Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 60 “We Back Pat” Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, is honoring former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt this weekend with a special paint scheme. Bayne, a Knoxville native, spoke to members of the media this morning in the Bristol Motor Speedway infield media center about racing in his home state.
HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING BACK TO BRISTOL? “I’m really excited to be back at Bristol. It’s our home track and there’s no better color to run here than Tennessee orange, so it’s a perfect fit with Pat Summitt being on the car and really just raising awareness for her and Alzheimer’s with the situation she has going on, but I feel honored that I get to represent Pat Summitt. Hopefully, I can do as good as she’s done representing the Vols for, I don’t even know how many years, 30-40 years she’s been doing it, so it’s pretty special. But the last time we were here at Bristol we had a really fast race car. We qualified second and led the race for a long time. We had some pit strategy that didn’t work out for us at the end and we ended up finishing eighth, so I think we can definitely improve on that. I’m looking to go out there and try to get our first Nationwide win of the year. This potentially could be our last Nationwide race of the season. I’m not sure about that. I’ve been trying to talk Jack into a lot more at the end of this season since he’s wanting to run the full-time series next year for a championship with me in the car. I’d like to get my feet wet at the end of the season and get some momentum going. I think that would be a good thing to do, just to get a feel for the Nationwide cars again because they are a little different than the Cup cars, but I’m excited to get that roll started back here at Bristol. It’s kind of weird being parked on this end of pit road. I haven’t done that since my first Nationwide race in the Taco Bell car. Normally we’re down there with the other guys, but it’ll still be good and we’ve hopefully got a fast race car.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOUR TEAM SHUT DOWN AFTER THE THIRD RACE HERE AT BRISTOL? YOU WERE AROUND THIRD IN POINTS AT THAT TIME AND IS NEXT YEAR ALL LOCKED UP? “Yeah, from what I hear Jack is gonna run the car full-time, just like he planned on doing with Ricky this season. They didn’t necessarily have sponsorship at first, but they planned on running it and anything that came in went to that car and, I think, that’s probably what’s gonna happen next year with Jack. They’ve told me that and it sounds like it’s in concrete, but I’m sure things can still change before the season starts, but, as of now, we’re gonna run full-time Nationwide next year.
“It is a little disheartening when you’re third in points and you think you’ve got a run for a championship going even though it was a thrown-together deal. We still had a limited amount of people and hardly any cars in the shop. The car that we got ready for this race we got ready in a week. We took a Carl Edwards car from last year, stripped it down and got it back together in one week literally, so we’ve had a little bit more of a head start this time and I think that will help us here. We would have loved to run a full season this year. I still have never done that. Even though it seems like I’ve been around for so long in the Nationwide Series – three years now – I still never ran that one full season all the way through with one team and one group of guys and that’s what I’m looking forward to next year. At first when they said that I was a little bit bummed out because I wanted them to come to me and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna run you full-time in a Cup car with the fourth team,’ and that didn’t happen. But when I did find out I was running Nationwide and I thought about it, I thought that’s probably a good decision to go out there and get that first full season under our belt in that series and work on running for points because I’ve done that a limited amount. I haven’t got to go points racing and I think it would be good to get that under our belt before we go to that Cup level when it’s gonna be even tougher to do that and get that experience.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR ROLE DAY-TO-DAY WITH THE TEAM TO TRY AND FIND FUNDING AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR REACTION TO RICKY GETTING THE 17 RIDE FOR NEXT YEAR? “That’s the hard balance to find because I am excited for him. I think it’s great and I think he deserves it because he’s run really well in Nationwide. The hard part is I feel like we both deserve it a little bit, and there is a fourth team there so that’s a good option that we have. It’s not like they chose him over me or anything like that. It’s a case where he’s ready to move to Cup. I haven’t run a full Nationwide deal yet, but with that being said, I’m happy for Ricky. I think it’s gonna be a great opportunity for him to step into that 17 team that is already running, a team that’s really strong, but, at the same time, I can’t wait to get my opportunity in Cup. I think we could run competitively there every weekend. We do that even with the Wood Brothers car part-time. We go to Michigan and qualified sixth and ran in the top 10 and we’ve had a couple top-10s already this season, so doing that on a part-time schedule, I think those runs would turn into top fives if we were running full-time. If you can run like that, then you’re a contender to get yourself into the Chase and run well in the Cup Series and make a name for yourself. But I’ve just got to be patient in the meantime for that. Next season is gonna be a great deal for Jack. He’s gonna put everything he’s got behind me, including sponsorship. This season, we knew that pretty much anything that came in would have to go to Ricky’s car until it was funded because they were locked in to running him and I was locked in to the Wood Brothers car. So next year it will be exciting to see what partners we can come up with and I’ve still been beating on every door that I know of – everybody from Knoxville to Charlotte all the way across the coast to California, and those guys are doing the same thing. They’re really working on our sales team at Roush. They’ve just added one new person to come in and head things up a little bit. This season, we have added more sponsors than we have in the past on the Nationwide side with NOS and those guys and also on the Cup side with Fifth Third Bank and Best Buy. I think they’re really starting to grow a little bit more productively than they have before.”
