At least, he is now.
"At first when I started thinking about it, I didn't know if I wanted to be a Nationwide guy again," the former Daytona 500 champion said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "But you get a sponsor like that, you have to take that opportunity."
Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday that Bayne would return to the Nationwide tour in 2014 in a No. 6 car backed by AdvoCare -- which currently sponsors the vehicle of Austin Dillon, a Richard Childress Racing driver bound for full-time competition in the Sprint Cup Series. Ultimately that's where Bayne wants to be as well, but sponsorship dictates a return to the Nationwide ranks with occasional Sprint Cup starts as he's done the past three years.
Bayne said the plan is to continue to run a limited slate of Sprint Cup starts next season for Wood Brothers Racing, the team with which he won the Daytona 500 in 2011. He's also after team co-owner Jack Roush to let him make some Sprint Cup starts in the organization's No. 6 car, which was shuttered as a full-time program due to a lack of sponsorship following the 2011 campaign. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made four starts in the No. 6 last year before moving full-time into the team's No. 17 car for this season.
"That's not from Jack Roush or anybody," Bayne said, "that's just my hopes and what I see happening. Hopefully, we can get something going there."
If Bayne sounds a tick impatient to accelerate his Sprint Cup career, it's with good reason. The season after winning the Daytona 500, he had to run part-time Sprint Cup and Nationwide schedules because of sponsorship concerns. This year is his first full-time stint on the Nationwide tour since 2010, and next year will be his first without a sponsorship shortage.
For a 22-year-old driver with a victory in the Great American Race already on his resume, progressing via such baby steps has been a painfully slow process. Patience has been a difficult lesson.
"Tough. Very tough," Bayne said. "It's been the hardest thing for me to learn. It's just been trying for the last few years. But I'm still here, I still have an opportunity with Jack Roush. He's been committed to me, and I've been committed to them to work this thing out. He's developed great race car drivers, and he knows what he's doing, and we're going to work together to make it to the next level."
Even so, he can see the benefits of taking it slowly. Although Bayne won early this season at Iowa, his No. 6 team is only just emerging as a Nationwide contender thanks to top-10s in six of his past seven starts. Bayne entered Friday night's race at Bristol eighth in the standings, 73 points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr.
"I think Joey Logano would tell you he felt like he moved too soon," Bayne said, referring to last week's Sprint Cup winner, who broke into NASCAR's top series as an 18-year-old. "I'm not throwing him under the bus, I think he's done a great job. He's developed really quick. One side of me says, I just want to get in a Cup car and get experience. And the other side of me says, this is a great place to be, in the Nationwide Series."
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