BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Trevor Bayne understands patience and economics and paying of dues, but the widening of his eyes and the quickening of his speech underscores how much he wants -- how much he believes he deserves -- to be in Sprint Cup full time. As in last year, this year, next year.
But it didn't happen, and it's not happening next year. So he will continue perfecting the art of being a NASCAR driver and the most patient 22-year-old ever. And he'll continue perfecting his driving ability with another full season in the Nationwide Series.
"Very tough, man," Bayne said. "It's been the hardest thing for me to learn and it's been trying for the last few years. But I'm still here. I still have an opportunity with Jack Roush and they've been committed to me and I've been committed to them to work this thing out and he's developed great race car drivers and he knows what he's doing, and we're going to work together to get to the next level."
The work, as announced last week, will focus on another full season in the Nationwide Series in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford and occasional work in the Wood Brothers' No. 21 or Roush No. 6 in Sprint Cup, depending on sponsorship.
"As of right now I would be back with the Woods car and hopefully partially -- I want to get the 6 back out there myself -- but that's not Jack Roush saying that," Bayne said. "That's just my hopes and what I see happening, but hopefully we can get something going there."
Bayne in 2011 became the youngest to win the Daytona 500, at 20 years and 1 day, but the toxic potion of a poor sponsor environment and months lost because of a bout with Lyme disease sapped any momentum he and RFR could have reaped from the narrative of a personable and presentable young history-maker.
Bayne was four points off the Nationwide lead in the standings before missing six races in 2011. Friend and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went on that season to win his first of two titles, and this season is a Sprint Cup rookie full time. After running limited Cup and Nationwide programs because of sponsorship woes last season, Bayne has returned for what would be -- barring more calamity – just his second full Nationwide campaign. He has a win at Iowa and is ninth in points, 67 off the lead.
Bayne has contested 43 races farmed out to the Wood Brothers since 2010. If the sponsor climate was different, RFR president Steve Newmark said, Bayne likely would have transitioned into Cup like team driver Carl Edwards and run overlapping seasons in Nationwide.
"I think 10 years ago he'd probably be running both [Cup and Nationwide] right now," Newmark said. "Under Jack's philosophy, he would probably be running Nationwide as well, but he probably would be doing dual. And you know, if you look at it, he has been doing dual in some respects. He's been running half-seasons, so he's been getting a lot of experience. We see him progressing up to Cup. It's just a matter of time."
Bayne assuages his eagerness by reassuring himself that time spent in the Nationwide Series will better prepare him to compete when he finally becomes a full-time Cup driver. The sport is chocked with examples of drivers who graduated prematurely, struggled initially before improving, or never improved at all.
"You want to dominate at what you're doing before you move on and we've got to do that. We haven't done that yet and we're looking forward to the day we do that," he said. "I think Joey Logano would tell you he feels like he moved too soon. And I'm not throwing him under the bus or anything, he's done a great job and he's developed really quick. So one side of me says I just want to get in the Cup car and get experience and the other side says this is a great side to be, in the Nationwide Series."
Newmark said that although Bayne "has shown clearly, at times, he's ready for Cup," there is no concern of stagnation within the organization. Stenhouse returned to Nationwide after winning the 2011 championship and returned to repeat before advancing to Cup.
"Everyone progresses at different rates," Newmark said. "The thing is, everyone has different experiences. Travis Pastrana doesn't have a tenth of the racing experience on pavement that the other guys do. Ricky was three years in Nationwide and that seemed to be the right progression for him. It's really different for every driver based on their level of experience, their age and other factors that contribute, obviously, [to] the general state of the sport."
All true. But it's still difficult for a 22-year-old to wait through.
"I think Trevor has done an unbelievable job, a lot better than I would have been able to at his age," Newmark said. "The bottom line is he has a passion and he wants to drive Cup. There is no question about it. That's what you want. I think you want drivers who believe in themselves and believe they can win championships at the Cup level, and I think Trevor wants to be that.
"I think if you gave him his choice, he would have been running full-time Cup the minute he stepped in a race car, but he's also mature enough to know he needs to keep coming to these tracks, learning the nuances and getting that experience. He's been great, and it's actually been refreshing because he has the maturity beyond his years."