Former Daytona 500 winner thrilled about 2013, could join top circuit next year
CONCORD, N.C. -- After a frustrating season of juggling limited schedules on two circuits, Trevor Bayne finally has a full-time ride on the Nationwide Series for this year. And he might not have to wait that much longer before he’s a fixture in NASCAR’s premier division as well.
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The former Daytona 500 champion, who in addition to his Nationwide duties for Roush Fenway will once again compete part-time on the Sprint Cup Series for the Wood Brothers, hopes to be in a full-time car on that same level with Jack Roush’s organization next season.
“That’s our plan,” he said Thursday during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We’d love to do that. Funding is obviously always an issue, but I think that is Jack’s goal. That’s my goal. Everybody at the shop kind of knows that, and we want to make the most out of this year. I’ve been looking so forward to this year, it’s hard to look past it.”
Roush currently has three Sprint Cup drivers -- Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- with room to add one more. Bayne is under contract with Roush, but his development has been slowed first by a bout with Lyme disease and then by sponsorship shortages at RFR, the latter of which forced him into a partial Nationwide slate for 2012.
For the past two seasons Bayne has competed in select Sprint Cup events for the Wood Brothers, a Ford team affiliated with Roush, and with whom the affable 21-year-old shocked the NASCAR world in 2011 by winning the Daytona 500. Roush hopes to add Bayne to his Sprint Cup stable for the 2014 campaign.
“That’s the long-range goal, but that’s TBD on how ’13 goes,” he said. “When we started Ricky two years ago, we had hoped to put Trevor on the same path, and of course he had his health problems the first year, and we had some challenges with sponsorship last year that limited what we could do. So when we looked at it from 2011, we hoped to put him in a Cup car in 2014. And that’s still a goal. But it’s probably not as imperative as ensuring he spends enough time in the Nationwide Series to really do the growth and development he can benefit from before he moves on to Cup. Whether that’s 2014 or whether it’s later, that’s TBD.”
Ideally Bayne would like to run the full Sprint Cup slate this year with the Wood Brothers, who haven’t discounted the possibility if the team can find enough sponsorship. Right now, the Woods are content to run a limited schedule rather than overextending their resources. The team will run 12 events this season backed by Motorcraft and Quick Lane, with the possibility of four to six more funded by other sponsors.
“As long as you’re able to race, that beats the alternative,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “We’re constantly searching and trying to find money, and we just really haven’t been able to turn anything over that really fits. We’ve had some things -- we’ve had some (potential) investors that called, and some people who wanted to merge, and it just doesn’t fit us. We’ve always been our own race team, and that’s the way we’re going to stay.”
Clearly, that approach comes with some risks -- such as potentially losing a driver like Bayne, whose Daytona 500 victory breathed new life into a historic organization that had suffered through some very difficult times. Bayne first competed for the Woods in a single event at Texas near the end of the 2010 season, and has been closely identified with them ever since.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Wood said. “We’ve been really fortunate to have Trevor. When he signed up for that first season, we’d run one race at Texas, and all of that came about as an accident. He just kept growing, and we went to Daytona and we were fortunate enough to win the race. We really get along well. He works well with our crew chief and all our engineers ... and it’s a really nice little package. I’m hoping he can stay with us from now on. If we could find funding, then he stays with us.”
If not, he’ll likely be bound for Roush -- which Wood says has been part of the conversation from the very beginning.
“That’s never really changed,” Wood said. “The first year Trevor was with us, we had no idea what he was going to do the next year, because if they were in position to have their fourth car, that would have been Trevor. And that’s fine. We’re glad to be a part of what’s going on, and if Trevor does go to Jack’s fourth car next year, that will be great for Trevor and great for Jack, and we’ll get the next guy. No big deal. If our position is to help develop drivers for someone else, that’s fine. There are a lot of good young kids coming up, and we’ve got one of the best ones right now. I hope we can keep him, but … in the end, he’s Jack’s boy. We’re just happy to have him.”
And Bayne is just happy to race. Now that he has a full Nationwide ride, he’s comfortable spending more time at the Roush shop, venturing down the street to the Wood Brothers facility about once a week. Wednesday he was at a wind tunnel, watching his Sprint Cup car roll out and his Nationwide vehicle roll in.
“That,” he said, “is the most pumped up I’ve been in a long time.”