and the race resumed on lap 72; Elliott was scored in the 28th position. Caution on lap 81 allowed to the team to pit yet again for four tires and fuel. Yet, even with a decent pit stop Elliott restarted in the 32nd position on lap 86.
Half-way through the 200 lap event, Elliott was still reporting a loose handling race car and after several more caution flags and pit stops for adjustments, the team finally made progress as the green flag laps starting counting down and other teams were making green flag pit stops. The 21 team waited as long as possible to pit under the green flag hoping for a caution to occur. During the rotations of pit stops, Bill moved up as high as 12th position on lap 159.
On 165, the team had to take its turn to pit under green for four fresh tires, fuel and to make a track bar adjustment. All was successfully done and the no. 21 returned to green flag racing in the 32nd position. Bill had worked his way up to the 26th position on lap 175 when caution came out yet again on lap 178. Mike Smith made the call to stay out and gain track position as other teams did take the opportunity to pit. However, there was a chance they may be a few laps short on fuel so Smith gave the order for Bill to conserve fuel under caution flag laps. Nevertheless, the team found the chances leaning toward staying out on the track to be in their advantage rather than to pit and Elliott restarted the race in the 12th position on lap 180. As a result of this, Elliott could not hold the track position against those who had fresh tires and took the checkered flag in the 31st position and moved up one spot in the point standings to 43rd.
Overall, the team felt it was the best decision to try and take a chance. Crew Chief Mike Smith said, "We had to take a chance and see where we came out. Otherwise, we most likely would have come out with a similar result, but taking the gamble gave us the possibility to finish better even if it didn't work out; it was still a decent finish."
Bill Elliott and the Wood Brothers Racing no. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion will be heading to Michigan for the Life Lock 400 on Sunday, June 15th.