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Trevor Bayne embraces role of Nationwide veteran

January 12, 2014, Zack Albert,

Roush Fenway Racing driver both excited and optimistic for 2014

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Hard to believe, but ever-boyish Trevor Bayne returned to Daytona International Speedway with the look and feel of a veteran. 

Perhaps it's a statement on the infusion of new, young talent in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season. Maybe it's the rise of fresh-faced teammates Ryan Reed, 20, and Chris Buescher, 21, within the Roush Fenway Racing stable. Or maybe it's that Daytona 500 victory from three years ago that makes Bayne, who will turn 23 just days before the season begins, seem like an old pro.

"Man, it is weird being almost the old guy in the series now," Bayne said Sunday as NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the Nationwide Series wound toward its conclusion. "You see a lot of new faces coming through and a lot of guys getting opportunities in Cup and it's exciting for them. We're definitely ready for that opportunity, but we're also going to make the most of the fun that we have now."

Making the most of it seems to be a theme for Bayne, who hopes to carry the experience and perhaps some of his team's second-half momentum into his sixth season of NASCAR Nationwide Series competition, his fourth straight for team owner Jack Roush (Bayne also ran a handful of races for Roush in 2010). His No. 6 team will reunite him with Chad Norris as crew chief, after Mike Kelley's offseason move to the Sprint Cup Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 

Despite the changes, Bayne said his team was as prepared as ever. 

"I think our team is probably the most set it's ever been going into a season as far as funding, sponsorship, having our pit boxes and haulers already ready to go," said Bayne, who rallied to finish sixth in the season-long standings last year. "It seems like normally Daytona sneaks up on you and you aren't completely prepared with your guys and cars and equipment and all that. But I feel like this season we're the most prepared we've ever been for February to come around." 

Norris, who worked with Travis Pastrana in the Roush organization last year, also has some Sprint Cup seasoning as a crew chief for Carl Edwards in the second half of the 2012 campaign. He was also atop the pit box for Bayne's first Nationwide Series win in November 2011 at Texas.

Though Kelley has moved on after winning two Nationwide titles with Stenhouse, Bayne has no doubts about his team's potential.

"Obviously you hate to lose somebody of that caliber, but for Chad Norris to step in, I'm gaining somebody, again," Bayne said. "So Chad and I have had a lot of success together. (In) 2011 he came in halfway through the year. We finished off the season with a win at Texas, and then at the beginning of 2012 we ran about the first four races together and I believe we were only four or five points out of the lead when we ran out of funds. So I know Chad can do it, and I'm really happy with the guys I have going forward this year."

In terms of the Roush Fenway driver lineup, Bayne now qualifies as the elder statesman. Buescher and Reed split time with several races each in the team's No. 16 Ford last season. The two combined for three top-10 finishes that hinted at their potential in 2014 and beyond.

For Bayne, it's another opportunity to be a mentor and a team player.

"I've kind of been an open book towards my teammates especially, to Chris and Ryan," Bayne said. "I remember when I came in and I'd try to ask for help and people were all secretive. It wasn't fun trying to learn on your own, so I try to help out as much as I can, but I don't know how much help I am. They're smart guys and pretty successful race car drivers." 

As in years past, Bayne said he would continue to drive a part-time schedule for the Wood Brothers in the No. 21 Ford on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He said the team had a 12-race schedule planned with hopes of expanding that number to 18 or 20 if sponsorship allows. 

In the meantime, Bayne's focus is razor-sharp for his full-time Nationwide job, where he hopes the label of "veteran" will also include the prefix of "champion." 

"A successful year is obviously a championship-contending season," Bayne said. "We wanted that last year and a couple things took us out of it. A couple of them were parts failures, a couple of them were driver failures and making bad decisions on the race track, and those are things we have to eliminate. ... You can't dig a hole for yourself, and I think I learned a lot about that last season, and that's what's going to help us be a championship contender this year."


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