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Bayne waits patiently for Sprint Cup call

August 08, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Seeking sponsorship, driver wants to compete for championships

CONCORD, N.C. -- In a sport built on speed, Trevor Bayne is a study in patience.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver had to wait on sponsorship to fall into place before he could return to full-time NASCAR Nationwide Series competition with the organization this season. He had to sit out five weeks waiting for the effects of Lyme disease to subside shortly after winning the Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers in 2011. And now he’s waiting for the moment when he can finally join NASCAR’s premier circuit on a permanent basis.

“That’s our hope,” Bayne said during a fan event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We’d love to be full-time in Sprint Cup. Even a partial schedule, if I run full-time in Nationwide again. I think we want to win a championship, and if that’s not this year, maybe next year. But for me, I’m ready to go Cup racing, and I want to to do that as soon as possible, but I’m on their timing right now.”

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The appeal of Bayne as a fixture at NASCAR’s top level was obvious Wednesday, as fans packed the track’s ticket office to receive autographs from the smiling and affable 22-year-old. Yet despite his status as the youngest ever winner of the Daytona 500, progress has been slow. He competed in only a handful of Nationwide races last year, and has run a partial Sprint Cup schedule for the Woods each season since 2011.

The move of two-time Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to the Sprint Cup ranks for this season cleared a spot for Bayne to return to full-time competition at Roush. In January, team co-owner Jack Roush said his hope was to move Bayne up to Sprint Cup full-time for 2014, if an accompanying sponsorship package could be put together. More than halfway through the 2013 campaign, it’s unclear if there’s any movement toward that goal.

“Next year, we have not really gotten to a point on that one yet,” Bayne said. “Me, I want to run for championships, whether that’s in Nationwide or Sprint Cup. I would love to run in the Sprint Cup Series full-time, but it just depends on sponsorship and where things head with that right now.”

Perhaps it hasn’t helped that Bayne has had a rather uneven season with the team that’s claimed the last two Nationwide titles. Although he won earlier this year at Iowa Speedway, Bayne has five top-fives and 11 top-10s in 20 starts and ranks ninth in the standings, 71 points behind leader Austin Dillon. The speed has been there, Bayne said, but it’s taken time for he and his new team to coalesce.

“Unfortunately, there have been more ups and downs than you’d want to see in a season where you run for a championship. … I think we’ve had the raw speed. Even at Indy a couple of weeks ago, I thought we had something for (winner) Kyle Busch, and then at the end I made a mistake on a restart, messed up the thing, and at the end ended up crashed. So you take out some of those, I think we’ve had a really solid season, but unfortunately you can’t take those out,” he said.

“We’ve had parts failures, I’ve had brain failures, and then we’ve had times when we weren’t as fast as we wanted to be. But I think over the last two months, we’ve gained as many points as anybody except the No. 3 car with Austin. So I think we’re on a progression to get better. It’s just anytime you start with a new team, it takes some learning and molding. And now it’s happening, and I just hope it’s not too late. With 13 races left, I think we can make up the 70 points we’re behind right now.”

In fairness, even Stenhouse went through a bumpy season before he and crew chief Mike Kelley found a rhythm that netted eight race victories and a pair of titles over the next two seasons. And Bayne has finished inside the top 10 in four of his last five starts to narrow the gap somewhat on the series leaders. He hopes to continue that momentum Saturday at Watkins Glen, where he finished third in a K&N Pro Series East race in 2008, and finished ninth in the Nationwide car his last time there in 2011.

“Of all the road courses, that’s the place I’m most comfortable,” he said. “The kind of road course it is, faster, sweeping, more technical -- for an oval guy, that’s always a good thing.”

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