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Bayne hopes to snag points lead at Fontana

March 21, 2014, Zack Albert,

Bayne currently sits one point behind leader Regan Smith

FONTANA, Calif. -- Joe Gibbs Racing has shown plenty of speed early on in the NASCAR Nationwide Series season, but it's nothing near the current track-specific stranglehold of nine straight Auto Club Speedway victories dating back to early 2008.

If other teams are playing catch-up with JGR, Trevor Bayne is among the drivers hoping to lead the charge in Saturday's 300 (5 p.m. ET, ESPN), the fifth race of the season in the Nationwide tour.

"We are going to have to get faster cars than them, I guess," Bayne said with a trademark grin Friday at the 2-mile track. "... It is frustrating when you lose to anybody. Whether it is a Sprint Cup driver or Nationwide driver, we want to be the best. I love racing against those guys and they are setting the bar high. We have to go after them. We aren’t sitting on our heels just hoping that something magically appears for something to make us faster some day."

Bayne ranks second in series standings, just one point behind leader Regan Smith, and has a perfect 4-for-4 mark in finishing in the top 10 this season. But the most he could muster Friday in describing his start to 2014 as an "OK season" so far. 

Aside from his season-opening third-place result at Daytona International Speedway, he hasn't quite been among the front-runners at the checkered flag, something he aims to fix in Fontana, where Kyle Busch has won six of the last nine Nationwide races as part of the overall JGR streak. 

"The last three races I think we wanted to run a little better, obviously, seventh and eighth place finishes aren't what we show up to do," Bayne said. "Phoenix, I thought we had a better car than that with the rain-shortened race. The last two, we were around an eighth-place car, which is where we finished. Hopefully this weekend we can figure out how to be better. Obviously we want to contend for top-fives every single weekend and I think we can do that."

If Bayne's No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team is to make the jump from top-10 finishes to top-fives, it will likely be the result of the growing chemistry with driver and team. Bayne said his pairing with new crew chief Chad Norris has paid dividends already and that the communication continues to improve, building upon their brief timetogether in 2011. He's also gaining experience with spotter Jason Hedlesky, a Roush Fenway veteran who calls the race for Carl Edwards on the Sprint Cup side.

"I think that is a bonus for me this season, how good we already are communicating," Bayne said. "We just need to unload a little closer at these racetracks to beat those guys."

Thus far at Auto Club, he's closer to that goal. Bayne recorded the fifth-fastest speed fresh off the hauler in the Nationwide Series' first practice and the seventh in the final practice.

Finding speed early will help to set the table for Saturday morning's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, but Bayne knows that the true test of 300 miles later in the afternoon will be managing tires and struggling for grip on the well-worn pavement and its finicky seams. It's a challenge he accepts and anticipates.

"As you cross seams, you are going to lose handling. That is why the line moves up as the race goes on and you see guys running the top," Bayne said. "... I like that you can move around here, it makes the racing more fun."


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