The two were at the Knoxville Police Department headquarters on Tuesday to promote the upcoming Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Bayne has two top-10 finishes in eight starts at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” and scored an Xfinity Series pole in 2012 with a car that paid tribute to legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. Finchum has a win the NASCAR K&N Series at the .533-mile concrete oval.
In April, both raced in the Food City 500 at BMS. Bayne, in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford, was 24th. Finchum, driving the No. 66 Toyota, finished 33rd.
“When I get to go back to Bristol, it takes me back to where it all began,” said Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion. “In Cup, it’s so serious. You watch the interviews and wonder if anyone is having fun anymore. When we get to come back to Bristol, it reminds me of how fun it is and why I like to do this. Bristol is such a special track. It’s physical and I feel it’s a place where my training comes in. If you’re in good shape or not, it makes a difference at Bristol.”
Said Finchum: “It’s really special when we get to come to Bristol. It’s my home track and a lot of times I get to sleep in my own bed. At this level you’re traveling so much, so that’s a really cool factor. Any time a driver wins at a racetrack, you’re kind of sold that’s your track, so Bristol is big for me.”
BACK HOME AGAIN
Last October, Bayne and his wife, Ashton, sold their North Carolina home and moved back to Knoxville to be closer to their families. They met as sophomores at Gibbs High School, where Ashton’s parents are still teachers. Trevor Bayne’s mom, Stephanie, runs three day care centers in the area.
“We’re loving it. To have a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old where they only saw their grandparents once a month, we didn’t like that,” he said. “We love Knoxville. We both loved growing up here and we wanted our families to be around our kids.”
Beyond the support with his young children, the move back home has helped Bayne get through the tough times after car owner Jack Roush announced the team was taking him out of the No. 6 Ford for selected races and putting former Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth in the car.
The situation doesn’t sit well with Bayne despite the added family time, which has included visits to the Knoxville Farmers Market and a long-awaited beach trip.
“I’m still not happy about being out of the race car. But for us as a family, we had to take advantage of it,” Bayne said. “I want to be in the race every week, but you can’t fight it. I’m like, ‘I’ve got seven races this year and let’s make the most of them.’
“Then enjoy the time off that we have. The few years of my life, I’ve been gone every weekend and kind of forgot what normal life was like. We’ve tried to not just live in a place of anger and frustration. It’s been good for my confidence to see Matt Kenseth, who has won races and championships, get in the car, have similar results and give similar feedback.”
As for next season, Bayne hasn’t ruled out any options — even going back to the Xfinity Series.
“I don’t race for a paycheck,” he said. “You’ve got to make a living, but racing has to be fun and I’m too competitive to go out and be mid-pack. I want to be in the best equipment I can be in.”
WORKING HIS WAY UP
Finchum, the 2013 Kingsport Speedway track champion, is starting his Cup career and working his way up in lower-tier equipment for independent teams. His ultimate goal for the Night Race is to finish in the top half of the field.
“Being with a lower-budget team, we don’t have the luxury of the big horsepower motors or the aerodynamic bodies,” he said. “We are more competitive at a short track. If we’re a 25th- or 30th-place car on a superspeedway, I don’t see a reason we can’t be in the top 20 on a short track. That would be awesome for us.”
While he wasn’t in a competitive car for the Food City 500, his first-ever Cup race, he is still grateful for that opportunity. He had the chance to practice alongside NASCAR champions Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. and race against Bayne.
“I’ve always said I want to make it to that level and race against those guys,” Finchum said. “When I got my opportunity, it was humbling. I’m honored to be where I’m at. There was a point in my racing career where I kind of hit a dead zone. I raced at the local tracks like Kingsport Speedway. We were doing well, but I never did think I would catch my break. Now to be there, it’s awesome.”