Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 Roush Performance Products Ford Fusion, utilized a fuel mileage strategy to move into the top 10 before a caution on Lap 185 provided an opportunity to come to pit road in Sunday afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) event at Michigan International Speedway. After pitting for right side tires and fuel, Bayne returned to the track in the top five and survived a green-white-checkered to earn a fifth-place finish. The result is Bayne’s highest finish of the 2017 season.
“That’s what we needed,” said Bayne after the race. ”I got a great restart and pushed the 42 to the lead. I went for it in turn three and it didn’t stick. It got massively loose and ended up fifth. If I went home thinking I should have gone for it in three, I would be kicking my butt. But it’s a great day for our Roush Performance Products team. We needed this to recover a little bit. We’re still not in the playoffs yet and we have to keep pushing and making our cars faster. We have 13 races left with or without the playoffs to go make a statement, win races and run well. It feels good to be in contention.”
Bayne took the green flag for the 200-Lap event from the 21st position after advancing to the second round of qualifying on Friday afternoon. The driver of the Roush Performance Products Ford steadily worked his way forward during the opening stage, turning laps faster than the race leaders while climbing into the top 20 and up to 17th before the first round of green flag pit stops on Lap 41. After returning to the track in 17th, Bayne reported that the handling had shifted toward the tight side. Despite the handling, Bayne took the green and checkered flag to end Stage 1 in 18th.
After pitting between stages for four tires and a chassis adjustment, the Knoxville, Tenn. native began Stage 2 from the 19th position. Bayne maintained his track position throughout the second stage as the handling of the Roush Performance Products Ford continued to get tighter during the long green flag runs. As a result of the handling condition Bayne was shuffled out of the top 20 in the closing laps, ending Stage 2 in 23rd.
The third and final stage began with Bayne again fighting a tight handling condition. However, an opportune caution on Lap 138 gave crew chief Matt Puccia an opportunity to play with some strategy. Puccia called the driver of the Roush Performance Products Ford to pit road as the field took the one to go for the restart on Lap 146 in the hopes that that stop would allow Bayne to make it to the end of the race on fuel.
Bayne returned to the track following the stop in 23rd but methodically worked his way forward following the restart, moving into the top 10 and up to seventh as the race leaders all started to come to pit road for fuel. Then, a caution on Lap 185 halted Puccia’s fuel mileage gameplan but did provide the Roush Fenway Racing crew chief another opportunity to make a strategy call on pit road.
Puccia called Bayne to pit road for right side tires and fuel, sending the 2011 Daytona 500 champion back out in the fifth position. After falling to sixth on the ensuing restart, Bayne maintained his top 10 track position until a caution with five laps remaining set up NASCAR’s version of overtime. Taking the overtime restart from sixth, Bayne utilized a three-wide move going into the first corner to move into third and remained there as the field came for the white flag.
Bayne continued to fight for a top five position on the final lap before taking the checkered flag in the fifth position. The result is Bayne’s best finish of the 2017 season.