By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 winner ready for Phoenix Nationwide series challenge
Following an eventful season-opener at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads west to Phoenix International Raceway for Saturday's Bashas' Supermarkets 200.
Trevor Bayne has become somewhat of a NASCAR media darling over the last week since his record-breaking win in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. With the win, there were questions as to whether or not Bayne would change his NASCAR status to declare himself eligible for Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year and, at the same time, make himself eligible to contend for the Sprint Cup title. Bayne decided to stick to his original choice, though, and remained eligible for the Nationwide Series championship trophy by continuing to accumulate points in that series.
"We are still very much after that Nationwide championship, and we are still in the hunt for a good partner (sponsor) to come join us in that run," Bayne said. "I'm looking forward to getting back to racing in Phoenix."
After a 10th-place finish in last Saturday's Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, Bayne finds himself fifth in the Nationwide points standings.
Saturday's race -- the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 -- will be the fourth Nationwide Series start for Bayne at PIR. Phoenix isn't one of Bayne's best tracks, as he has an average finish of 20th there. In this race a year ago, a crash resulted in a 32nd-place finish. In the most recent Nationwide event at PIR (last fall), Bayne finished 14th.
Most of those previous PIR starts, though, came from behind the wheel of a Diamond-Waltrip Racing entry. He was in a Roush Fenway Racing-prepared car in last fall's event, as he will be again this time around. Phoenix is a track where the Roush organization has found success, and Bayne is hoping that PIR success rubs off on him. With 53 all-time starts in Nationwide competition at Phoenix, RFR has eight wins, 20 top-fives and 36 top-10s to its credit. Four of the last PIR Nationwide Series race trophies have been claimed by Roush drivers, including a win by Carl Edwards in this race a year ago.
"I think we can have a good weekend," a confident Bayne said.
To have a good weekend, Nationwide Series-wise, the reigning winner of the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 will be among his competition, as teammates Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also plan to be in this weekend's Nationwide race field, hoping to add to team owner Jack Roush's PIR success.