April 3, 2014 — photo courtesy Mustang Monthly — FORT WORTH, TX — Three years ago, in November 2011, Trevor Bayne capped off a roller-coaster of a year with his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series win in the fall Texas race.
His season began with a storybook opening that saw him celebrating in Victory Lane at the Daytona 500. In between, he was sidelined by illness.
He rebounded to finish the season with seven consecutive top-11 finishes, including the win. Bayne ultimately finished 11th in the standings.
Bayne heads to Texas Motor Speedway with the rest of the NNS contingent for Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on a mission – to unseat Regan Smith from atop the points standings. Although the two drivers are tied in points, Smith holds the tiebreaker by virtue of his win in the Daytona season opener. It is the first time in Bayne’s six-year career that he has held or shared the points lead.
Bayne’s quest to usurp Smith from his top spot, which he has held after each of the first five races, is definitely possible based upon the Tennessee native’s past success at the 1.5-mile track. Six of his seven Texas starts have resulted in top-15 finishes. In the spring race last year, he posted a 26th-place finish, but followed that up with an 11th in his most recent trip to Texas last November.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the spring event at Texas two years ago piloting the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, which Bayne inherited after Stenhouse moved up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the end of the season. Although Stenhouse’s NNS crew chief Mike Kelley joined him in the premier series during the most recent offseason, most of the crew from back-to-back championships remains intact.
Teams will be working hard to ensure their race cars are at peak performance by the time qualifying rolls around on Friday afternoon as starting position at Texas is of the utmost importance. Eight of the last 10 races have been won by drivers starting in the top three, and 16 of the last 17 race winners have come from the top 10.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series continues on Friday night with the running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Live coverage begins at 8:30 PM Eastern on ESPN2 and the Performance Racing Network.