That help came from the front bumper of Trevor Bayne‘s No. 6 Ford.
In the overtime restart of the Pure Michigan 400, Bayne restarted sixth – directly behind Larson.
A shove from Bayne helped Larson get by Martin Truex Jr. to take the lead and eventually win. Meanwhile, Bayne finished fifth for his first top five of the season. It’s only his fourth top five in 153 Cup starts.
“That’s what we needed,” said Bayne, who was slowed by oil dry put on the track during the preceding caution. “I went for it in Turn 3 and it didn’t stick. It got massive loose and ended up fifth. Third and fifth, that’s not a big difference. If I went home thinking I should have gone for it in three, I would be kicking my butt. But it’s a great day for our team. We needed this to recover a little bit.”
After the top five, Bayne is 19th in the points. It’s his first top five since the July 2016 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Bayne was at the front of the field even after a debris caution that Bayne didn’t want to see. Bayne and a number of drivers had their fuel strategies ruined by a debris caution with 14 to go in the original 200-lap distance of the race.
“We had fast car early on,” Bayne said. “We had fuel strategy at the end. Probably gonna have a shot to beat (Martin Truex Jr.) if it stayed green. Got a caution and I was like, ‘Oh man, here goes Indy again.’”
Last month at the Brickyard 400, Bayne was in a position to possibly win the race because of fuel strategy. But a caution kept him from having a chance to inherit the lead from drivers who pitted or ran out of gas.
Bayne is still in search of his first Cup win since his 2011 Daytona 500 victory.
“Man, when you’re in that position you have to go for it,” Bayne said of the final restart. “I wouldn’t have slept good at night if I didn’t stuff it in there and try something. It just didn’t stick. It feels really good for our team.”
His top five in Michigan comes after he failed to finish in the top 15 in the previous 11 races. At the same time, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has won this year at Talladega and Daytona.
Even if Bayne doesn’t make the playoffs, his goal is to make a “statement” in the final 13 races of the season.
“We’re still not in the (playoffs) yet and we have to keep pushing and making our cars faster and for Ricky’s sake, who is in the (playoffs),” Bayne said. “It feels good to be in contention. We still aren’t the fastest race car. We can’t beat them on raw speed, but we can put ourselves close with fuel strategy, tire strategy and trying to be in the mix in the end. And that feels really good from what we’re used to.”