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Pat DeCola | NASCAR Digital Media

Trevor Bayne says health, passion for racing haven’t wavered

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Trevor Bayne made his first public comments about a reduction in his 2018 racing schedule, saying Friday that both his health and his desire to compete have not waned.

Bayne’s remarks came before opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Talladega Superspeedway. The comments also came two days after Matt Kenseth was announced as a part-time driver for the Roush Fenway Racing, splittling time with Bayne in the No. 6 Ford.

“First of all, my health is 100 percent,” said Bayne, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013 and was medically cleared to race. “I am as fit physically, mentally, spiritually as I have ever been to do my job well. The second part is that my desire is still as it has always been since I was 5 years old, to come to the race track every weekend and contend for wins, championships and be a driver at the top level in the Cup Series. Nothing in that has changed. I’m still going to pursue that because I feel I’ve got the ability to do that, but right now I don’t have much more to add to that.”

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Bayne took no questions from media assembled outside the team’s hauler, reiterating that his focus was concentrated on winning Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the 2.66-mile track.

“I want to respect you all’s time and I know you have a ton of questions after everything that’s happened this week,” Bayne said. “But if you guys can just allow me to come into the garage and talk to my team and work through this weekend, I’d love to have that opportunity. I’m coming here to win Talladega as I’d planned to do before any of this. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Bayne, 27, is in his fourth season with team owner Jack Roush. He’ll remain with the team for an unspecified number of races as Kenseth takes over at Kansas Speedway (May 12) and the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 19).

Bayne has one victory in NASCAR’s top division, making a stunning breakthrough in the 2011 Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers Racing. Since then, his performance has been scattered. He earned no other top-five finishes in four part-time seasons for the Wood Brothers, and has gathered just four top-five results in his full-time tenure with Roush Fenway.

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Those struggles have continued this year. Bayne ranks 26th in the Monster Energy Series points with a best finish of 12th place at Texas Motor Speedway.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said he spoke with his longtime Roush Fenway teammate as this week’s news developed, saying he could relate to Bayne’s position.

“I told him just to keep his head down, go out and keep running races to prove to everybody you’ve got what it takes,” said Stenhouse, the defending Talladega race winner. “Don’t really listen to anything, whether it be fans, media or other teams saying anything. Just do your deal. That was the feedback that I gave him.”