More prepared and patient, Trevor Bayne set for full-time Cup drive

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Trevor Bayne’s “A Star Is Born” moment at the 2011 Daytona 500 proved to be something else entirely.

Bayne shocked the NASCAR world with his victory for the Wood Brothers in that year’s Great American Race. While he ran with that team on a part-time basis in Sprint Cup for the next four seasons, a full-time Cup ride didn’t materialize.

Instead, Bayne’s main focus shifted to the Xfinity Series, where he raced the full 2013 and 2014 seasons for Roush Fenway Racing.

The 23-year-old Tennessee native will finally get the chance to compete every weekend at NASCAR’s top level this season in Roush Fenway Racing’s revived No. 6.

“It’s been a really wild last few years for me,” Bayne said during the recent NASCAR media tour in Charlotte. “To go from winning [the Daytona 500] and expecting to be full-time that season to going back to [Xfinity] part-time and part-time Cup, and then full-time [Xfinity], and now to be full-time Cup, it’s been wild.

“But what I can say is that I’ve had confidence that Jack Roush was a man of his word, and that at some point, I’d be driving his Sprint Cup cars full-time like he had promised. And now that opportunity’s come.”

The journey to a full-time Cup program may not have been what Bayne had pictured following his Daytona triumph, but he says the experiences he’s had in the last four years have not only made him more prepared but taught him patience.

“There were times where I’d call somebody that was close to me and be frustrated that I wasn’t running full-time Sprint Cup, and they would remind me of what I’ve been through,” he recalled. “I think 2011 probably aged me 10 years.

“But the last couple of years have been more mellow. I feel like they’ve been kind of in the middle. No extreme highs or lows, and that’s taught me a lot in how to handle that as well. Going into this season, I feel more well-rounded than I would have been in 2011 running full-time [then].”

Another good sign is that Bayne’s maintained his physical health after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in late 2013 (he’s mulling over a return to doing triathlons). With that, he’s putting full focus on developing a rapport with crew chief Bob Osborne and also helping Roush return to its winning ways after a couple of down years.

“We were reacting on a Monday to what happened on Sunday and just kind of shotgun-blasted ideas,” Bayne said of Roush Fenway Racing’s struggles in 2014. “What you do is you work really hard but you don’t make any ground. It’s like being in water and you feel like your drowning; you start paddling hard, but you sink. You have to take smooth, calculated strokes.

“I feel like that’s what we’re doing now. We’ve hired the right people, we’ve got the right talent with drivers, and I feel like now we can have a productive plan to go forward.”

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been
Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win didn’t send him on a path to superstardom. Instead, it marked the beginning of a four-year run that saw him jump regularly between the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series.

2011
Sprint Cup – 17 starts, 1 win, 1 top-5, 1 top-10 (Won Daytona 500)
Xfinity – 29 starts, 1 win (Texas), 5 top-5s, 14 top-10s

2012
Sprint Cup – 16 starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10s (Best finish of 8th, Talladega)
Xfinity – 6 starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 3 top-10s, 1 Pole (Best finish of 4th, Las Vegas)

2013
Sprint Cup – 12 starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s (Best finish of 16th, Charlotte)
Xfinity – Full season: 1 win (Iowa), 7 top-5s, 21 top-10s, 1 Pole, 6th in Points

2014
Sprint Cup – 12 starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s (Best finish of 19th, Texas and Michigan)
Xfinity – Full season: 0 wins, 5 top-5s, 21 top-10s, 1 Pole, 6th in Points (Best finish of 2nd, Dover and Chicago)