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To Bayne, it's feeling like 2011 all over again

February 23, 2013, David Caraviello,

Aside from backup car, seasons seem similar to former Daytona 500 champ

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Trevor Bayne wanted to go skateboarding through the Daytona International Speedway infield on Thursday evening, but he decided to wait until dark. After being involved in a crash in the afternoon’s first 150-mile qualifying race, the Wood Brothers driver didn’t want to give anyone the impression he was goofing off.

“I felt bad -- I’m like, I don’t want people to see me out here longboarding after I just got wrecked,” Bayne said Friday. “I never want anyone to think I don’t take it seriously. So I waited until the sun went down before I hopped on it. Then I was like, we’re good to go now. I’ve waited long enough.”

He is 22, after all. But Bayne’s freewheeling demeanor was understandable, despite the qualifying race crash and the subsequent move to a backup car. Because for him, it’s beginning to feel a little like 2011 all over again.

Everyone knows what happened then: Bayne shocked the NASCAR world, and himself, by winning the Daytona 500. This week, the parallels are impossible to miss. Now as then, he posted the third-fastest speed on front-row qualifying day, he turned heads in the Duel 150s, and he wound up with a crashed race car that forced him to start near the rear of the field.


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Yes, he’s in a backup car now, which wasn’t the case two years ago. And the return of pack-style drafting will make it more difficult for him to get to the front from his 33rd-place starting position. But given the speed the No. 21 showed in its Duel race Thursday, and given the confidence Bayne and his team are feeling, it’s far from outlandish to think that his second Sprint Cup victory could come in the same event as his first.

“My confidence, I feel good about it,” Bayne said. “I know that these guys wouldn’t tell me I had another good car if I didn’t. The backup car was really good today right off the truck, so I’m not too concerned about it from a confidence standpoint. I just don’t want to cause more work for my guys.”

Team co-owner Len Wood said the car wrecked on Thursday was the team’s fastest from January testing, but it was a Generation-6 body placed on an older chassis. The backup car is brand new, and according to Wood very close to the one wrecked when Denny Hamlin wobbled down into Carl Edwards in the Duels. Bayne made four laps in the car Thursday to ensure there were no vibrations or other problems, and planned to make a few runs in final practice Saturday to fine-tune splitter placement.

“This one, they say it’s the third best out of the whole Ford fleet,” Bayne said. “Our other one was the first best. I don’t ever want to go backward -- obviously our primary is going to be our best car. But if this one is as good, in the pack you’re not going to tell much of a difference. Out front you might see a tiny difference, but there’s not going to be a huge difference in the draft.”

Besides, he and his race team have been here before. Two years ago after Bayne was caught up in a crash on the final lap of his qualifying race, his Wood Brothers crew decided to repair the primary car, because the backup vehicle wasn’t a Roush Fenway chassis. Bayne started 32nd, but used the tandem style of drafting to get to the front.

“Look back two years ago, we were sitting here at this same time of day with the whole left side gone off the race car, and you were wondering if you’d get it back right. And we did,” Wood said. “It worked out that day. So I’d say it’s not a concern. These cars are all built reasonably close.”

As are the parallels between this season and that of 2011. “Very similar,” Bayne said of the run-up to that Daytona 500 and this one. Of course, the big difference is experience -- Bayne led 37 laps prior to his crash Thursday, and during that time thought about what it might be like to win at Daytona once more. It was the Duels two years ago where he first emerged as a serious contender, and Thursday he again stood out.

And he again finished with a wrecked race car. But after the adventure of 2011, no wonder Thursday’s accident left the Woods -- an organization that’s been around as long as NASCAR itself -- unruffled.

“Other than the cost to fix that car, I’ll take what we did,” Len Wood said. “If we’d have run 18th and back and in the pack all day, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But other than that, and the work it takes to fix it, and the cost -- that’s the only down side.”

Which is why there was no panic Friday, despite the few laps Bayne made in the backup car, despite the fact that the Wood Brothers are heading into the Daytona 500 with a new and race-untested vehicle. Bayne was his usual positive self, flipping burgers on a grill outside his motorhome for a sponsor video, his skateboards stacked up nearby.

“Going through it then and overcoming it and making a great weekend out of it -- it makes it easy this weekend to go through it,” he said. “I’ve only gotten out two backup cars in my entire career. One was at Phoenix in 2011, and then this one. So it’s a bad feeling. But knowing that we came back from this, from the rear in 2011 and won the race, it gives me a little bit more confidence going into Sunday.”



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