Bayne powered past Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards after a restart on Lap 194 of 200 and held off hard-charging Denny Hamlin for the victory in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Bayne crossed the finish line .142 seconds ahead of Hamlin, who started from the rear of the field after Kyle Busch, scheduled to drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was parked for the weekend for wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in Friday night’s truck series race.
Edwards, who dominated the event until the final caution flew on Lap 189, after Jason Leffler scraped the Turn 4 wall, came home third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski.
Coincidentally, Texas was the track where Bayne first started feeling sick in April from what was assumed to have been an insect or tick bite. Illness sidelined the 20-year-old driver for approximately six weeks, and during that time he underwent extensive tests for what he believes was Lyme disease.
For Bayne, 2011 has been a year of extreme highs and lows—from the Daytona 500 win to the illness to intense criticism two weeks ago at Talladega for breaking a promise to drafting partner Jeff Gordon to Saturday’s maiden win in the Nationwide Series.
“I don’t know if you could script a story like the year I’ve had,” Bayne said. “It’s crazy to think only one year ago I was making my first Cup start (at Texas). To come back to Texas and get our first Nationwide win, this is a place I’m going to love from now on.”
Series leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished sixth and expanded his margin to 17 points over polesitter Elliott Sadler, who finished ninth.
Bayne pushed Edwards out front on the Lap 194 restart, then ducked inside his teammate and fought for the lead. One lap later, he secured the top position and held it the rest of the way, as Hamlin passed Edwards for second in the closing laps.
“Going into the last restart, I knew that our car was going to be really strong for a short run,” Bayne said. “We were able to push Carl out front, and once he got out front, we actually cleared the 18 (Hamlin). Had I not cleared the 18, I don’t know if we could have won the race, but fortunately we had enough power to get by him and get to the bottom and get on Carl’s left rear a little bit and get by him.
“These are the kinds of (races) you’ve always wanted to win as a driver. That’s the driver I want everybody to know that I can be, the guy that can get it done at the end, and I’m glad that we were finally able to do that.”
Notes: Danica Patrick ran 11th in her first Nationwide start since Oct. 8 at Kansas. … Kenny Wallace finished 13th in his series-record 520th start. … Bayne’s victory enabled Ford to clinch the Nationwide Series manufacturers’ championship. … The win was the 299th for Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR’s top three series combined. … Bayne tied the record for least laps led by a Texas winner—six. … Edwards led 157 laps, the second-most laps he has led in a Nationwide race he didn’t win. He led 160 laps two months ago at Richmond, finishing second to Busch.