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Bayne Comes Home to Bristol While Annett Continues Recovery From Daytona Crash

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 Ford EcoBoost Mustang, is coming off back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and has moved from 26th to eighth in the point standings. Bayne hosted a Q&A session Friday morning in the Bristol Motor Speedway infield media center to discuss the start to his season and hopes for this weekend.
TREVOR BAYNE – No. 6 Ford EcoBoost Mustang – HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO BE HERE AT BRISTOL? “I’m excited. I’ve got my big puffy jacket on right now because it’s really cold here this weekend. I wasn’t expecting that. My motorhome driver told me there were flurries earlier, so I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully, we’re not making snow angels after the race like Kurt Busch a few years ago, but I am excited to be back. I got to go to Food City Race Night last night and hang out with a lot of fans and spend some time with them and we’re doing that again tonight, so it’s good from that aspect. And I also love the racing here. Bristol is one of my favorite tracks that I go to every year. We’re fast here and I have the most experience here than I do at any other track just from Hooters Pro Cup days and stuff like that, where I used to come here and make laps.”
YOU’VE BEEN IN THE CAR THREE STRAIGHT WEEKS. HOW IS IT TO FINALLY GET IN A RHYTHM AS OPPOSED TO THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS? “I can tell a difference already and it’s only been three weeks. Just the comfort level that you get after being in the car and being able to feel it and know what you need by race time. Even on the Cup races I feel like it’s helping me out. At Vegas last weekend, unfortunately, we weren’t able to qualify in the Cup car and kind of put us behind at the beginning, but I felt like our car at the beginning of the race was closer than it’s been in a while. Part of that is because they’re working on things to make it better and it’s a new car, and part of that is because I kind of know what I’m feeling a lot more when I’m in the car every weekend, and I can help them to understand what it needs. I think on the Nationwide side those cars have been so fast week in and week out and that just builds your confidence in yourself and in the team and the whole program. Last weekend, we got into the wall with the 32 and we were able to drive back from 28th to fourth and have a solid finish. You points race differently when you’re racing every weekend. It’s way different than trying to go out and win every race, so that you can get a sponsor and maybe continue to race or not, so I’m really comfortable in this situation that I’ve got and I feel like it’s helping me in every aspect from confidence to the competition side to the comfort level – just everything involved in it.”
HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP YOU TO RUN AGAINST GUYS WITH A LOT OF CUP EXPERIENCE RACING FOR THE NATIONWIDE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? “It definitely pushes the competition to the next level when you look at that. There’s guys like Sam Hornish, who is leading the points now, that has won Indy 500s and run for Indy championships, and guys like Brian Vickers, who has run in the Cup Series for multiple years, and Elliott Sadler. You’ve got new guys, like Austin Dillon, and Allgaier – there are so many names in the Nationwide Series this year and going into it everybody talked about how it’s gonna be one of the most competitive years that we’ve ever had and it goes back to 2009 when I came into this series and Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski and the Gibbs cars were running strong and it’s back to that level of competition, I feel like, so it makes us up our game and you know that every week you’ve got to be consistently in the top five. You’ve got to bust out a few of those wins and you can’t have the bad races. Daytona obviously put us behind at the very beginning with a part failure and we’ve tried to bounce back from that, and I think we’re meeting our goal every weekend, but, even at that, with two fourth-place finishes we still know that we need to step up our game and get to Victory Lane soon and click off those top-threes to be in this championship run by the end of this season because there is a lot of tough competition, which just helps us all.”
