Woods prepare to say goodbye to Trevor Bayne
May 24, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
MORE: Bayne to drive in Sprint Cup in Roush in 2015
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CONCORD, N.C. -- Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers will always have the Daytona 500.
"I was actually standing beside the trailer talking to them, and they pointed up at the Daytona 500 sticker and said, 'That's one thing that will never change. You got your first one here. I don’t care if you get 25 more, this was your first one, and we're so glad to be a part of it,'" Bayne said Saturday morning. "Just to have that almost family-like support from them is incredible."
And indeed, that magical 2011 victory in the Great American Race will long define Bayne's tenure with the No. 21, which will end after this season. The 23-year-old announced at Charlotte Motor Speedway that he will move to the Sprint Cup Series full-time next season with Roush Fenway Racing, which will revive its flagship No. 6 program and field a car backed by AdvoCare.
It all portends a bittersweet parting between Bayne and the Woods, who have raced together on a part-time basis since late 2010. Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood said the team would complete its 12-race 2014 schedule with Bayne, which includes Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. In the meantime it will consult with longtime partner Ford Motor Co. as well as sponsors Motorcraft and Quick Lane on a replacement for Bayne in 2015.
"We haven't started on any of that stuff yet. We'll get into that later," Wood said. "We'll run the rest of the year with Trevor, like we'd planned. That won’t change. We'll figure it out later."
Although Bayne has been in the seat of the No. 21 since his Sprint Cup debut in 2010, he's always been under contract to Roush, often running concurrent Nationwide Series campaigns in Roush Fenway equipment as he is this season. Asked Saturday if he'd like to see another of his young drivers in the Wood Brothers car next season, Jack Roush said he'd leave that decision up to the No. 21 team and support it either way.
"I'm not privy to all the discussions they have going on," Roush said. "Certainly, we've got two rookies that would be candidates for a part-time Cup program, if that suits their purpose. But they're part of the Ford family, and now that Penske is part of the Ford family, in addition to the other Ford teams out there, I'm sure that Ford and Motorcraft and Wood brothers will look though the entire group of rookie drivers that are coming up that are available to them. If they come to the decision it's one of our rookies, fine. If not, we'll support them as we always have."
"I like and I think they like the idea of taking young drivers and helping give them some experience in the Cup," said Roush president Steve Newmark. "I'm sure Ford and the Wood Brothers will look at all their options, and they will have them, because I know in the past we've even had veteran drivers reach out to them. If you look at how they've evolved over the last couple of years, they've focused on assisting the overall Ford camp. It's actually been a lot of fun to watch, to see the cohesion between all the Ford teams."
But those decisions are still to come. "We'll be talking with our sponsors … and see what they want to do, what they have in mind," Wood said. "But this is all kind of brand new. We'll figure it out. It's all good."
In the meantime the team readies for its final eight races with Bayne, whose Daytona 500 victory is one of three top-10 finishes he's posted in the No. 21 car. Both sides understood going in that the relationship was for a limited time, given that Bayne's stated career goal was always to race Sprint Cup cars full-time for Roush. That took longer than Bayne envisioned, allowing him to foster a tighter relationship with the Woods.
"We knew going in, when Trevor drove those first few races for us that he was actually Jack's driver," Wood said. "It just worked out for us that he could drive for us, and we just hoped it could last as long as it could. We were fortunate it lasted as long as it did. I'm happy for Trevor. He's going to get to run all the races. It's working out. I'm happy for him."
Bayne said at the announcement that if he looked a little teary-eyed, it was because he had just come from the No. 21 truck and breaking the news to Wood Brothers co-owners Eddie and Len Wood.
"It's been such a ride with the 21 guys," Bayne said. "They’ve become part of the family, and I've become part of their family. You think about the history we've had together over the last three or four years, and it's always hard to make a change. But this is such a great change. Really, just their support is what made me almost want to tear up, because they were telling me how much they're behind me and how much they appreciate what I've done."
Standing above it all, though, is Bayne's Daytona 500 victory, which was the Woods' first win at NASCAR's top level since Elliott Sadler prevailed at Bristol in 2001.
"The Daytona victory will be something that will probably be the biggest moment in our lives and his," Eddie Wood said. "I don't think either one of us will ever top that -- the way it all happened, just like it was meant to be. Racing with Trevor is always fun. It's upbeat. It's always that way. Trevor is what you see. There's no other agenda. Trevor loves to race. He's just a good kid. He's what you want. I'm just happy for him."