Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion, overcame damage sustained in a Lap 245 incident and utilized fuel strategy in the closing laps of the rain-marred Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night to record a 16th-place finish.
“Tonight was about not giving up,” said Bayne after the race. “We were running solidly inside the top 15 for much of the night before we got collected on the backstretch there with the (No.) 5 that damaged our right front fender and made us really tight for the rest of the night. But hats off to (crew chief) Matt (Puccia) for making the call for us to try to make it to the end on fuel there. Although it wasn’t the finish we wanted we were able to make up some spots that we wouldn’t have had if we had come down pit road. We’ll move on from here and get ready for Dover.”
Bayne started NASCAR’s longest race from the 18th position after advancing to the second round of knockout qualifying on Thursday night. From the drop of the green flag, Bayne reported to Puccia that the Ford EcoBoost Ford was tight rolling through the center of the corner. Despite the handling condition, Bayne drove up to the 14th position by the completion of the first stage on Lap 100.
Stage 2 began with Bayne again fighting the tight-handling condition in the center of the corner. This ultimately shuffled the Knoxville, Tenn. native back to 18th before the caution and subsequent red flag came out for rain on Lap 141. When the race resumed Bayne drove his way back into the top 15 and up to as high as 14th before the handling again shifted toward the tight side. In the closing laps of the stage, Bayne was shuffled back outside of the top 15, taking the green and checkered flag on Lap 200 in the 17th position.
Bayne maintained his top-20 track position throughout the first half of the third stage, running as high as 17th before contact with the No. 5 car of Kasey Kahne heading down the backstretch on Lap 245 damaged the right front fender of the Ford EcoBoost Ford. After pitting several times for repairs, The Roush Fenway Racing driver returned to the track in 21st and remained there for the final 50 laps of Stage 3.
When the fourth and final stage went green the tight handling condition returned as the damage to the right front fender of the Ford EcoBoost Ford began to drastically affect the handling through the corner. Despite the handling issues, Puccia decided to make a strategy call and brought Bayne down pit road to top off with fuel during a Lap 328 caution in the hopes of making it the rest of the way without stopping and gaining some track position. After running 28 laps in fuel conservation mode, Bayne worked his way up to the seventh position as several of the race leaders hit pit road. Bayne remained in the top 10 until again having to go into fuel conservation mode in the closing laps.
In the end, Bayne took the checkered flag in the 16th position.