ARE YOU GETTING A SENSE OF HOW THIS THING IS GOING TO START TO PLAY OUT AND WHO WILL BE THE MAIN CHALLENGERS FOR THE TITLE? “I think going into it, before we ever got to the race track, we kind of knew who were going to be the contenders and we’re seeing that play out exactly as everybody talked about. The top seven or eight guys is what everybody predicted. I think the order is a little bit different than people thought it would be at this point, but it’s still three races in and people have had a bad race or two at this point, and there are guys that haven’t had their bad races yet, which will cycle out eventually. Normally it does because I’ve never seen a perfect season for anybody. It could happen this year, but I think at this point we see that the level of competition is what everybody expected it to be and that it is gonna be tough. There are guys that were a little underestimated, like Hornish, who have won races now and run up front every weekend. And then you have guys like Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler that everybody expected to be up front, so week in and week out the competition is gonna be up and I think we’ve got to focus on that championship now. You want to do it this early in the game. I’ve never done that before. It’s a different mindset for me because I’m used to going out and making the most out of the first five races and hoping that we get sponsorship and then moving forward, but, at this point, we know we’re gonna be around at the end of the season so we need to start thinking about that points battle and being smart with every position and making sure we don’t jeopardize ourselves. When you’re running fourth and you want to finish third, but you think it’s gonna wreck you and you’re gonna finish 20th, it’s not worth that one more spot this early in the game.”
DO YOU THINK HORNISH WAS UNDER THE RADAR? “Yeah, you can see that the guy is hungry. He’s driving Fords this year, which are really fast Nationwide cars with the Mustangs, and I think on the list of championship contenders he was probably in the top five or six, but I don’t know that he would have been at the top on everybody’s list, and, like I said, we’ve got a long season to play out ahead of us. Who knows what will happen, but winning a race is very important early in the season and they’ve done that. He’s a great guy and a strong competitor and he’ll be a guy we’re hopefully battling at the end for this thing.”
ON THE SPRINT CUP SIDE, DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE AT ANY KIND OF HANDICAP AS FAR AS ADJUSTING TO THE NEW CAR WITH YOUR LIMITED SCHEDULE? “I think by the end of the year that handicap will be bigger and bigger as they go on and they go to more tracks and they learn more about the car. Fortunately, we have the engineering support and the data support from Roush Fenway. I get the driver data from the EFI packages, which shows me a lot. Without that, I might be at a bigger disadvantage, but anytime you’re not in the car it’s a disadvantage, but I think that we can work through it and I think that gap is closer this year than it’s been for us in the past because they don’t have the experience with the new car. Everybody started out fresh this year and they might have a two-race advantage over us going into Texas versus a 60-race advantage over four years, so I think that gap is a lot closer and we’ll be able to be stronger early in this season. But as the year goes on we’ll have to pay attention and keep up with it because it will be a very quick pace as far as changes with this new car because people will figure it out as they go and with something new there is more to figure out.”
DO YOU HAVE A DANGER OF PUTTING TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF THIS WEEKEND? “No, I don’t think so. I think because we’ve been fast here and I’ve got more laps, it just makes me more comfortable. It seems like teams do better in front of the home crowd for some reason. Even though the noise is the same, when they’re pulling for you it helps, so coming home to Bristol makes it really sweet for me to be here and to have a chance to run with a top team for a win. Last year, we qualified on the pole. We were fastest in practice. The race before that we qualified second and ran up front all day, but now I’ve got to figure out how to win this thing and how to be up front at the end of the day when it matters, and I think a little bit of that is making sure that we’re not too fast in practice. Sometimes you can work on the car too much and get it too free, and I think that’s what I’ve done the past two races here, so if I’m not at the top of the board today, I’m not gonna go crazy and start freeing the thing up and hoping that we’ll be better at the end of the race here. We’re just gonna work on that and hopefully we can get a win for Ford with this being a Ford weekend. We’ve got EcoBoost on our car, which is gonna be cool, so there is a little bit of pressure that comes with that, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”
WHAT HAS TRAVIS PASTRANA SHOWN YOU AS A TEAMMATE SO FAR? “Travis has got a ton of drive. That guy, anything that he wants to do he wants to be the best at it. He didn’t come to NASCAR just to say he did it. He didn’t come here just to make laps and get experience, he wants to be good at it. To be good at something you have to be a listener and you have to be able to put it into action, and that’s two things he’s shown me so far this year. He asks the right questions and he puts it into action when you give him advice, so that’s something you want in a teammate. Last week at Vegas we got by him after I had been in the crash and we were driving through the field and he filed in right behind me and picked up everything that I was doing. In our meeting on Monday he talked about that. He saw what I was doing in the car and he instantly picked it up and put it to work, so that’s what you want to see, and I think he’s gonna have a lot of improvement. He’s shown speed by qualifying in the top 10 and running in the top 10 week in and week out. I think he’s gonna be around this sport for a long time, hopefully.”
