News & Media

Bayne is back and fast ... for now

June 15, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Wood Brothers driver, surprise Daytona winner making most of schedule

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- In the first of two Sprint Cup Series practices at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, Trevor Bayne was the first driver to coax a car past the average of 200 miles per hour for his fastest lap.

No one can blame Bayne for being in a hurry.

"I think [we've had] a pretty good run for a team that was put together at the last minute in the Nationwide Series and for one that runs only part-time in Cup."


Since unexpectedly and dramatically winning the Daytona 500 in February 2011, it seems as if it's been way too much of a hurry-up-and-wait situation for Bayne in his NASCAR career. He's back behind the wheel of the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing in this Sunday's Quicken Loans 400, but it will mark only his sixth start in 15 Cup events this season and only the 24th Cup race of his young career.

Bayne, who is not participating in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at MIS, has run only five events in that series this season as well. The bottom line: Bayne has spent way too much down time for his liking this season, so he feels the need for more speed every time he gets another chance to drive a race car.

"It is a little bit frustrating when I'm not at the track every weekend," Bayne said. "I see guys out there winning races, and I want to be out there doing that, too. But I knew this was going to be the case at the beginning of the year, and I told myself that I was just going to go out every weekend that I could and make the best of it. I'm just going to go tackle it every weekend (that I can) and not let it get me down. Next year, hopefully, I can be racing full-time and be at the track every weekend."

Veteran driver Jeff Gordon said part of the difficulty for Bayne has been living up to the hype after coming from seemingly nowhere to win NASCAR's biggest race. Had Bayne not won that race, Gordon added, expectations on the youngster wouldn't be so high and his current stop-and-go career path would not seem that unusual.

"Who was he before he won the Daytona 500? What were his credentials? And what were his prospects of being on a top level at Nationwide or Cup?" Gordon said. "So that all got fast-forwarded in a big way since he won Daytona. Listen, you've got to capitalize on that and take advantage of it.

"He's a great kid and a great race car driver. But had he not won the Daytona 500, I'm not sure he'd even be in the situation he's in now -- or at least I'm not sure it would be changed a whole lot."

By now, Bayne's story is well known. He was slowed last season by a mysterious illness that struck right when he might have capitalized the most on his big victory, missing valuable time in cars he was slated to run in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

"It's unfortunate that (more) sponsorship hasn't materialized for him because I feel like, because of Daytona, it has heightened the level of awareness of what he brings to a team and what he brings to the sponsors," Gordon said.

"I would have thought that people would have jumped on that, and he might be sitting here full-time in Nationwide and Cup. But, when you look at the realistic side of what was happening prior to Daytona, you have to say that winning that one race can sometimes hurt you or really help you. In his case, I think it upped his level of notoriety and what he can do and what he can bring to the table. But you've got to back that up and take advantage of those few opportunities that follow. I feel like he's done a good job, but had he elevated up to that next level, there's no doubt in my mind he'd be in more races."

A closer examination of his numbers this year show that Bayne has done pretty well in his limited opportunities -- with three top-10 finishes and one top-five on the Nationwide side, and two top-10s in his five Cup starts. In Cup, he finished ninth at Las Vegas in the third race on the schedule and then sat out a month before running in a Cup car again. His other top-10 finish was an eighth at Talladega in the season's 10th event.

He's Bayne tryin'

2012 Cup results
Las Vegas259

"I think that's a pretty good run for a team that was put together at the last minute in the Nationwide Series and for one that runs only part-time in Cup," Bayne said. "I really feel like we could do some more damage if we were racing more often. But we've just got to be thankful for what we've got and try to make the best of it, and not get too down.

Bayne said staying physically fit for races is no problem, but did admit that mentally it is a challenge to stay sharp when he sits for long stretches before his racing opportunities.

"The physical part is easy because you can still train without being in the race car. You can still run and you can still go to the gym. I have a personal trainer and I've been working out pretty hard," Bayne said. "I'm trying to use this time to my benefit, actually, because when you're racing all the time you're so much more busy, it's actually harder to stay at your physical peak.

"As far as the mental part of it, there's no substitute for being in the race car -- so that's the hard part. The physical stuff you can do without being in the race car. But there's nothing that you can do to substitute for that experience that you get being in the car. We need that as a team. We need to be racing every weekend for (crew chief) Donnie Wingo, for myself, for my guys, for the pit crew. For everybody to stay as sharp as possible, we've got to be at the track."

Now that he is at the track this weekend, Bayne admitted that going 200.770 mph for his fastest lap during Friday's first practice was literally breathtaking.

"I've been holding my breath out there, I'm not going to lie. ... I guess they're going to get the oxygen tank out for me after qualifying," Bayne said. "It's definitely the fastest race track I've ever been on."