Bayne’s Dover finish comes at the perfect time
May 31, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
"I'm just glad we had a good run, I was a little worried I'd eat my words," Bayne joked later.
Instead the 23-year old was grinning ear-to-ear. Times are good for the 2011 Daytona 500 winner.
A week ago his Nationwide Series sponsor AdvoCare announced it would back him in his first full-time Sprint Cup Series season in 2015. And on Saturday, Bayne turned in his best Nationwide Series performance of the season, answering his best starting position (fifth) with a runner-up effort by 1.005-seconds to Kyle Busch.
"It's been a great couple weeks for sure," said Bayne who drives the AdvoCare Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
"So far we've been top-10 and hadn't had the speed to break into the top-five much, but a lot of hours at the shop trying to get these things figured out. … and I feel like this weekend we were a lot closer. This was the most competitive car we've had all season."
Not only was it an impressive Saturday afternoon drive, it brought Bayne closer to the championship leaders and he now only trails points leader Regan Smith by 27 points heading into the next race, June 14 at Michigan International Speedway.
It's the first top-five for Bayne since a third place finish in the season-opener at Daytona. And it couldn't come soon enough considering the extremely tight championship push atop the standings.
Smith has a win and scored a top-10 in all 12 races. Second place Elliott Sadler won at Talladega and has five top-fives and third place Chase Elliott already has a pair of wins in his rookie season and a series best six top-fives.
"I wish I could relate confidence to speed but it doesn't seem to always work that way," Bayne said. "Our announcement is definitely no hindrance, it's a great thing to talk about and get us excited for next season. But it doesn't change anything for this year. This Nationwide Series is really tough and we have to work really hard and I feel like this weekend we were able to get those couple things working to give us the speed we've been looking for all season."
Bayne has to be encouraged by his track record at some upcoming venues. He's had back-to-back fifth place runs at Michigan and has that third place at Daytona, where the Nationwide Series races July 4.
"I feel like we're finally hitting our stride a little bit, and we've been waiting for that," Bayne said. "Hopefully what happened at Dover will carry over to the next track we go to. I feel like we learned a lot. We've been an eighth-place to a 10th-place car every weekend so to finally get to second is awesome.
"Of course when you're that close you want that little bit more to win these things. There were times I could catch Kyle, and times he would pull away. Those last 10 laps we just got real tight and couldn't get to him.
"But I'm happy to be making gains."
The positive career development and season-best finish certainly are the perfect send-off to an off-weekend at the beach where Bayne and his wife Ashton will spend their first anniversary.
Lots to celebrate these days.