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Woods' next driver will need to be qualifying ace

July 04, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Woods' next driver will need to be qualifying ace
Current driver Trevor Bayne to drive full-time for Roush Fenway in 2015

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Eddie Wood still doesn’t know who will succeed Trevor Bayne behind the wheel of the No. 21 car next year. But he knows one thing -- the next driver for Wood Brothers Racing needs to be able to put down a fast qualifying lap.

"We need another guy that can lay down a lap," the Wood Brothers co-owner said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. "You think about (potentially missing the race). You think about it, oh yeah. You can do this or that, but you've got to lay down that lap before you get to race."

Bayne will move into the Sprint Cup Series full-time next season to pilot the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing. Although his tenure with the part-time Wood Brothers operation is best-known for his 2011 victory in the Daytona 500, Bayne has been underappreciated for his ability to get the No. 21 car into races on speed. It wasn't long ago that the Woods missed races with frustrating regularity -- but since Bayne's arrival, many have taken for granted that the No. 21 car will compete in every event it's entered.

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No one is more aware of that than Eddie Wood, who certainly doesn’t take making races for granted. "Trevor does lay down the lap," he said. "Knock on wood, you can always count on him to do that. You don't really notice that."

Given that the Woods will undertake another part-time schedule again next season, Bayne's successor in the No. 21 car will inherit the burden of ensuring one of NASCAR's most legendary vehicles can get into events. The summertime 400-miler at Daytona is one of 12 races selected this season by a team that plays to its strengths -- typically restrictor-plate tracks and fast intermediate ovals -- but whose part-time status also leaves it without a guaranteed spot in the field.

Since first joining with the Woods at Texas late in the 2010 season, Bayne has never failed to get the No. 21 team into events on speed. That's a far cry from 2008, when a Wood Brothers team attempting to run the full schedule was often sent home early. No wonder, then, that qualifying still weighs heavily on the team's mind, particularly under the group format being used now at NASCAR's national level.

"I'm sitting here thinking about it while we're talking," Wood said. "You get up on the truck and watch it happen, and just hope you get to make that lap. What they're doing now is exciting, but it's hard on you. It'll wear you out."

And with another part-time schedule on the horizon in 2015, that stress will surely be there again next season -- even though Bayne will be driving another car. As for Bayne's successor in the famed No. 21, the Wood Brothers say no decisions have been made.

"We're not in a hurry," Eddie Wood said. "Same ol' line everybody uses -- we're concentrating on right now. And right now the most important thing to us is qualifying, and then tomorrow night's race. That's kind of the way we look at it. We'll look at it in due time."

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