Bayne started eighth but soon moved into the top five and took the lead for the first time on Lap 11. The youngster, who first showed his restrictor-plate racing prowess in winning the 2011 Daytona 500, continued to keep his pink and purple Warriors in Pink Ford Fusion among the leaders and used a push from fellow Ford driver Aric Almirola to regain the lead on Lap 53.
After leading three more laps, Bayne and the rest of the leaders made green-flag pit stops. A speeding penalty on pit road coupled with a flat-spotted tire dropped him off the lead lap, but the 21-year-old driver showed maturity as he put the set-back behind him and began working to rejoin the lead lap.
Bayne had worked the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford Fusion into the “Lucky Dog” free pass position when Kurt Busch crashed on the backstretch at Lap 99, putting the Warriors in Pink Ford Fusion back on the lead lap.
As the laps wound down, Bayne worked his way from 26th to fourth place at Lap 177 of the scheduled 188. He remained in and around the top five and was fourth when the caution flew on Lap 184 for a spin by Jamie McMurray.
Since the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team isn’t running for points, they opted to leave Bayne on the track when most of the leaders stopped for fuel.
The gamble didn’t pay off as Bayne’s fuel gauge began to flutter, so he drove to pit road just before the race’s final restart. But most likely the set-back turned into a lucky break as the drivers Bayne had been racing with were collected in a 24-car crash on the last lap while he steered clear to finish 21st.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was pleased with the performance of his driver and his No. 21 Ford Fusion.
“We were happy to run up front and lead the race,” he said. “Trevor had to come from the back twice through traffic, and you can’t do that without a good race car.”
He also had praise for Bayne’s strong run despite the setbacks.
“It says a lot about his maturity,” Wood said. “The car was strong enough, and he was smart enough to get back on the lead lap the hard way.”
Wood added that the results of Sunday’s race have given him and the team reason to be optimistic heading into next restrictor-plate race – next year’s season-opening Daytona 500.
“We didn’t get the finish we wanted, but the car was fast and Trevor did a good job driving it,” he said. “Even though we’re changing to a 2013 Ford Fusion and the car will look different, we know what’s under it will be good.”
Bayne and the Woods return to the track this week for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.