Michael Annett, driver of the No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang, was at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday as he continues to recover from injuries sustained in a season-opening accident at Daytona International Speedway.  He spoke about the accident and the timetable for his return.
MICHAEL ANNETT – No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang – HOW ARE YOU? “I’m good. I was doing better until I got a cold yesterday and found out that sneezing is about the most painful thing there is, but, other than that, I’m doing good. I feel great. Honestly, I feel like I could be putting my suit on right now and going over to the car and get ready for practice. Unfortunately, my sternum doesn’t feel the same way. The pain is gone pretty much right now, but, like I said sneezing and there are certain things I do where I get a little bit cocky and think I can do more than I can and tweak it a little bit, but, right now, it’s just about time and everything healing back. They put two plates in, so it’s just gonna take time for those to fuse with the bone and the bone to decide it wants to stay in place where it’s at now.”
IS THERE A TIMETABLE FOR YOUR RETURN? “Initially, they said eight weeks right away. I have a doctor’s appointment Monday morning down at CMC (Carolina Medical Center) Main and meet with the surgeon. They’re gonna do another scan and we all heal differently. They said eight weeks, but they also said I would be in the ICU all night and I was in there for 30 minutes. They said I’d be in the hospital until Sunday and I was released two days early, so, hopefully, we can turn that eight weeks into six or seven, but I think Monday is gonna be a telltale sign of how quick everything is healing.”

WHAT HAPPENED INSIDE THE CAR TO ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN? “The biggest thing is we don’t know. Not only is RPM and the seatbelt manufacturer and NASCAR just really working hard to find out what did happen because the biggest thing is when a driver does get injured or a fan gets injured, or anything happens, NASCAR doesn’t stop until they fix it. But the best answer is we don’t know because my injury is something we haven’t seen in the past 12 years at least. They don’t know, but they’re gonna do everything it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

DO YOU HAVE A CARBON FIBER SEAT? “Yeah, I was in a carbon fiber seat, six-point harness. We’ve had meetings. We’ve met with a lot of people and everything did what it was supposed to. There are things they’re working on right now to improve on what we already have and that’s obviously something we’re gonna look into, but, at the time of the accident, everything was installed properly. Nobody did anything wrong. It was just that everything came together the worst way possible – the speed, the impact, the angle of the impact. Twelve years ago I wouldn’t be able to be standing here talking to you guys if we didn’t have the safety devices we have now.”

SO DID YOUR BODY JUST COME FORWARD INTO THE BELTS? “Yeah. The steering wheel hadn’t moved, it wasn’t bent. There wasn’t a mark on the helmet, a mark on the suit. It was pretty much my body stayed where it was supposed to and my sternum tried to come out of my chest. That’s all we do know.”

DO THEY KNOW THE IMPACT NUMBERS? “Yeah, they do, but it’s just something they don’t like to release. We know what it was and it was definitely high. The manufacturers of all the safety equipment we wear did its job and that’s why they test them at the numbers that I did hit at.”
