For the first time since the 2020 season, Trevor Bayne is competing in a national NASCAR series. He drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series as part of a partnership that was a long time coming.
Bayne sat down with Heavy on May 10 and discussed his return to NASCAR. He explained that joining JGR was not something that happened quickly. He actually had a relationship with Joe Gibbs and the late JD Gibbs dating back to when he was 15 years old and pursuing a racing career. He did not sign with JGR early in his career, instead opting to join Dale Earnhardt Inc., but this friendship ultimately led to the deal in 2022.
Other factors in the deal were the many “passive” conversations that Bayne had with JGR’s EVP Xfinity Series/Development, Steve Desouza, after his time in the Cup Series came to an end. The two men discussed potentially joining forces over the course of several years. However, there was always the lingering question of whether Bayne could bring some sponsorship to the organization.
“Devotion Nutrition came along and said, ‘Hey, we want to help you restart your career,'” Bayne explained. “‘Like, what does that look like? What does it cost? How many races could we get for this budget?’ And so I called Steve and connected them. Really, that’s the only team that I talked to about it. I didn’t call anybody else because I knew if I could go drive with [crew chief] Jason Ratcliff in the 18 car with Devotion, we’re going to have a shot to win races.”
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Bayne’s schedule includes a solid variety of layouts and surfaces. He already competed at Fontana, Phoenix, and Atlanta. Now he will prepare for races at Nashville Superspeedway (June 25), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 16), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (October 15), and Homestead-Miami Speedway (October 22). He didn’t get all of the tracks that he wanted due to other drivers already having scheduled starts, but there was a specific reason behind the ones he chose.
“You’ll notice I picked a lot of like worn-out racetracks and those are kind of the ones that I liked the most,” Bayne said. “Darlington would have been fun. I really like when the driver has to manage the race, manage the tires, and take care of it. And [JGR] has just got really good cars everywhere.”
Another Factor Helped Bayne Join JGR
The friendship and the previous conversations with JGR were the biggest factors in Bayne joining the organization for his return to NASCAR. However, the new format for the 2022 season also played a role.
NASCAR teams only have a limited time to practice at each track and make adjustments. Long gone are the days when the drivers have a long time to practice and make adjustments. Instead, they essentially have to show up and unload ready to compete in the race. The majority of weekends feature 20-minute sessions with the drivers split into two groups.
“I knew if I were to go to a team with sponsorship that was maybe a cheaper-per-race team or whatever, I knew that unloading, you’ve got to be on your game,” Bayne said. “So if you don’t have good simulation tools, if your cars aren’t naturally fast, it isn’t like you can just take experience now and dial a racecar.
“I think that’s really what hurt Kevin Harvick for the last couple of years. For him, he’s got so much of a notebook and experience that Tyler Reddick wouldn’t be able or Ross Chastain wouldn’t be able to go through practice as methodically as Kevin Harvick. But now it’s like what you show up with is what you’ve got pretty much. So it’s on the team for simulation, making fast cars, and wind tunnel on data. And I feel like Gibbs does a great job at that.”
Bayne Has Some Goals for 2022 & Beyond
The first three races of Bayne’s schedule have featured both strong qualifying sessions and time at the front of the pack. He led laps at Fontana, Phoenix Raceway, and Atlanta Motor Speedway before posting two top-five finishes. Bayne was also battling for the lead at the reconfigured AMS before a crash disrupted his afternoon.
There are five races remaining in his part-time schedule, and he has big plans for them. Bayne’s goal is to reach Victory Lane multiple times and potentially set himself up for a packed schedule in upcoming seasons that would involve racing, working as an analyst for FOX Sports, and continuing to run Mahalo Coffee Roasters.
“I think I need to win some races this year,” Bayne said. “I think if we go winless, it’s going to be tough to continue. But I think if I can win two or three races here out of these next five, that it could create other opportunities, whether it be the Cup level or Xfinity level. And that’s my desire.
“Like if I had an opportunity to run 10 races to full-time next year, I would love to do that, along with continuing to do TV. Hopefully, I can delegate more things at Mahalo so I have time to do it all.”
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