The key to Trevor Bayne's resurgence

Ask Trevor Bayne to point out the key to his resurgence this season, and don’t be surprised if the word “AdvoCare” turns up somewhere in his answer.

The key to Trevor Bayne's resurgence
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Race winner Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing Ford celebrates
Victory lane: race winner Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing Ford celebrates
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford pit action
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Jack Roush
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

A shameless sponsor plug? Maybe. But the 25-year-old driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford has experienced an uptick in his performance since he partnered with his sponsor, on the track and off.

“That relationship has been one of the best relationships — if not the best relationship — that I’ve had in all of my career with a partner and a sponsor for more than one reason,” Bayne said of the sports performance product company.

“They’ve committed to sponsor every single race, which is incredible at this level. But beyond that, the people in that company and the distributors, they are all super fit people, and it motivates you to keep fit yourself and keeps you accountable.”

Like many young racers, Bayne didn’t realize he was out of shape until he started working out. When he arrived on the NASCAR scene at 16, energy wasn’t an issue. He made his K&N Pro Series debut in 2007 and two years later spent a half-season in the Xfinity tour. After a full season in NXS, his breakout came the following year when he won the 2011 Daytona 500 in the venerable No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in just his second Sprint Cup start.

A lifestyle overhaul

Bayne appeared destined to be the next great young gun in the sport — but his career stalled after the win.

Until last year, the most Cup races Bayne had run in a single season was 17 in 2011. With the longer races, Bayne knew if he wanted to perform at the top level in NASCAR, his routine had to change. After the young racer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013, a lifestyle overhaul was in order.

His secret weapon?

Before AdvoCare was courted by Roush, Bayne was already customer. Over the last two years, Bayne has incorporated more aerobic activity to build his endurance.

“The product is incredible, and it’s been really good for me to take it to keep me fresh and hydrated before the races. It’s been a big part of my routine and helps me in the car. Also, being around fit people — like the distributors — you can’t be an overweight race car driver and out of shape if you’re going to work for AdvoCare.

“I feel like now is the most that I’ve ever been. I’ve been running a lot more. I’ve been running 25 to 30 miles a week and doing a little bit of road biking. I did a 5k the day after the All-Star race. We got home at 2 a.m. Woke up at 6:30 and had to go run that 5k for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and did pretty well with that.”

After winning his segment in the Sprint Showdown the night before to transfer into the All-Star race for since 2012, Bayne had plenty of incentive. He improved his personal best record in the 5k by three minutes and finished first in his age group.

Over the last few years he’s witnessed drivers and crews step up their exercise game from veterans such as Johnson and Matt Kenseth to new wave of young stars entering the sport. The competition has heated up off the track as drivers monitor each other’s workouts via a fitness app.

Going the distance

Bayne, who is an AdvoCare distributor along with a variety of crewmen in the garage, credits the product with allowing him to recover quicker whether he’s running or racing. He’s seen a number of over-the-wall athletes incorporate the supplements into their daily routines.

“My fitness program has come a long way and a lot of that is due to the product,” Bayne said. “You don’t realize you’re not fit until you are fit. For me, I never would have said before, ‘Man, I was tired through that race. I don’t think I got it all,’ because I felt like I wasn’t tired. But since I’ve become more fit, I feel more fresh at the end of every race.”

Traditionally, tracks such as Bristol and Dover take a heavy toll on drivers' bodies, but 600 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway is no small task either. Over the course of a race, Bayne usually loses around 10-pounds of water weight. The dehydration also has a tendency to affect a driver’s cognitive skills as well.

“During a typical race at Bristol, by Lap 499 you’re praying for that race to be over,” Bayne said. “Your head’s taken off, you’re worn out, you’re dehydrated.

To me, the fresher you are in the race car, the better you are at making decisions. Now, you can tell the difference between the guys that are fit and the guys that aren't with the decisions they’re making, the lap times. Sometimes it’s not the drivers, maybe they don’t have a long-run car but I think the fitness side of it is starting to factor in and you’re noticing a difference.”

A need for speed

From a mechanical standpoint, Bayne has observed a notable difference in the Roush Fenway Fords this year — particularly when it comes to generating speed. Although the ride might not always be as comfortable as Bayne might like, a fast race car can mask a number of issues.

“The cars don’t drive any better, they’re just going faster while they’re driving bad,” Bayne said. “Your car always feels like there’s something wrong. It’s just a matter of how fast are you willing to drive it like that?

"At Roush, we have more speed. If you look at Vegas from last year at the test day, we were like a second-a-half off. This year we’re all qualifying closer to the final round every time. I think we’ve made the final round two or three times more this year than we did all of last year.

“We just have to keep working on it.”

Bayne believes the looser-style aero package plays into his hands — and his teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Both driver prefer the feel to the high downforce cars of the past.

In his last five starts, Bayne posted one top-five finish and three top 10s.

On Thursday, three Roush Fenway Racing cars transferred to the final round in qualifying for the first time in two years. Bayne will roll off 10th for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 — matching his best-career starting position from 2011.

Since the cars are fast off the truck with the new aero package, the team can concentrate on other areas of performance.

“Even last year (low downforce setup) helped our cars in particular for whatever reason — we’re not even sure yet," Bayne said. "We’ve been trying to figure that out so we can make it even better.

"But I would say we’ve had some personnel gains, we’ve had some aero gains and it’s just the way that Roush is working as a group that has contributed to the change.”

Moving forward together

Key to Bayne’s team specifically is the addition of veteran crew chief Matt Puccia, who moved to the No. 6 team this season after five years with Greg Biffle.

Bayne came close to working with Puccia in 2011, but is grateful for this latest opportunity.

“I’ve always had a great relationship with Matt,” Bayne said. “He’s always been one of those guys that would go through the shop and seek out the other drivers for more information. I think that’s a great thing to do to get an idea what everyone thinks. We would have a lot of conversations before he ever crew chief-ed my car.

“Matt’s a real attention-to-details kinds of guy. If you look at some of the most successful crew chiefs in the garage — Chad Knaus (48), Rodney Childers (4), Paul Wolfe (2) — that’s what they are. They were all racers that have either driven something or worked in racing their whole life. They understand that the details are where the speed is found. So with our cars being so sensitive with the aero platform, if you don’t have a guy that’s aware of the details, you’re in trouble.”

Bayne acknowledges the team effort of the No. Roush Fenway Racing crew. He’s impressed with car chief Joe Williams’ ability to execute Puccia’s game plan. Roman Pemberton, Bayne’s spotter, “has kept me out of trouble this year. I have no DNFs. Plus, RFR upgraded the team engineering by moving Troy Raker over to the Bayne’s crew.

“The biggest thing is you can have all the best people, but if they don’t clique and get along and work together with the same mindset and goals, it doesn’t always work,” Bayne added. “I feel like that’s something really strong that we have going for us this year.

"Matt and I get along great — away from the racetrack and at the racetrack we have the same goals and mentality and so does everyone else in the group. It’s really working out well.”

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