LAS VEGAS -- Trevor Bayne's crew chief Mike Kelley said he was impressed with his young driver's perseverance in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After all, Bayne rallied to a second consecutive fourth-place finish after hitting the wall, nearly hitting a crew member on pit road and having to fend off some ravenous competition in the waning laps as his car was running out of fuel.
But it wasn't until after the veteran Kelley looked over Bayne's dinged and taped and scraped No. 6 World Financial Group Ford Mustang on pit road that he really gained an appreciation for this particular top-five finish.
"I didn't realize it was as tore up as bad as it was, so to come back and finish fourth is a testament to the group I've got and our driver, Trevor Bayne, who stood up on the wheel all day and battled adversity and got us a top five,'' a proud Kelley said.
The afternoon actually began quite promisingly. Bayne, who started on the outside of the front row, led twice for 21 laps and at times early looked as racy as anyone in the field, including winner Sam Hornish Jr.
But while racing for the lead on Lap 87, he collided in Turn 4 with rookie Kyle Larson. The two cars ricocheted into the wall and had to pit for repairs. Bayne's Roush Fenway Racing team made quick work of his Mustang and he never went down a lap, while Larson's car suffered more substantial damage.
"He (Larson) put it on my door,'' Bayne said, still sounding a little frustrated with the situation after the race. "He's gonna learn what air does. I had to learn the hard way and wrecked a few times and wrecked a few people. It just stinks we were battling for the lead there.
"He was really fast but I don't think he quite grasps the concept of side force yet and he'll get that. It's not something you learn when you get here, in short track racing you don't use that. So it's just by experience you figure it out.''
Bayne methodically worked his way up through the field following the incident as tape waved off the rear end of his banged-up car. He was already back running among the top 10 with 50 laps remaining and was fourth on the final restart with seven laps to go.
Even as his car was running out of fuel, he held off Elliott Sadler and challenged third-place Brian Vickers.
The fourth-place effort moved Bayne up three positions in the standings to eighth and he trails fifth-place Regan Smith by only eight points and leader Hornish by 32 in his quest to answer Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s back-to-back series titles in the car.
It's definitely righted the ship after a disappointing 31st-place finish in the season opener at Daytona.
"Even with this thing all torn up, we had a chance at the end and I'm just so proud of these guys for not getting down on me and not getting down on the situation,'' Bayne said. "We fought back and that's what it takes to win championships.
"I couldn't ask for anything more.''
Kelley was equally as complimentary of the 2011 Daytona 500 winner Bayne. The new pairing had high expectations considering Kelley's championship work with Stenhouse and Bayne's eagerness at such a high-profile, full-season ride.
"For never working with him before, the last two weeks he's proven to me he's destined to be a champion in this sport and has earned his right to be a mainstay in the NASCAR series,'' Kelley said. "He has all the qualities and things you look for in a great driver and I'm just fortunate I'm working with him.
"A day like today is what actually puts you in line to win championships. You don't win championships for winning races as much as recovering from really bad days and getting decent finishes out of them.''
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