Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 Tim Duerr EcoBoost Ford Fusion, overcame a flat right-front tire sustained on Lap 353 and utilized a strong final restart on Lap 421 in Saturday evening’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) event at Bristol Motor Speedway to improve nine positions and earn a seventh-place finish. The result is Bayne’s second-consecutive top-10 finish and his second at his home track of Bristol.
“Man what a night,” said Bayne after the race. ”Our Tim Duerr EcoBoost Ford was fast in the end when it mattered the most. The strategy fell our way toward the end and we were able to rebound really strong after that flat-tire. It’s great to get back-to-back top-10s and it really gives us some momentum going forward toward these last two races before the playoffs begin. I’m just proud of all my guys on this team. We fought hard all weekend and it’s great to get another top 10.”
Bayne took the green flag for the 500-Lap event from the 20th position after advancing to the second round of qualifying on Friday afternoon. The driver of the Tim Duerr EcoBoost Ford patiently worked his way forward during the first stage, climbing into the top 15 before the first caution of the evening came out on Lap 61. After pitting for four tires and fuel, Bayne returned to the track in 15th but reported to crew chief Matt Puccia that his Roush Fenway Racing Ford had shifted toward the tight side rolling through the corner. Despite the handling condition, Bayne remained inside the top 20 and took the green and checkered flag to end Stage 1 in 16th.
Puccia called the Knoxville, Tenn., native back to pit road between stages for four tires and a chassis adjustment, sending Bayne back on track in the 14th position for the beginning of Stage 2 on Lap 135. Bayne continued his climb forward during Stage 2, moving as high as 11th before a Lap 200 caution provided another opportunity for adjustments on pit road. Returning to the track in 13th following the stop, Bayne once again fought a tight-handling condition during the closing laps of the stage, ultimately leading to a 17th-place result at the completion of Stage 2.
The third and final stage began with Bayne taking advantage of the outside line to drive up to 10th before the tight-handling condition returned. Although not handling to his liking, the Roush Fenway driver continued to fight for position inside the top 15 until a flat right-front tire on Lap 353 sent Bayne into the outside retaining wall. After pitting for four tires and repairs, Bayne returned to the track in 21st, one lap behind the race leaders. An opportune caution on Lap 396 provided Puccia with an opportunity to make a strategy call as he opted to leave Bayne on the racetrack while the leaders came to pit road. The called paid off as Bayne was able to take the wave around to get back onto the lead lap.
Once back on the lead lap Bayne once again pressed forward, driving up to 16th before a caution on Lap 415 gave the Roush Fenway team another chance to get off sequence with the race leaders. With the majority of the leaders staying out, Puccia called Bayne to pit road for four fresh tires, sending the 2011 Daytona 500 champion back on track in the 16th position.
Bayne wasted little time moving forward on the ensuing restart, needing only six laps to rejoin the top 10. The charge didn’t stop there as Bayne raced up to the sixth position before the tight-handling condition once again returned as the race wound down.
In the closing laps, Bayne battled with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson before taking the checkered flag in the seventh position. The result is Bayne’s second-consecutive top-10 finish and his second at the famed half-mile speedway.
Next up for the MENCS is Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 3.