JGR chance ‘as unexpected for me as it is for anybody’ - Bayne

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JGR chance ‘as unexpected for me as it is for anybody’ - Bayne

NASCAR

JGR chance ‘as unexpected for me as it is for anybody’ - Bayne

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Trevor Bayne went from the sidelines to having a chance to win NASCAR races this week by announcing a seven-race Xfinity Series deal with Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Are you as shocked as everybody else is?” Bayne started his conversation with RACER by asking.

The 30-year-old former Daytona 500 winner makes his debut with the team later this month at Auto Club Speedway. Bayne will pilot the No. 18 Toyota Supra and work with championship-winning crew chief Jason Ratcliff. Most importantly, the deal was made possible through sponsorship from Devotion Nutrition.

“For me, this is kind of a dream scenario,” said Bayne. “I’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose in this situation. I’ve been out of the car for three years and didn’t know if I would ever get another opportunity to go back and do what I love. I built the dirt late model and did some other racing the last couple of years. But to be going back into NASCAR with an unbelievable organization, to have a partner that believes in me in Devotion Nutrition — which I’m going to need because I’ve got to get back in shape before California — to have this whole deal come together is pretty amazing and unexpected.

“It’s as unexpected for me as it is for anybody. But that desire to go race is still there and hopefully, we can get some wins and make it happen.”

Bayne was left out in the cold after the 2018 season, the victim of a tough business. At the time, he was competing for Jack Roush with AdvoCare as a sponsor. But when Roush decided late in the year to have Bayne split the car with Matt Kenseth, it caught many off guard and it didn’t sit well.

“So AdvoCare decided they were going to do other things,” said Bayne.

Without funding, Bayne was without a ride. The bad timing of it all left him hunting for $12 to $15 million to bring to a team, which didn’t happen, and Bayne didn’t make a NASCAR national series start in 2019.

“The sport has changed, and drivers are expected to help with (sponsorship), so it’s taken me this long to put something together,” Bayne said. “But I think it’s great. It’s great timing. It’s a reset for me (now with Joe Gibbs Racing). I have a new perspective, and I’m ready to go get it done.”

What happened a few years ago is water under the bridge. Bayne still has a great relationship with AdvoCare and understood what happened. Not that it made sitting on the sidelines any easier, and Bayne talked to everyone he could, from sponsors to teams looking for a good fit and good situation.

“I wanted to keep racing; I did not want to be done,” said Bayne. “Honestly, the opportunity to go to a good team was not there.”

While his frustrating stint with Roush Fenway Racing led to a pause in his NASCAR career, Bayne never lost the urge to find his way back to the front. Matt Thacker/Motorsport Images

And Bayne did not want to run in the back of the Cup Series field. The lack of success Bayne had at Roush burned him out and it left him wanting to go somewhere in any of the three national series where he could win races. When it didn’t happen, Bayne became a coffee shop owner in Knoxville, Tennessee, and during his time away, he learned to appreciate the opportunity of being a race car driver.

“No, it wasn’t like, ‘Eh, I’ve done everything I want to do, I don’t really like racing anymore,’” Bayne said of giving it up. “Did I have some burnout and was I kind of over it, and what had taken place? Of course. Man, I was agitated. So at the time, I was like, ‘I’m going to do something else, I’m over it.’ And we’ve all been there in our jobs at times when you’re burnt out.

“That’s where I was at the end of the 2018. Had a good opportunity come along, I would have taken it for sure and it would have been refreshing. But that didn’t happen. For three years, I’ve tried to suppress that and say, ‘All right, you’re not a race car driver anymore, you own a coffee shop, and that’s what you do.’ I love my coffee business; it’s awesome. But the racer inside of me has always been hoping and wanting another opportunity to go win races.”

The first six months away were up and down. There were times Bayne was frustrated enough he was over racing, and then there were times he turned on a race and wanted to be there. Bayne did make an unexpected return in 2020 with Niece Motorsports for eight Camping World Truck Series starts, which was to help the team at the request of friend and general manager Cody Efaw.

“So that was a more for-fun thing,” said Bayne. “I didn’t really see that as an opportunity to restart or reset in the same way this Joe Gibbs deal is a complete reset for me and an opportunity to restart my career.”

Bayne last made an Xfinity Series start in 2016, but he ran full seasons in the series in 2010, ’13 and ’14. Running in the Xfinity Series was “some of the most fun” Bayne has had, and he describes it as more low-key than the Cup Series garage. There is a nice mix between young and experienced talent in the series, and Bayne looks forward to going head-to-head with all of it.

If his limited schedule with Gibbs is the catalyst to a good full-time ride in any series, Bayne is ready to consider his options. But for right now, he has a twofold focus when he gets behind the wheel this year.

“The Devotion Nutrition people are amazing and I really want to help them grow their business,” Bayne said. “So for me, a win is helping them be introduced to new customers. That’s a huge goal; I would almost say goal No. 1. For me personally, go win races, see what other opportunities might come, and really just enjoy it.

“This community has been like family for me. So to be away for so long, it’s been really fun to be back around all my friends again. Be back in Charlotte some. Be in the Fox (Sports) studio. Be at Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s pretty awesome just to be back around it again. I’m loving that.

“If we can grow Devotion Nutrition’s business, I can win races and we can enjoy it, then that’s our goals.”

MX-5 CUP | ROUND 9 – ROAD AMERICA

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