Clean air tends to be king at a place like Auto Club Speedway, and that certainly was the case for Trevor Bayne.
He led 24 laps early on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday (Feb. 26) after starting fourth, but a slow pit stop put him in dirty air. Several cautions and pit stops later, Bayne wheeled the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing car to third place in the Production Alliance 300.
”I was expecting to win, to be honest,” Bayne told Frontstretch after the race. “In the Gibbs car, in the (No.) 18 with my experience, I know it’s been four years since I’ve run at this track. And I don’t say that arrogantly that I expected to win, but our preparation, our practice, our qualifying, everything went really good, so I thought ‘We’re going to have a shot to win this thing.’
“And you know when you get in the (No.) 18 you’re going to have a shot to win.”
Bayne, who ran his first Xfinity race since 2016, battled for the lead with eventual winner Custer after the first caution. He claimed the position on lap 15 and held it through the end of stage one.
But his crew had a bit of trouble during that round of pit stops, and the 31-year-old fell back to 10th.
Multiple cautions flew for spins and wrecks, and on each restart Bayne inched closer and closer to the front. One final caution came during overtime when Stefan Parsons slid up while Sheldon Creed had a run on the outside. Parsons hit the wall while Brandon Jones spun off of Creed and skidded down the banking, eventually hitting the sand barrels at pit opening.
After a lengthy cleanup, Bayne chose the outside lane behind Custer, while Anthony Alfredo, who had fresher tires, went inside on the front row. Bayne decided to try to thread the middle but couldn’t surge ahead. Noah Gragson ended up passing Bayne for second while Alfredo held on for a top five.
”We won the first stage, like I said that first pit stop got us behind and we weren’t able to work on the car being out front like we needed to,” Bayne said. “And the (No.) 07 was really good too, Cole (Custer) was ripping the top. We were probably a second place car at the end and ended up in third. That’s alright, we’ll take it.”
It was quite the statement for the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. He told FOX Sports before the race that his goal was to win five of his seven scheduled races.
Bayne’s next scheduled race in the JGR No. 18 is Phoenix Raceway in March.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.
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