Trevor Bayne is set to drive the No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet in the final four races of the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season.
Bayne made his Gander Trucks debut at Darlington Raceway in September in the No. 40 Niece Motorsports truck, switching to the No. 45 in his past three events at Richmond Raceway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway — his first four career starts in the series.
In claiming a second-place finish at the 2.66-mile Alabama oval, Bayne nearly took away a victory before the caution came out on the final lap to seal the win for Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie driver Raphael Lessard.
“Five, six weeks ago, I thought I‘d never run another NASCAR race,” Bayne said. “So, to have a shot to come (to Talladega) and win, to be competitive at Bristol, it‘s been a lot of fun and I‘m really thankful to be back.”
The 29-year-old driver last competed in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2018, appearing in 21 of the 36 points-paying events in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. His last race was at Texas Motor Speedway in the fall of that year.
Since then, Bayne and his wife, Ashton, have spent much of their time in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, kick-starting his coffee business, Mahalo Coffee Roasters. Along with that, he‘s earned quality family time with his three children.
“We‘ve enjoyed our family time, but it‘s still in my blood,” Bayne said. “When this all came up, I was in the middle of building a race car to go racing for fun. So, if I can (do this) as a job again, if you can call it a job. Now that I‘ve worked in the real world, I don‘t know if you can. Coming back and racing is a blast. If I can do it full time, competitively, run for championships, I would love to do that.”
The 2011 Daytona 500 champion isn‘t ready to hang up his helmet, noting he never wanted to leave the sport. Bayne has relied heavily on his faith to point him in the right direction on what the next step in his career should be, believing competitive years are still left ahead.
“I‘m 29 years old, kind of headed toward the peak of what I feel like could be my career in your 30s, and He pulled us out of it,” Bayne said. “I feel like it‘s really given me a ton of perspective and I‘m really grateful to be here. If He pulled me straight out of the 6 Cup car and threw me in a truck, I‘m not ungrateful and appreciative for runs like this, but even at Richmond and Darlington when our trucks were broke, I still tried to enjoy every lap. That‘s the perspective I want to bring back. I want to come back just to be thankful to be here. But I want to win and run well.”
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While it‘s been an up-and-down ride with three finishes of 27th or worse since his return, Talladega offered more confidence in the direction the team is heading with the veteran driver at the wheel. With his racing schedule next year uncertain, Bayne is making the most of his unexpected seat time.
“I‘ve really enjoyed my time here so far,” Bayne said. “It hasn‘t gone the smoothest, but we‘ve been fast when the truck‘s going. I‘m thankful (team owner) Al Niece and (crew chief) Cody Efaw called me to come and do this and try to get their team back on the rails. They did a great job last year with Ross Chastain and contended for a championship. I wanted to have the right opportunity.
“Driving race cars and finishing 20th isn‘t that fun, so if you have a shot to win a race and run up front, then it‘s a great opportunity and that‘s what they‘ve given me. We‘ll see what happens for next year.”