The 22-year-old joked over the radio that he should have gotten married a long time ago after he concluded a stunning and exciting late-race comeback Sunday.
Bayne exchanged vows with new wife, Ashton, on Tuesday and celebrated their honeymoon by winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series DuPont Pioneer 250 at Iowa Speedway. He endured the long day that included a more than one hour rain delay for his first Nationwide win this season and second of his career.
The married couple was reunited in victory lane, Bayne’s pass with 11 laps remaining to pass Austin Dillon, who had led a whopping 207 laps.
“It’s such a special week for me,” Bayne said. “I was teared up at the altar on Tuesday and teared up on victory lane on Sunday.”
The Roush Fenway team was all smiles, including Ashton, who attended the post-race press conference. The victory was the fourth in the last five Nationwide races at Iowa Speedway for crew chief Mike Kelley, who guided Ricky Stenhouse to three straight wins here in 2011 and 2012.
“This team at Iowa has been so good,” Bayne said. “It’s such an opportunity and a blessing to be a part of this team.”
Bayne closed the gap and pulled alongside Dillon with about 15 laps remaining when Dillon seemed slower due to lap traffic.
The pair made contact and Dillon became loose, allowing Bayne to pass and pull away for the victory.
“We ran him down,” said Bayne, who earned a second straight top-five finish and fourth overall this season. “We were able to race him pretty hard.”
The long runs seemed to benefit Bayne more than Dillon. It played a factor that the race remained green for the last 72 laps after the fifth and final caution. The goal was to keep Dillon in sight for the late surge and it became a strong possibility about five laps before the final lead change, according to Bayne.
“We weren’t great on the short run, but the long run we could really get after him,” Bayne said. “I knew we had to keep that lead to a minimum, while he was fast on the restart, so we could catch him at the end of the run.”
It also marked the 200th win for a Ford car on the Nationwide Series, which began in 1982 and ranks second to Chevrolet (376). Kelley said the team had to make huge progress on the car’s setup to contend for a win and provide that wedding present they wanted for the happy couple.
“Actually, when we unloaded we weren’t that good,” Kelley said. “Trevor did a really good job of telling us where we were wrong and what we needed to work on.”
They had to make numerous adjustments during a day of inconsistent conditions that varied between sunny and cloudy and dry and rainy. They had to constantly adapt, preferring the cloud cover. The race originally was scheduled for Saturday night but postponed due to rain.
“Our car changed very dramatically when the clouds were out to when the sun was out,” Bayne said. “We picked up two-tenths versus the competition as soon as the clouds were out. That was part of the reason we caught Austin at the end of that run.”
The team has faced adversity on and off the track all season long. They have persevered through tests, so the conditions, including the long delay, were easy to handle.
“Days like today are becoming (easier) for us because of all the things we’ve had to go through,” Kelley said. “We’ve had people in and out, crazy things happen to us on the race track we’ve seen happen to us before (and) we have to go back and rebound.”
Dillon dominated nearly the entire race, leading 156 of the first 187 laps.
Instead, the power wasn’t there at the end to close out the dominating performance. He said the No. 3 car didn’t have enough drive into the corner and Bayne was better at the end.
“We could get a big lead but started fading fast at the end of those runs,” Dillon said. “That’s just part of it.”
He didn’t seem to have an issue with the late contact with Bayne, who made contact with Regan Smith during a restart before the rain delay that helped Dillon jump from fourth to first before the red flag.
“That was good racing,” Dillon said. “Nothing wrong there.”
Dillon posted his best finish of the season, earning his third straight pole. He now has six top-five finishes and seven in the top 10.
“We’ll keep improving,” Dillon said. “It was a good points day.”
Elliott Sadler recorded another top-five finish at Iowa Speedway. He placed third, but was too far away to challenge the top two. Sadler rebounded from a disappointed finish at Dover International Speedway last week.
Things appear to be moving in the right direction.
“We knew coming into Iowa we could be competitive and run up front,” Sadler said. “We showed that today. This is a good momentum builder for me and my race team.”
Sam Hornish Jr., who battled Dillon for early, finished fourth after leading 22 laps. He now trails season points leader Regan Smith by 23 points. Smith finished seventh.
Kyle Larson, the highest finishing rookie, rounded out the top-five.