I had a chance to interview Trevor Bayne at Darlington Raceway on May 7th to talk to him about his first season as a fulltime Nationwide Series regular.
As soon as we began talking, I was immediately impressed with the maturity and focus that this 19-year old possesses.
He had just finished qualifying and seemed pleased with his effort. Although Bayne felt he could have pushed a little harder, he explained his strategy.
It’s our first time here so it’s better to have a car in one piece and still have a potentially qualifying top ten than it is going for a top three.”
His plan seemed to work and he earned a ninth place starting position for the Royal Purple 200 race later that evening. He finished the race in 16th place and advanced to the 11th position in the Nationwide Series points standings.
I asked Bayne to grade his season to date and although he was reluctant to do so, he sounded encouraged by what they have been able to accomplish thus far.
“I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “We’re definitely going in the right direction.”
Bayne went on to describe this season as a learning process.
“Diamond Waltrip Racing has always given us the cars we need. We’ve finally figured out how to use that equipment the right way.”
“On top of that, the chemistry is getting better,” he said. “It just takes time to figure out how I need to relay information.”
From the outside looking in, there have been some inconsistent performances. But Bayne is quick to point out that for the most parts, their cars have been good.
“We’ve been fast almost every weekend.”
He points to two incidents at Daytona and Bristol when he was wrecked after contact with other competitors. Both accidents resulted in poor finishes for the 99 team.
Bayne has two goals for his season. The first one is to get the most out of what he calls a “top five team.” His second goal is to use the season as preparation for his future.
“We’d love to win but what this series is doing is preparing us for the Cup Series later on.”
Bayne is not alone in his belief that the 99 team is one to watch this year. Hershey Milk and Milkshakes joined him at Dover International Speedway as a new associate sponsor. They also donated $99 to the Autism Speaks Foundation for every lap Bayne completed in the race.
Bayne had jumped from 17th to 11th in the Nationwide Series points standings in the last four weeks. He hoped to capitalize on that momentum going into Dover.
“At Darlington, we decided to go back to the basics,” Bayne explained.
“I focused on driving the race car and Jerry (Crew Chief Jerry Baxter) concentrated on making the adjustments. Our car was really strong during the race and we made adjustments to keep up with the track. We didn’t get the finish we deserved but we gained a lot of momentum and confidence for this weekend at Dover.”
Bayne had an outstanding run in Saturday’s Heluva Good 200 at Dover International Speedway. He started the race in the 23rd position but had worked his way into the top 10 with just under 100 laps to go. Bayne continued to move forward and got as high as fifth place with 50 laps remaining in the race.
Unfortunately, with just two laps to go, he got caught up in a nine car accident that began when Denny Hamlin got into the back of Clint Bowyer on a restart. The incident ended Bayne’s day and he finished the event in 29th position. He is now 14th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship point standings.
After the end of the race Bayne was sent to a local hospital for X-rays on a bruised left foot. The results were negative. He is expected to resume his schedule and will be in Daytona on Tuesday and Wednesday to participate in the new car testing.
Even though he didn’t get the result he was hoping for, Bayne will continue to work towards his goal. He’s confident that God has a plan for him and is committed to doing his part to make it happen.
His strategy is simple.
“I think we can get there. All we have to do is work smarter, not harder.”