WHEN YOU LOBBIED JACK FOR MORE RACES HOW EFFECTIVE WAS THAT? “I think it does. Jack is the most influential one in the company and if you get him convinced that that’s what you need to do, then it could happen, but I haven’t really tried it yet so I don’t know how it’s gonna go. At the beginning of the season we talked to him about running full-time and hopefully we’d get sponsorship and he ended up doing that for the first five races in hopes that we would get sponsorship, so that wasn’t me trying to convince him, that just made more sense and I think Jack understands that. I think he understands that running more races at the end of this season is gonna better prepare us for a championship next year. The same thing with Ricky running a couple more Cup races just to prepare him for that 17 car. Jack, as a racer, understands that seat time is necessary, so if he can possibly do it, I think if he can make ends meet at all and do that, I think he will just because he gets that.”
YOU’RE STILL PLANNING ON DOING THE WOOD BROTHERS NEXT YEAR? “Yeah. I talked to Eddie and Len last weekend and they said that they told Jack, ‘Hey, if everything is good, we would love to have Trevor back in our car.’ We’ve built such a brand there and had such a good time running together and if I’m not gonna be in a full-time Roush car, then the next-best thing is running for the Wood Brothers.”
YOU WOULD NEVER GIVE BACK YOUR DAYTONA VICTORY BUT DID WINNING THAT RACE SET UP AN UNREASONABLE EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR OR THE FANS? “Maybe for the fans more than anybody in the sport. I think everybody in this sport understands how hard it is, especially for a part-time time. I think when we did that nobody expected us to go back and win the next race at Phoenix. If they did, I don’t know what to tell them. I didn’t even expect that. I knew that we could go out there and run top 10 and be competitive, but I do understand that if you’re not running every weekend to go out for wins – even in the Nationwide Series it’s tough to run part-time and run well. But the fans, your borderline fan that just turned on the TV and saw me win the Daytona 500 and figured they’d watch me the next week probably thinks it’s like golf and once you’re on the scene you’re in and you can go win every tournament, but with racing it’s definitely different. That might have hurt us a little bit, but I wouldn’t trade the win for anything. I know it’s in God’s timing anyway, so He was setting me up for something there and putting all the pieces together, so I’m just waiting on the puzzle to make a little bit of sense for me.”
WITH PENSKE MOVING TO FORD NEXT YEAR IS THAT AN OPTION FOR YOU? “If Jack says it is. If Roger went to Jack and talked to him, then it could be a possibility or something but for me it’s not. It would strictly have to come from Jack and he would have to say something. Being under contract there is no way I would go talk to another team or do anything like that at this point. Ford has done a great job of building up their company and they’re doing that in racing too with Ford Racing adding teams and making it more competitive. The more teams the better, but I don’t know if that changes opportunities for me or not. If Jack talked to him, I haven’t ever heard of it, so I just kind of have to wait and see.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE TRACK CHANGES HERE? “I’ll let you know here in a little bit when I get on it, but from the looks of it I don’t think it’s gonna be that much different. I think as you get into the Cup cars the track starts taking on rubber and I think it’s gonna eliminate a little bit of that groove at the top, which they use to keep the cars wound up so when they lost forward drive they could get up there and really get some bite, but I don’t know if that’s gonna be there or not because it’s so tight coming off of four anyways, and then if you take a little bit of that groove away, we’re gonna be coming up on that wall pretty quick. So I don’t know if it’s gonna change it that much. I think it was just enough that the fans were gonna think there’s gonna be a big difference in the race and they’d come show up, but for us as drivers – in Nationwide especially – I don’t think it’s gonna change the track that much for us.”
WHAT OTHER CUP RACES DO YOU HAVE THIS YEAR? “I have six Cup races left. We go to Atlanta after this and then Chicago, Charlotte, Talladega, Texas and Homestead – not that I’m counting or looking forward to them.”