NASCAR driver Bayne enjoying return to his roots in short track racing

Posted July 22, 2012, at 8:02 p.m.
Last modified July 22, 2012, at 9:51 p.m.

OXFORD, Maine — Trevor Bayne is 21, but looks much younger.

The Knoxville, Tenn., native, who became the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 at age 20 in 2011, was the featured NASCAR Sprint Cup driver at Sunday’s 39th annual TD Bank 250.

He qualified 33rd while getting back to his roots. He went on to finish 32nd in the race.

“I grew up short track racing on asphalt,” said the personable Bayne. “I’ve always loved it but I haven’t done it enough in Late Models. So this has definitely been a learning curve for me. It’s a challenge.

“It’s fun,” added Bayne.

Bayne was off to a good start in the Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway Racing this season, posting three top-10 finishes in five races before a lack of funding suspended his season. He will run one more Nationwide race this season, he said.

He will also run eight races in the Sprint Cup Series for the Wood Brothers race team.

There is speculation that he will assume Ricky Stenhouse Jr’.s full-time ride in the Nationwide Series next season because Stenhouse will move up and take the departing Matt Kenseth’s place in the Sprint Cup series.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” said Bayne. “It’s a definite possibility.”

Bayne could also wind up in a full-time Cup ride.

So far in his young career, Bayne has posted 30 top-10 and 12 top-five finishes in 84 Nationwide Series races and three top-tens in 25 Sprint Cup races. He has a win in each series.

Bayne had a unique thrill a month ago when he got to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game.

“The Red Sox lost in extra innings,” said Bayne. “I got to sit with [Red Sox principal owner] John Henry and Jack Roush. It was cool.”

Taylor back in car

Former nine-time Oxford Plains Speedway Pro Stock champion Jeff Taylor of Farmington qualified seventh for Sunday’s race in just his second race of the season. He went on to finish second in the race.

The owner of Distance Racing Products in Fairfield said business at his shop has been “too good,” which has kept him out of the cockpit.

“I’m in the toy business and these [race cars] are people’s toys,” said Taylor, who has just one full-time employee, Sean Laplant.

Taylor finished sixth in his only previous race in the American Canadian Tour this year.

“After working on other people’s cars all day, the last thing I want to do is work on my race car after work,” said Taylor.

He figures he has 12-15 Distance Racing Products (chassis) in the 250 this year.

But the TD Bank 250 has always been a special race for him. He began qualifying for it in 1989 and finished second in 1995.

He felt his car was “the best it had been.”

“It hadn’t been very good to be honest but we re-engineered it,” said Taylor.

He said expectations have changed over the years.

“When we finished second, we led some laps and I was just happy to be earning some tire money,” said Taylor, referring to the $100 drivers earn for every lap they lead.

Now, his goal is to win the race.

He finished second in the first heat race to earn the seventh starting spot.

“The heat race is the best time. Your car is a fresh as it’s going to be and the tires are as good as they’re going to be,” said Taylor.

Rolfe earns pole

Albany Township’s Ricky Rolfe won the pole for the TD Bank 250 by winning the first heat race.

“It’s exciting. It feels good to be in the race,” said Rolfe. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to lead some laps. That would be pretty easy [lap] money.”

Rolfe is a regular on the American Canadian Tour and is currently seventh in points.

He is in his third season on the tour after being a regular at Oxford Plains Speedway.

“It’s fun. I like to race at different tracks and meet other fans,” said the 48-year-old Rolfe, who finished second in the 2004 TD Bank 250 behind Turner’s Ben Rowe.

Rolfe went on to finish 24th in the race.

Martin having strong year

Frenchville’s Shawn Martin qualified 24th for the race after having his car change unexpectedly.

“It had been loose in practice and then it got tight during the heat race,” said Martin, who finished fourth in the sixth and final heat race.

He said he has been having an “awesome year” as a Late Model regular at Oxford Plains Speedway.

He is currently second in points and has top five finishes in all but two races.

“I was sixth in one and had a [did not finish] in the other,” said the 33-year-old Martin, whose team was going to loosen up his race car for the 250. He went on to finish 11th in the race.

Martin, who now lives in Turner, lined up next to Fort Kent’s Austin Theriault for the heat race which was won by Theriault.

“Austin’s one of the guys you know you can race with [cleanly],” said Martin.

Theriault said the feeling was mutual, and he talked to Martin before the race about the importance of racing clean and qualifying for the 250.

The two began their racing careers at Caribou’s Spud Speedway.

Steuben’s Robinson Jr. qualifies

Four drivers who were or are current Speedway 95 regulars tried to qualify for the TD Bank 250 and one of them, current Pro All-Stars Series driver Rowland Robinson Jr. of Steuben, qualified.

Robinson won one of the last chance races to earn the 34th spot on the starting grid. He finished 35th in the race.

Current 95 Late Model regulars Shane Clark, Joey Doyon and Ryan Deane of Winterport failed to qualify.

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