Podcast: Trevor Bayne needs to ‘rebuild reputation’ as driver

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In the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that Matt Kenseth would be returning to Roush Fenway Racing in a part-time capacity for the rest of the season, the odd man out was Trevor Bayne.

Kenseth and Bayne will share the No. 6 Ford with Kenseth making his 2018 debut May 12 at Kansas Speedway. What’s in store for them both beyond this season is unknown.

When Kenseth talked with NASCAR America’s Marty Snider after the announcement, he had yet to talk with Bayne about their new situation.

“I’ve known Trevor for a long time,” Kenseth said. “Trevor is a great, great guy. Nobody likes being in the spot he’s in necessarily right now. But I think after he thinks about it for a few days and what he really desires and what he wants out of it, knowing Trevor, I think he’s going to come in and work even harder and try to be better. So I’m looking forward to having that conversation.”

Bayne’s prospects going forward were discussed on the latest NASCAR America Debrief podcast episode with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte.

Both agreed the 2011 Daytona 500 winner will need to work to “rebuild his reputation” as a driver, with Letarte comparing Bayne’s potential future to the career of JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler and Earnhardt likening it to Justin Allgaier‘s.

“Trevor Bayne’s in a position much like Justin Allgaier was in years ago where he’s got a partner that believes in him in AdvoCare,” Earnhardt said. “If I’m him, I’m on the phone with them right now and talking to them, ‘Do you want to work with me in the future, we can go over here and look at this opportunity or look at this opportunity in Xfinity or the Truck Series,’ wherever it is. I would be trying to make sure I have a very strong relationship with them because that’s going to be the key to making any move to continue his driving career.

“He’s unlikely to get an opportunity that’s rewarding without some financial support.”

Earnhardt added: “He has to rebuild his reputation as a race car driver and that’s the only way to do it, is to go win races and run well.”

Letarte said he believes the situation between Kenseth, Bayne and Roush Fenway is “past awkward” given Bayne’s results. He has run in the top 15 in 10.5 percent of the laps run this season. 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).

“I think if anybody finds this awkward, then shame on them,” Letarte said. “Let’s just be honest. Stats tell a pretty accurate story. Comparing your teammates, comparing the field, there’s a hundred different ways you can do this. If at any point Trevor Bayne is shocked or anything like that, then shame on his own management team and Roush Fenway for leading him down this path of disbelief that everything was going to be OK.

“Should he be upset? Sure. Emotion comes into it. Is it going to be awkward the first time they meet? Yes. But I think Trevor Bayne should be and I will say is smart enough to realize, ‘the more awkward this is, the worse it probably is for me.’ ”

Letarte also assessed how he viewed Kenseth’s return for the future health of Roush Fenway despite the lack of detail about how long the deal is with the 2003 series champion.

“I love the fact that they didn’t try to put structure around everything,” Letarte said. “Not every road trip can be planned, A -to-B, every stop. Sometimes you have to say, ‘Hey man, it’s cold here, we’re heading south, we’re going to get on 85 and see where we go.’ And that’s what I heard from Roush Fenway. ‘Where we’re at is no good. We’ve been to the right and it’s no good, so we’re going to go to the left and that involves Matt Kenseth.”

Earnhardt believes Kenseth will return to Roush next season as the full-time driver of the No. 6.

“That’s my hope if I’m an owner of the car, that this change brings performance,” he said. “I think that’s what Matt wants. And Matt said that he doesn’t think he’s a long-term solution for the 6 car. He sees an opportunity to try to improve the team and help the team on all fronts.

“He comes in there and does really well in the car, fires up some partners, sparks some interest from Corporate America to get involved in the team, and then they can move on to the next season with Matt as the full-time driver. I don’t believe you keep Matt and Bayne together as a part-time deal. That doesn’t happen.”

To listen to this week’s NASCAR America Debrief, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Stitcher, here for Google Play, or play the Art19 embed below.

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Podcast: Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the best (and only) driving advice he got from his dad

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his late dad gave him only one piece of driving advice, but that small bit of wisdom went a very long way.

“It was such a great lesson, and he did such a great job giving it to me,” Earnhardt said on this week’s NASCAR America Debrief podcast. “I’m really surprised he didn’t give me any more (lessons), because he taught me really well in this particular situation.”

Well enough to sweep the Cup-Xfinity weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2004.

After those dual victories, Earnhardt credited some advice he had gotten from his seven-time champion father about driving the 0.533-mile oval.

During a practice session at Bristol, Earnhardt Jr. made laps while his dad talked him through it on the radio and guided him on when to hit the accelerator and let off.

“He took the whole lap and wound it back counterclockwise,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He basically was teaching me to get in the corner easier and off the corner harder. I was overdriving the car. It made the lap more about momentum and timing and rhythm. This made driving Bristol really easy.

“We never set down and talked about how to draft. ‘You see me doing this, this is why.’ He never would do that, but that one time I guess he saw me struggling pretty bad (at Bristol).”

The anecdote amused fellow podcast and NASCAR America guest Dale Jarrett, who had been stymied in his attempts to draw knowledge from “The Intimidator.”

“I’m glad to hear that, because I had a complex,” Jarrett said with a laugh. “I thought he just wouldn’t talk to me about driving. Every time I tried to pick his brain. He would not talk about driving a race car whatsoever. He would not talk about setups.

“He didn’t care what you had. He knew he was better than you, so he didn’t care how you might be going about it. If you beat him, it was because you had something he didn’t. That was his philosophy. I thought for sure he was talking to (Dale Jr.) about things.

“You can talk to other drivers. You go try to have a conversation (with Dale Earnhardt) about a certain track, he wasn’t going to have it. He’d totally change it. He’d talk T-shirts, hats and diecast cars and him going hunting.”

“What he thought was important,” Earnhardt Jr. said with a laugh.

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast, which appears every week after the “Wednesdays With Dale Jr.” episode of NASCAR America on NBCSN.

It also is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.