BRISTOL, Tenn. — With Roush Fenway Racing facing a crossroads of sorts in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, it was announced at the end of July that veteran driver Mark Martin would return to the organization to serve as a driver development coach.
However, Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway, two of the team’s Nationwide Series drivers, Trevor Bayne and Chris Buescher, indicated Martin’s work with the team began long before the announcement was made on July 31.
"Mark has been heavily involved over the past couple of months, I’d say, in all of our team meetings," said Bayne. "Mondays, we go back to the race shop and break down every part of the race: pit stops, what the cars were doing, how we could be doing better going forward, and how we can be better than last time. Every driver, every engineer, every crew chief is involved with that meeting, and other people in the shop, so Mark Martin has been a part of that. He gives his opinion on things, whether that’s a driver standpoint or his experience with race cars."
While Bayne already has a Daytona 500 victory under his belt and will be making the jump to Sprint Cup in 2015, the team’s other two Nationwide Series drivers — Buescher and Ryan Reed — are rookies who are absorbing as much as they can from the seasoned veteran.
"Mark has been a huge asset adding back to Roush Racing," said Buescher. "Obviously with the history Mark has, and the talent he has, and everything he can bring to the table will help us going forward. For rookies like me and Ryan, we just need as much help as we can get, especially going to a lot of these places for the first time."
Bayne said the team’s reliance on Martin’s contribution is "endless" and changes week to week with the different challenges they face at the different tracks they visit.
"Having someone like Mark Martin around with the experience he has and the wisdom of racing, and just overall experience, that’s something you can’t trade for anything else, guys that have been through it and seen it all," Bayne continued. "Mark is someone I will heavily rely on and talk to. I look forward to building that relationship and learning from him."
Trevor Bayne looking to avoid further conflict
This year’s NASCAR Nationwide season has been one of ups and downs for Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne.
The 2011 Daytona 500 winner has a total of four top-fives and 16 top-10s, but has also found himself in some precarious situations on the race track, often resulting in crashes and, ultimately, two DNFs.
Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bayne said some of those situations have been of his making, while others have been bad luck and being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, racing against the wrong people.
"Some of it is me putting myself in positions I shouldn’t have been in, being impatient, kind of like at Watkins Glen," he said. "But some of it is the cars haven’t been as fast as we’d like them to be. So you have to race really hard to keep your spot, especially when you’re racing around 10th place. That’s where a lot of guys are battling hard. That’s the majority of the field in that seventh to 15th range; everybody is kind of capable of that range. So that’s the hardest racing in the field, I feel like."
However, not all of the incidents Bayne has been involved with so far this year have been of his making. With a fresh crop of rookie drivers and others with little Nationwide experience, Bayne has often been the victim of another’s mistake.
"Part of it, too, is some guys not knowing the limitations of a Nationwide car yet," he said. "I feel like we’ve been caught up a couple times in things not of our making, even though some of them were. It’s just being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Chris Buescher sending sheet metal to patient champion Luke Benner
During last week’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio, a number of teams carried the likeness of children from the Nationwide Insurance Children’s Hospital.
When Chris Buescher took the checkered flag to earn the win, he did so carrying Luke Benner on the hood of his car. After earning the win, Buescher dedicated the win to Benner and spent time with him in Victory Lane.
Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Buescher said the team is in the process of sending Benner and his family some sheet metal from the race-winning carl.