CAN YOU RECAP YOUR INJURY AGAIN, PLEASE? “I’m feeling great. Honestly, this is the best I’ve felt in the past two weeks. We joke around about NASCAR being a family, and it’s actually nice to be here and see people like you and getting asked these questions just because when you’re away from the track you get forgotten about pretty quick, so it’s fun to be back. I would love to be putting on my suit and helmet and getting ready for practice, but I’m still gonna be able to go up on the spotter’s stand and help Reed out with the car and help our buddies at Roush out, and Pastrana, who has never been here, so I’m just trying to be a part of it and be around my guys.”
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THE ACCIDENT? “I remember everything. That was the most fortunate thing was that my head was fine. I remember from the time that, I don’t know if I screwed up or I remember what happened and how I reacted to the situation and hitting the wall and getting out and walking to the ambulance – everything. That was the first test we did was an MRI to make sure that there was no hint of a concussion – just all the things that NASCAR mandates now. Like I said, there were just so many things we have in the car now that I’m lucky to be standing here with the injury that I do and say I can be back in six to eight weeks.”
ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING TO STAY IN THE RACING MINDSET? “I’ve thought about that. Obviously, you keep hearing about iRacing and those computer simulations, but, to me, we didn’t really do anything in that three months during our off-season, so I think that’s just the hardest thing is I was so ready to get back. I don’t really consider Daytona getting back quite yet because you don’t use the brake, you don’t really do much other than just hold it wide-open, so it’s just adding onto that off-season. Hopefully, when we get closer to when we think I’ll definitely be coming back, we’ll try to do some testing and things like that just to get the feel back. Unfortunately, if I do come back in eight weeks, the first race back is Talladega, so I still won’t get to use the brake pedal.”
DID YOU KNOW IMMEDIATELY YOU HAD SOME SORT OF INJURY? “I think the first think, as all drivers do, as soon as you wreck you’re disappointed first, especially with where we were running at that time pushing Elliott. I think we were running second, third or fourth with three or four laps to go, so as soon as you come to a stop you first make sure the car is not on fire and get out as quick as you can. I started walking to the ambulance and kind of do the normal ‘shake it off’ and let the adrenaline sit down. I got my helmet off and unzipped my suit and just kind of felt everything and it honestly felt like there was a golf ball on my chest. The infield care center medic was kind of waiting around like we always do for three or four guys to get in the ambulance and save some trips and I kind of looked at him and said, ‘We’ve got to go. We’ve got to get in there quick.’ So we got to the care center and they started the exam. They called the ambulance and said, ‘We’re going over to Halifax pretty quick,’ so we knew it was pretty serious at that time.”
ANY IDEA WHY THE CRACKED STERNUM WASN’T DIAGNOSED AT HALIFAX? “The biggest thing is that at Halifax they did all the tests they normally do in a trauma situation. They did the scan there and everything came back negative. In trauma situations they don’t necessarily pick out one thing. They wanted to make sure the heart, the vessels, and everything was clear and they did that and made sure I was stable, and then it just became a part of the NASCAR clearing process – kind of like I said about getting the MRI done – and then they sent me over to Ortho Carolina, who has orthopedics and surgeons over there, and they do a more elaborate test and got the whole chest and that’s when they noticed the separation. When that test came back the first thing the doctor said was, ‘I’ve never seen this before, and I can understand how they missed it because this is something that we just don’t see.’ It’s a testament to NASCAR and everything that they’ve implemented when something like this does happen. I was 10 minutes down the road at CMC Main with an orthopedic surgeon and a heart surgeon – cardiovascular, everybody, over there looking at that scan and within 10 minutes of them seeing that scan, I was in a gown and had surgery scheduled the next morning. That’s just a testament to how quick the NASCAR liaisons and everybody gets us through this process once something bad like this does happen.”
WHO IS THE SEATBELT MANUFACTURER? “It’s Schroth and, like I said, everything did its job. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here. We sat in a meeting this week and saw pictures of a brand new set of belts and then my belts after the wreck and everything was correct. It was six-point harness. NASCAR is working on implementing a seven-point harness, which is something I’m definitely gonna look into, but, right now, everything did its job and everybody on the team did their job.”
