The 2017 season hasn’t gone quite to plan for Trevor Bayne and his No. 6 team.
While his Roush-Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has visited victory lane twice and will be one of the 16 drivers competing for the championship in the playoffs, Bayne had managed only two top-10 finishes prior to Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.
Despite the struggles his team has faced this season, Bayne came into the Pure Michigan 400 ready to turn things around and when the checkered flag flew, he had accomplished just that, finishing fifth and notching his best finish of the season.
“It’s refreshing,” said Bayne. “We’ve had a tough couple of months not getting the results we thought that we deserved. Today, to get a result feels really good. We had fast car early on. We had fuel strategy at the end.”
“Probably gonna have a shot to beat the 78 if it stayed green. Got a caution and I was like, ‘Oh man, here goes Indy again.’ We had a good first restart. The second restart was even better. We were able to push the 42 up to the lead and getting into (Turn) 3 I tried to go for it from the top and hit the Speedy Dry, got loose, and came home fifth. Cost us a couple spots. Man, when you’re in that position you have to go for it. I wouldn’t have slept good at night if I didn’t stuff it in there and try something. It just didn’t stick. It feels really good for our team.”
Starting back in 21st to when the green flag flew, Bayne had his work cut out for him to try and work his way toward the front on the fast two-mile oval. He would remain mired in traffic through the first two stages, finishing 18th and 23rd, respectively when the green-checkered flags flew.
Though he was running mid-pack, his crew chief, Matt Puccia, had a plan to use pit strategy to their advantage over the final 80 laps.
Cycling into the top-10 during green flag pit stops, Bayne would find himself in seventh place when the caution came out with 15 laps to go and elected to come down pit road under yellow, taking on just two tires and being the first car off pit road among those that pitted.
As the first car off pit road, Bayne would restart the race in fifth place as the green was displayed again with nine laps to go.
Using the track position to his advantage, Bayne held steady in the top-10, dropping to sixth when the final caution and red flag came out with five laps to go, sending the race into overtime.
On the ensuing final restart, Bayne made a bold move to jump up to third place, but got loose in Turn 3, causing him to lose a couple of spots, falling back to fifth, where he would remain until the checkered flag flew.
“It’s nice,” Bayne added. “We’re still not in the Chase yet and we have to keep pushing and making our cars faster and for Ricky’s sake, who is in the Chase. We have 13 races left with or without the Chase to go make a statement, win races and run well. It feels good to be in contention. We still aren’t the fastest race car. We can’t beat them on raw speed, but we can put ourselves close with fuel strategy, tire strategy and trying to be in the mix in the end. And that feels really good from what we’re used to.”
After scoring his best finish of the season, Bayne will head to his home track of Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race next Saturday night.