2012 Cup Ride: No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
2012 Primary Sponsors: Motorcraft, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center, Good Sam, Camping World
2012 Owners: Glen Wood, Leonard Wood
2012 Crew Chief: Donnie Wingo
2012 Stats: 16 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s, 0 poles, 2 DNFs, ineligible for points
High Point: Las Vegas. For most of the day at this 1.5-miler, Bayne was relegated to 20th place. Even though the Wood Brothers focus on these intermediates, the millions they don’t have for wind-tunnel testing and pinpoint engineering leave them a step behind the Hendricks, Gibbs and Roushes of the world (even though they have Roush Fenway chassis and engines). But with 52 laps remaining, a debris caution put Bayne back on the lead lap and in a no-lose position to try and earn a better finish.
Suddenly, with the right set of tires and some adjustments the car took off, Bayne slicing through competitors and coming home with a ninth-place result, one of only two top-10 finishes on the year. More importantly, it was his best performance since an upset 2011 Daytona 500 victory, a career high at an unrestricted track that showcased potential versatility beyond those gigantic superspeedways.
Low Point: Michigan – June. Qualifying seventh, Bayne was ready to rumble at the high-speed oval whose repaving had leveled the playing field. It’s these type of situations, where new asphalt rips up old notes and track position becomes the name of the game where a single-car team can sneak through and compete. But it wasn’t to be; the engine in Bayne’s Ford went south, almost immediately and sent him to the garage with just 7 of 200 laps complete. He finished dead last, which in an age where 8-10 cars start-and-park is extremely hard to do for a car prepped to run the distance.
Summary: A year removed from Daytona 500 glory, 2012 was a step back for Bayne. Roush Fenway Racing was unable to land a sponsor, leaving his No. 60 Nationwide Series effort virtually suspended after just one month of competition. That left Bayne relying on a handful of Cup starts with the Wood Brothers as his only consistent on-track time for the season. But the Woods, who have a history of competing best on intermediates are running ovals where they start the weekend a step behind – sometimes three.
Single-car outfits struggle most on the “cookie cutters,” where no information sharing, smaller funding, and limited wind tunnel time take their toll. Once a promising pairing, the Woods’ last half-dozen finishes with Bayne resulted in “mediocre” consistency: 20th, 21st, 22nd, 21st, 22nd and 23rd.
Even in the plate races, the one place where parity comes to all, Bayne never had the luck or strategy right, unlike Daytona that one fateful February. He wrecked in this year’s 500, never a true contender and scored just one top-10 result (eighth at Talladega) at those facilities.
Team Ranking: First of one. The Wood Brothers, one of the most legendary teams on the circuit, have been a single-car effort about 99.9% of the time since their 1953 debut.
Off-Track News: This December, the 21-year-old Bayne got engaged to girlfriend Ashton Clapp. A wedding date for the duo has not yet been set.
2013 Outlook: Much better. After two years of pulling part-time yeoman’s work, Bayne will get his opportunity to run for a championship. Placed in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford vacated by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., he’ll run for one of the best Nationwide Series programs in recent memory, paired with solid sponsorship from Cargill. Finally, all of NASCAR Nation will see if this kid was just a one-hit wonder, or building to bigger and better things.
Bayne on the Cup side will also continue running a limited schedule with the Wood Brothers. Sponsorship remains there for 12-16 events, at the same tracks they’ve been running the last several years: 1.5-milers, Daytona and Talladega.
2011 Frontstretch Grade: B-
2012 Grade: C+
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