By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
The career resurgence for Trevor Bayne continues in 2016, as he had an incredible race in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Things have been looking up for Bayne heading into this week. He had recorded top-20 finishes at Las Vegas and California. Then a couple of weeks later in Texas, Bayne led 12 laps and was on his way to a top-10 finish, until his pit strategy was foiled by an untimely caution. Bayne would finish 15th that night. Two weeks ago in Bristol, Bayne notched a fifth-place finish, and he landed another top-20 this past weekend in Richmond.
Sunday, Bayne started from the 13th-position, and in the early portions of the race he raced very smartly. He kept his No. 6 Advocare Ford Fusion in position, but he didn’t force himself into any bad moments. As a result, Bayne kept his car clean through a carnage-filled race.
“Very, very insane. You get butterflies in your stomach even thinking about coming here because you don’t know what will happen,” Bayne said of the frantic on-track action all day. “You can have a great day and win. Even in the overtime I was sitting third and could have won or ended up on a wrecker with the roof torn off. It is hard to race here without being nervous or anxious.”
When the caution came out on lap 95, Bayne and his team opted to change just two tires when they came to pit road. As a result, Bayne would get back on track in the second position. From this moment on Bayne would be a fixture in the top-five the rest of the day.
Bayne would grab the lead for the first time of the day on lap 107. In all, Bayne would lead a total of 22 laps on the day. It seemed for a chunk of the race that Bayne couldn’t be passed. A lot of that has to do with the much improved Roush Fenway Racing cars that are being brought to the track in 2016. Bayne talked about how good his cars are getting of late.
“It is so refreshing to come to the race track and have a chance. I feel really good about the pieces they are giving me,” Bayne said. “It is all about the race cars. You can’t drive any harder, they just are giving me better race cars. I am proud of my guys. We had a pretty event free day other than the pit road penalty but we recovered from that for the most part.”
On the final caution of the day, which set up a three lap shootout for the win, Bayne lined up in the third position. When the green flag came back out, Bayne gave a huge shot to Kurt Busch, which sent the No. 41 to the front. However, Bayne would get weeded out by the field behind him, and when all was said and done, Bayne did everything he could to hang on to a top-10 finish. Bayne would cross the line in 10th.
“We were on the bottom on that last restart and when they all went to the top I might as well just be driving out of the rear view mirror trying not to get run over,” Bayne lamented about the final restart. “We pushed the 41 to a really good start. I think he might have cleared [Brad Keselowski] and I had help from [Ryan Blaney] but I think the damage on [Blaney] deterred some help. They all went to the top and we ended up 10th. I thought we had a great race car. I am proud of what my guys brought to the track this weekend but we finished 10th.”
Even though it wasn’t a win, and Bayne is disappointed with a 10th place finish, I think the fact that Bayne is disappointed about finishing 10th shows just how far this driver and team have come since a year ago.
Image: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images