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE READY TO COME BACK? “The plates are staying in for sure. I didn’t even ask that question. I guess I just always heard about people getting plates. I think Pastrana has 30 in him, so I knew the plates were probably staying in. If they took them out, that would just slow down the healing process. But the biggest thing is that scan Monday. Those two bones and all the tendons and tissue that need to hold them together need to fuse back together. Pain-wise and feeling-wise, I could race tomorrow afternoon, but it’s not about comfort when everything is going good, it’s when everything goes bad that I need to be healthy.”
YOU WERE A HOCKEY PLAYER AT ONE POINT. IS THIS COMPARABLE TO ANYTHING YOU HAD HAPPEN IN THAT SPORT? “In hockey the coaches definitely didn’t care about you as much as they do in NASCAR. In hockey, I remember getting stitches on the bench and popping shoulders back in place and we were on the ice in 30 seconds. So they definitely care about you more here, and that’s the biggest difference. The only thing I could relate to is when somebody asked earlier about if I knew something was wrong, you definitely know when something is out of place or broken. I knew right away, like I told that infield care medic, I said, ‘We’ve got to go.’”

WHAT POSITION DID YOU PLAY? “I played defense. I’m obviously not a big guy, so I was definitely getting a lot of shoulders put back in place.”
WHEN YOU SAY GOLF BALL ON YOUR CHEST, WAS IT LIKE YOU HAD SWALLOWED ONE OR SOMETHING? “Yeah, it just honestly felt like a golf ball underneath the skin. They thought it was just a contusion. One thing I can say is from the day that it happened the swelling from that definitely went down by three-quarters to at least a half-inch. You see that sometimes. If you bang your knee, you’ll have a golf ball there in 10 seconds. That’s just part of going back to it’s just a contusion. When you have that much swelling it’s hard to see on some of those scans.”
DID YOU SEE ANY OF THE FANS WHO CAME IN FROM THE ACCIDENT WHEN YOU WERE AT HALIFAX? “The first inclination I had was when they were putting me into the scan. The trauma surgeon came in and grabbed one of the nurses and said, ‘We’ve got eight traumas coming in,’ and immediately I thought, ‘There’s either a wreck on the interstate or there are some fans involved because there aren’t eight NASCAR drivers hurt.’ So I knew something then. They got me stable and put me into a room and at that point I saw the TV and said, ‘Leave me alone. I’m comfortable. Get out there and help them because they’re a lot more important right now.’ It was probably about 30 minutes after it happened that I knew.”
DID YOU SEE OR MEET ANY OF THEM? “No. They put me into that scan room, but initially where I went is where they brought all of those fans. They took me to a CT room and from there you moved to a more stable room, where they don’t give you as much attention. Then there are eight trauma beds, so from that room they brought me on an elevator up to the room I stayed in overnight, but it was definitely an interesting experience. I never thought a few years ago I would by lying in a hospital bed and the King walks in and pokes you on the chest and asks you ‘what’s going on here.’ So it was an interesting day, but something I’ll never forget. When I look back on it, it’s a pretty cool thing about some of the people that came to see me.”
CAN YOU DO ANY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND IS THERE SOME TEST YOU HAVE TO COMPLETE BEFORE YOU COME BACK? “The biggest thing is they said, ‘Please, don’t lift anything. Don’t use your arms to move your body weight.’ That was the one thing I really notices from that Sunday to Tuesday when we really knew what was wrong was that’s what hurt the most and how many things are connected to your sternum. But there is no specific test. We were actually just joking up there on the trailer. Sammy Johns asked me when I was gonna be able to get on a zero gravity treadmill, where you don’t really feel anything but you’re still getting some cardio. I said, ‘I’ve been on the elliptical for the past two weeks working out,’ so it’s just things like that that we’re hoping are moving forward a lot quicker than people think they will.”