Fresh after a Bank of America 500 run that showed they had the muscle to run with the leaders on an intermediate track, Trevor Bayne and his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion head to Talladega Superspeedway, where they’ll be among the pre-race favorites for Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500.
Although he has made just 15 career Sprint Cup starts, the 20-year-old Bayne has developed a reputation for knowing how to push and be pushed in the two-car “tandem” drafting that has become commonplace at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the two giant tracks where restrictor plates are used to reduce speeds.
Bayne won the Daytona 500 in February and started on the outside pole at Daytona in July. In April at Talladega, he ran among the leaders and led five laps before being collected in a crash.
Over the years, his Wood Brothers team has been among the best at the two mammoth superspeedways. They’ve won 15 times at Daytona, including five Daytona 500s, and five times at Talladega.
Bayne said he’s ready to take on Talladega again.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Last time we didn’t get the run we wanted, but we showed speed. At all the superspeedway races, the Wood Brothers have done a good job of building a fast hot rod.
“I like going to [restrictor-plate tracks]; we just have to stay out of trouble.”
Avoiding crashes at Talladega and Daytona is a big part of the challenge at those two tracks, and Bayne is making that a big part of his race day strategy.
“If we can keep that mindset until the end, we’ll be really good,” he said. “I’m pumped about the car. They say it’s really good.”
A new factor this time around at Talladega is a rules change by NASCAR that has been implemented with the intention of trying to limit the amount of time two drivers can stay hooked up in tandem while also providing for more passing.
The restrictor plate that will be used in practice will have openings that are increased by 1/64 inch to 57/64 inches in diameter, and the pressure relief valve on the cooling systems will be changed to reduce pressure by about eight pounds per square inch from that allowed in April at Talladega. Teams also will be prohibited from applying any substance to the bumpers, something that was done in recent races to aid in pushing.
Bayne said the new rules will cut down on the time drivers can run bumper to bumper.
“I don’t think we can stay hooked up as long with the water pressure being lower,” he said. “It’s going to be easier to blow off that water, and you don’t want to do that.
“It’s going to mean more switching [positions].”
And that, he said, could increase the likelihood of crashes.
“You’re going to have to be more cautious, kind of stay back a little bit or get up front and try to lead,” he said.
Despite his record of success, Bayne has had difficulty securing a drafting partner before the race, and this time around at Talladega is no exception. It’s one of the disadvantages of being with a single-car team in an environment where most of the top drivers belong to one of the multi-car camps.
With seven Ford teams in the mix, Bayne knows he could wind up starting the race with a driver from another manufacturer as his drafting partner.
“I’ve been working on it,” he said. “I found out last time that you have to be prepared. You have to have a running mate.”
Qualifying for the Good Sam Club 500 is set for Saturday at 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is set to get the green flag on Sunday just after 2 p.m. Eastern with TV coverage on ESPN.