By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
- Bayne fit after mysterious illness
- Patrick absent for 9 races
With the NASCAR Nationwide Series heading to Chicagoland Speedway for Saturday’s STP 300, two drivers will make their anticipated returns to the series -- Trevor Bayne and Danica Patrick.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to NASCAR,” Patrick said.
Bayne returns to Nationwide Series competition after more than a month of being sidelined for a medical condition doctors still haven’t figured out the root cause of. Bayne’s No. 16 Nationwide Series car from Roush Fenway Racing is fresh off a win, claiming victory with Matt Kenseth behind the wheel last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We are all glad to see Trevor back in the seat this weekend,” crew chief Chris Andrews said.
Bayne last drove the No. 16 car to a sixth-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway on April 23. He temporary left the ride while occupying a spot in the top-10 of the series driver points standings. After missing five races, Bayne is in 16th position, 54 points outside the top-10.
“I am thankful to be able to get back into a race car, and I am going to savor this moment forever,” Bayne said. “We as race car drivers are so blessed to be doing this for a living, and I think we take that for granted sometimes.”
Bayne has two Nationwide Series starts at Chicagoland Speedway under his belt but no finishes inside the top-10. His best finish at the track was a 12th, scored in 2009. So far in 2011, Bayne has one top-five and five top-10 finishes in eight races.
Meanwhile, Patrick returns to the series after a nine-race absence as she focused on her IndyCar efforts. In her early-season Nationwide Series stint in the JR Motorsports No. 7 car, Patrick achieved the honor of best finish ever for a female driver in NASCAR national level competition when she finished fourth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. When she last left the series after four races, she was ninth in driver points.
The race at Chicagoland on Saturday will be Patrick’s 18th in Nationwide Series competition since joining the series on a part-time basis at the beginning of the 2010 season. She has one Nationwide start at Chicagoland. She raced there in the series last season, posting a 24th-place finish.
“To be able to race at Chicago for a second time in a stock car is exciting, too,” Patrick said. “I think I’ve made some gains since we were last there. It won’t be easy, but hopefully we can continue to build on our progress from earlier this year.”
The STP 300 is scheduled to take the green flag at approximately 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. It will air live on ESPN, with coverage to start at 7:30 p.m. ET. The race can also be heard live on MRN and Sirius XM channel 90.