Trevor Bayne looked like he’d had a bucket of water dumped over his head after climbing from his No. 6 Ford following 500 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway. But through the dripping sweat, Bayne couldn’t help but smile talking about his 11th-place finish in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. It was his best finish in 16 starts this season, and only his third top 15.
Bayne, of course, hasn’t been full-time for Roush Fenway Racing, having learned he would be splitting the car with Matt Kenseth back in April. Handling the change affably, Bayne has said being sidelined and watching and hearing the feedback from Kenseth, seeing the data and results has given him confidence his races.
“It feels OK,” Bayne said when asked how good a night like Saturday felt for him personally. “It’s just another race. You know, every weekend when I leave I just evaluate my performance. And whether that’s 25th or 11th, check the boxes and say did I do everything I could do?
“Today [I] probably could have held [Kevin] Harvick off if I didn’t try to cross Jimmie [Johnson] over, so I’ll leave a little bit frustrated actually that I didn’t do enough to get a top 10. But it feels good. You just got to give it all you got every weekend and not worry about the results.”
Before Bristol, the previous season-best result for Bayne had been a 12th-place at Texas back in the spring.
A top-10 finish looked promising for Bayne and company, but he was one of many who was victimized by the bottom lane. Even though NASCAR and Bristol track officials had applied a coating of VHT/PJ1/sticky stuff to the track, it appeared to wear off early, and a few drivers mentioned the racing conditions as slick. On restarts, those on the bottom never got the launch they needed to keep up with the outside lane.
Bayne ran inside the top 15 for 402 of 500 laps and sat eighth with less than 140 laps to go. After picking up points in Stage 1 with a 10th-place finish, Bayne was busted for speeding early in the second stage. Falling back to 17th, he drove to 14th by the start the final stage.
The final restart saw Bayne line up seventh on the inside lane.
“It just came down to which lane you were going to restart it, and when Jimmie pitted it put us on the bottom,” said Bayne. “I was like, dang it! we had a top five there. But all in all, it’s a good day for our cars. Just too tight.
“Jack [Roush, owner] asked me in the driver’s meeting how my car was and I said it was about a 10th-place car and if we could get it to turn it’d be better, and that’s how it was. It was a 10th- to 15th-place car and made it turn better. But overall a good day for our guys and always fun to race at Bristol.”
With Kenseth listed in the No. 6 Ford the next two races at Darlington and Indianapolis, Bayne’s next race is set for Sept. 16 at Las Vegas.