DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Trevor Bayne has his Nationwide ride exactly where it ended the past two seasons: in front of the field.
The 2011 Daytona 500 winner earned the pole for Saturday’s Nationwide Series season opener. Bayne turned the fast lap during qualifying at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, averaging 177.162 mph around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway.
“This whole team, I’ve been talking them up all offseason, but that’s because they deserve it,” Bayne said. “This group of guys, they’ve won two championships in a row, and that’s for a reason.
“Ricky Stenhouse did them a ton of justice and he’s done a great job in that car, but I’m excited to be the guy driving it this year and we’ve started off with a bang here with the pole. It’s not a win yet, but it’s a good start.”
Former IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. will start second, followed by Parker Kligerman, action sports star Travis Pastrana and Austin Dillon.
Full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch (seventh), Matt Kenseth (ninth), Tony Stewart (10th), Brad Keselowski (11th), Danica Patrick (12th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (13th) and Kasey Kahne (19th) also are entered in Saturday’s 300-mile race.
Kyle Larson, a rising star in NASCAR’s ranks, will start 21st in his Nationwide debut.
All of them, though, will line up behind Bayne.
Bayne was the surprise 2011 Daytona 500 winner, taking advantage of tandem racing to get to Victory Lane. He ran a part-time Cup schedule for Wood Brothers Racing the past two years and also drove six Nationwide races for Roush.
And he believes his win at Daytona could benefit him in a race that still could see significant tandem drafting.
“Anytime you can get experience in Victory Lane at a race track it brings your confidence up when you go back,” Bayne said. “It’s crazy because every time I come to Daytona it seems like I get the best car of our fleet _ the best engine, whether that has something to do with our win or whether that’s just kind of the luck of the draw and the guys I have around me.
“For some reason, I just always get the best stuff here it seems like, and I’m happy to take that on.”