Wood Brothers Racing has announced that 19-year old rookie driver Trevor Bayne will pilot the iconic No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion during the 2011 season.
Throughout their 61 years of racing in NASCAR the Wood Brothers historically have entrusted their cars to veteran drivers, but they acknowledge that Bayne is not just any rookie.
Bayne made his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 21 last season at Texas; qualifying in on speed and finishing 17th in the race. Those stats don’t tell the whole story. NASCAR’s loop data shows that Bayne passed 140 cars during that race and was passed only 104 times, giving a difference of 36, best among the 43 starters in that race.
With the strong Texas performance behind them, the Woods and Bayne plan to run the first five races on the Sprint Cup schedule, then make selected appearances over the remainder of the season, with an expected total of 17 starts and possibly more. Veteran Donnie Wingo returns to crew chief the team in 2011.
“It’s pretty awesome that the Wood Brothers have the confidence in me to believe that I can do it as a rookie,” said Bayne, who will turn 20 on the day before the Daytona 500. “That says a lot about our relationship already.”
Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, said NASCAR’s oldest team is excited to get back to the track with its youngest Sprint Cup driver ever.
“We’re really excited to be starting the season with Trevor,” Wood said. “It’s something new for us. We had a good race at Texas last year. That’s where it all started.”
Bayne said he’s found the Woods to be a close-knit family that is serious about racing.
“It’s been cool being around the shop,” said Bayne. “It’s really a family deal, and you don’t see that in NASCAR much any more. They still do a great job with the business side of it, but the main focus is on family and how to get the best performance for the team and Ford.”
Bayne noted that when he’s at the team shop, he often sees several generations of Woods including Leonard, Eddie, Len, Jon, Jordan, Keven and Kim, all at the shop and all enjoying what they do.
“It makes racing fun,” he said. “It reminds me of when I was growing up racing.”
Bayne’s early racing years also have other similarities to the Woods, including the ability to capture checkered flags. In addition to their triumphs in other racing series, the Woods have won 97 Sprint Cup races and 118 poles in Sprint Cup alone since 1953.
Bayne, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., started racing go-karts at age five, and won three world championships, more than 300 feature wins and 18 state and track championships. He became the youngest top rookie in the Allison Legacy Series and won 14 races, 19 poles and a series championship in two seasons.
From there, he advanced to USAR Pro Cup Series where at age 15 he became the circuit’s youngest ever rookie of the year. In 2008 he was signed as a development driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and raced in the Camping World East Series, where he secured his first win at Thompson, Conn.
He ran his first Nationwide Series race at Bristol in March, 2009. In his second start, at Nashville Superspeedway, he sat on the outside pole, and in his seventh start, at O’Reilly Raceway Park, he earned the first of his four career poles. In just 50 Nationwide Series starts he has six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes and has led 133 laps. He finished seventh in the Nationwide standings last year, his first full-time season.
Bayne said he’s eager to prove that he’s ready to race in NASCAR’s top series.
“I’m looking forward to my first year in Cup,” he said. “I know it’s not full time, but it’s been my dream since I was five years old.
“And you couldn’t ask for a better group of people to have behind you. Donnie Wingo has been incredible, and he and the guys on the team have lot of experience and have been great mentors.
“Hopefully we’ll continue to gain momentum and represent the Wood Brothers well, on and off the track.”
Credit: Wood Brothers Racing PR