Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Fusion, led for 12 laps and had the right fuel strategy to contend for the victory before a rash of late race cautions relegated the Roush Fenway Racing team to a 15th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) event at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
“We were hoping that caution didn’t happen,” said Bayne after the race. “We probably could have had a shot at the win there, I think, if it stayed green. We were done pitting. We were good to the end on gas and those guys were going to have to come again. We were on fresh tires, so we went for it and it just didn’t work out unfortunately. I was really happy with my car today and at times we were the fastest car on the track and that’s all you can ask for, so I’m real happy with that. This was a gamble we’re willing to take to go for the win.”
Bayne began the rain delayed 334-Lap event from the 12th position after advancing to the third and final round of knockout qualifying on Friday afternoon. Bayne maintained his track position inside the top 15 until the first caution – a competition caution – came out on Lap 28. When the race went back to green, Bayne reported to crew chief Matt Puccia that the AdvoCare Ford had developed a tight handling condition.
Puccia took advantage of a green-flag pit stop on Lap 74 to make a chassis adjustment to the AdvoCare Ford in the hopes of rectifying the handling condition. The adjustments paid off as Bayne had one of the fastest cars on the track during the green-flag run that proceeded but was unfortunately trapped one-lap-down to the race leaders.
Bayne never gave up and raced his way back onto the lead lap via the free pass on a Lap 134 caution. Once back on the lead lap the Knoxville, Tenn. native began to march forward, cracking the top-10 for the first time on a three-wide move following a Lap 220 restart. The climb didn’t stop there as he battled with Roush Fenway teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr for several laps before moving into seventh on Lap 254.
As the green-flag run progressed, crew chief Puccia began to crunch the numbers and realized that Bayne could make it all the way on fuel on just one more pit stop if they stayed out a handful of laps longer than everyone else. With this strategy in place Bayne raced his way into the lead on Lap 260 and paced the field for the 12 laps that followed before coming to pit road for what was hoped to be the final pit stop on Lap 275.
An inopportune caution three laps later put all the leaders back on the same fuel strategy as Bayne and shuffled the driver of the AdvoCare Ford back to the 15th position.
In the closing stages of the event, Bayne was involved in a multi-car incident on Lap 294 that damaged the nose of the car. Despite the damage, Bayne continued to fight and brought the AdvoCare Ford home with a 15th-place finish.
Next up for the NSCS is Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 17.