Since winning the 2011 Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne has had a roller coaster of a career, fluctuating between the Monster Energy Cup Series, XFINITY Series and at times not having a full-time gig.
Bayne, 26, is coming off a season in which the No. 6 car had a pair of top-five finishes and six top 10s, leading eight laps. Over the past three seasons, Bayne has paced the field for a grand total of 42 laps. 29 of which have come on restrictor plate tracks Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
But 2018 is a year of opportunity for the Tennessee native. Bayne is entering his fourth full-time season with Roush Fenway Racing and is expecting the performance to pick up even more.
“I think we’re gonna be better than some teams we weren’t better than last year, but there’s a lot of unknowns with new manufacturer bodies,” Bayne said. “You look at test data and you can’t judge everything off of one or two test, so you don’t really know until you get there. We always talk about we’re excited for Daytona the first one, but then you hear people talk about Atlanta [Motor Speedway] being the first real test for what you’ve got for racecars, and that’s pretty true.
“You get to Atlanta and you find out how your aero program is on downforce, you find out how your engines are on bottom end coming up out of the corner, you find a lot of things and really communication, which is a huge part of our sport. That’s the first time you have a driver complaining about the way his car drives with the crew chief, and they’ve got to figure it out.”
Through the opening 12 races of the 2017 season, Bayne was part of the top 16 in the championship standings. But a summer stretch that included nine finishes of 20th or worse during a 10-race span prohibited the No. 6 team from qualifying for the playoffs.
Bayne ended the season 22nd in the championship standings, with top-five finishes at Michigan International Speedway (fifth) in August and Talladega in October (third).
“We tried to focus in on our weaknesses,” Bayne said. “You can work on your strengths and make them better, but you’ve got to really zone in on your weaknesses and minimize that. If I look at this year [and] what is that weakness we have to improve on, it’s the short, flat tracks. You look at [New Hampshire Motor Speedway], [ISM Raceway], those kind of places. Ricky [Stenhouse Jr., teammate] seemed to find something he liked there and I didn’t, and then I had some places he didn’t like, so I think just trying to match that together and try to figure out both of our strengths and work together, that’s gonna be important for us.”
In 11 races on intermediate racetracks last season, Bayne had an average finish of 18.5. However, as a whole, he admitted that’s an area that Roush Fenway Racing needed to improve on for 2018 as he wants to be a force at Ford.
“If you don’t have a winning car at mile-and-a-halves, it’s half your schedule or more,” he said. “I can’t say that we can’t go win, because there are other Fords doing it, and that’s where we need to be. My goal is to be the best car at Roush Fenway. Roush Fenway needs to be the best of the Ford group, and the Fords need to be the best in the field, and that’s how you win races. That’s what we’re going to push to do.”
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