In this week’s edition of NASCAR Head-2-Head (H2H,) we compare Austin Dillon and Trevor Bayne and summarize their seasons to date along with our opinion on who has the competitive edge right now.
Each week, we’ll pick two drivers in similar circumstances – i.e. at a similar point in their careers, similar backgrounds, held in a similar regard among fans or who have developed a rivalry between them. Statistics from their careers-to-date and season-to-date will be analyzed, as will driver ratings, current streaks / slumps and fan sentiment. We’ll put them head-to-head and give you our winner.
Be sure to let us know what you think! You may comment below or reach us via our social media channels. Also, if there are two drivers you would like to see compared, be sure and let us know that as well.
Dillon’s 2016 season has been up and down, and that’s both good and bad news. Good in the sense that when he hits a slump, it usually doesn’t last too long and bad that because when he puts together a string of solid finishes, the momentum doesn’t sustain itself too long either.
The season began well, with Austin scoring top-10 finishes in four of the first six races, highlighted by a fourth at Martinsville in early April. In one of the two races in which he finished outside of the top-10, he finished 11th at Atlanta. He rebounded from last summer’s viscous wreck at Daytona by finishing ninth at the season-opener. Dillon was also strong in practice and qualifying, earning three top-10 starts in these same six races, highlighted by a pole at California in March.
The next eight races saw Austin complete 96.1% of the laps, but only record two top-10 finishes. This portion of the season did see him net his best finish of the season with a 3rd at Talladega followed up with a 6th at Kansas the following week. Unfortunately, those were the only two solid finishes during this stretch. Dillon also recorded his worst season-to-date finish in this stretch, which was a 37th at Pocono in June following a crash on lap 117. He was completing laps, but the finishes just weren’t there.
Getting Back On Track
With the exception of Watkins Glen (31st,) the balance of the season beginning with Michigan in June through Darlington has been OK for the No. 3 team. Austin had four top-10 finishes during this stretch and the six races where he was outside the top-10, he was in the top-20. This has helped him in the point standings as he and RCR team mate Ryan Newman are making bids for earning Chase berths to showcase their seasons.
What Needs To Happen At Richmond
Chase is in the position of controlling his own destiny this weekend at Richmond to earn a Chase berth — he needs to finish eighth or better and he’ll be in regardless of what happens with any other driver. In the event of a new winner this weekend, he’ll get in with a finish of ninth with at least one lap led or 10th with the most laps led. With a repeat winner, a Chase Elliott victory or Chris Buescher dropping out of the top-30, he will get in with a 15th and no laps led, a 16th and at least one lap led or 17th with the most laps led. NFL Wildcard playoff-clinching scenarios are less complicated.
Although there have been some bright spots for both Bayne and his Roush-Fenway Racing (RFR) team mates is 2016, the season has mostly been a search for speed, results and consistency. Bayne has only five top-5 finishes to date this season – Bristol (April), Talladega (May), Dover, Daytona (July) and Watkins Glen. He has a decent percentage of laps completed at 96.7%, so that is evidence that the finishes just haven’t been there for the No. 6 team.
We have seen this scenario before with RFR teams. Several years ago, team principal Jack Roush blamed the problem on bad simulation data which in turn affected setups, research and development and to a lesser extent, personnel moves aimed at addressing those issues. Unfortunately, it seems as if the organization is still playing catch-up. It’s time to stop making excuses. Endless echoing of “we’re getting there” is getting old. RFR’s inability to hold on to some key personnel is also telling, but that’s another story.
Where To Salvage Some Optimism
Bayne does not give up, and would certainly seize the opportunity for a win at Richmond if able to do so. He has completed all 1000 laps at Bristol’s two events this season, showing that he can stay out of trouble that often materializes at short tracks. He was 17th at Richmond earlier this year, again completing all 400 laps. That’s the first order of business on any short track — stay out of trouble and on the lead lap. Bayne is always positive and upbeat, and such a strong mental attitude will go a long way toward his confidence and his ability to motivate the team as well.
What Needs To Happen At Richmond
Similar to Dillon, Bayne also controls his own destiny this weekend at Richmond, however the scenario is both simple and challenging. Bayne needs to win at Richmond. Period. The end. Right now, assuming we don’t get a repeat winner and that Buescher maintains his spot in the top-30, there will be three drivers who get in on points. Bayne is eighth in line of those drivers and is 83 points below third-place on the list. There are a maximum of 44 points available, so the math just doesn’t work without a win.
Because of his career accomplishments which include two series championships, his popularity among the fans, his higher season-to-date driver rating and in all likelihood a spot in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Austin Dillon wins this week’s Head 2 Head battle over Trevor Bayne. It is true that Bayne is a Daytona 500 Champion, but Dillon has proven his talents over extended periods of time.
What do you think? Does Dillon come out on top in your mind, or does Bayne prevail? Be sure and let us know what you think, and if you would like to see two drivers paired together, let us know that as well!