TALLADEGA, Ala. — Trevor Bayne said Friday that his health is not an issue but offered little else in a brief statement, his first public comments since the news that Matt Kenseth will take over some of the races in Bayne’s No. 6 Ford this season.
“First of all, my health is 100 percent,’’ Bayne said standing at the back of the team’s hauler in the Talladega Superspeedway garage. “I am as fit physically, mentally and spiritually as I’ve ever been to do my job well.
“The second part is that my desire is still as it has always been since I was 5 years old, to come to the race track every week and contend for wins and championships and be a driver at the top level in the Cup Series. Nothing in that has changed. I’m still going to pursue that because I feel that I have the ability to do that. But right now I don’t have much more to add to that. I want to respect all your’s time. I know you have a ton of questions after everything that has happened this week, but if you guys can allow me to come into the garage and talk to my team and work through this weekend, I’d love to have that opportunity.
“I’m coming here to win Talladega as I had planned to do before any of this. That’s what I’m going to do.’’
Bayne spoke less than 90 seconds.
Bayne later talked to FS1 during its broadcast of the opening Cup practice. After a question about how he ran, Bayne was asked about how tough it is to keep in the right frame of mind after the news of this week, Bayne said: “I’m a competitive person. I want to be in the car every week. That’s my desire, always been my desire but what do you do?’’
Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday that Kenseth’s first race in Bayne’s car would be May 12 at Kansas Speedway and that Kenseth will drive in the All-Star Race the following week. The rest of Kenseth’s schedule has not been announced.
Teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said Friday that he talked to Bayne this week and offered some advice. Stenhouse can relate in a way. He was pulled from his ride in what is now the Xfinity Series for two races after several crashes during in the 2010 season. He came back and drove in all but one of the remaining races that year.
“I told him just to keep his head down and go out and keep running races, prove to everybody that you’ve got what it takes and don’t really listen to anything, whether it be fans, media or what other teams say,’’ Stenhouse said. “Just do your deal.’’
While Roush Fenway Racing has struggled this season, Bayne’s performance has trailed that of Stenhouse. Bayne has run in the top 15 in 10.5 percent of the laps run this season (Stenhouse is at 39.9 percent). Bayne’s average finish is 23.9 — compared to 19.5 last year — and he ranks 25th in the series in average running position (23.0).
“Really, when we look at last year, (Bayne’s team) and (Stenhouse’s team) were fairly close in overall performance, the 17 (of Stenhouse) was certainly better and certainly that split got greater this year and that’s just … not the direction we’re wanting to continue down,’’ Tommy Wheeler, operations director for Roush Fenway Racing, told NBC Sports this week.