The Knoxville native couldn’t help but take up for his home state as the jet driers prepared to circle the racing surface in a scene that was all-too-familiar for anyone who endured a soggy NASCAR race weekend back in the spring.
“I promise it doesn’t always rain in Tennessee, but it does every time we come to town,” Bayne said.
It’s been nothing but blue skies – figuratively speaking – for Bayne at his home track lately. The 26-year-old has been highly competitive in his last three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at the track, finishing fifth, 12th and 11th.
After recording a fifth-place result in Michigan last week, Bayne has high hopes for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
“We’ve had some really strong runs here the last three races at Bristol, and we feel like at this point in the season we’ve had some good runs,” Bayne said. “We feel like this is probably one of our best shots to win a race and get into the Chase. Our cars have been pretty fast here, so we’ve put a lot of effort into this one.”
Recent success at the track makes Bristol a favorable place for Bayne to earn a spot in the playoffs, but a childhood spent watching races in the grandstands would make a victory on Saturday even more important to Bayne.
“It’s where I started watching racing and became a race fan,” he said. “I always wanted to race here, so to win here would be really cool. I think this would probably be my favorite place to get a win at just because all my friends and family are here.”
A victory would also continue an upward trend for Roush-Fenway Racing, which has shrunk to a two-car operation this year. In this case, Bayne believes the move has been addition by subtraction. With all the resources concentrated on two cars, Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have both been more competitive with Stenhouse virtually locking himself into the playoffs with two victories.
“In all honesty, I feel like Ricky and I do really well working together as teammates,” Bayne said. “I feel like our crew chiefs do well together. Our whole organization is more streamlined.”
Bayne sees Bristol as the perfect opportunity to join his teammate in the playoffs. And when push comes to shove on Saturday, he plans to do whatever it takes.
“Bristol presents a lot of opportunity for strategy,” Bayne said. “Jack (Roush) has obviously voiced his opinion about going for it and making sure we do everything we can to earn our spot. I’m excited to be here.”