Bayne, Gilliland and Ragan press conference at Daytona

Press conference with Ford Fusion drivers: Trevor Bayne – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane, David Gilliland – No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops, and David Ragan – No. 34 CSX/Farm Rich.

Bayne, Gilliland and Ragan press conference at Daytona

Trevor Bayne – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO STAY IN GOOD SHAPE? “To me, I’ve been working really hard this off-season to get more fit and with my diagnosis last year I wanted to turn everybody away from that by showing them that I can do everything that I did before. So this off-season I’ve been working out about three hours every day – from 8 o’clock to 11 o’clock – and that’s kind of been my routine. It’s been really good. We’re doing the triathlon style training and that’s been fun for me because it mixes it up with the swim, the bike and the run and we’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing Ford

Photo by: Trevor Horn

WHAT WAS IT LIKE GETTING THAT DIAGNOSIS? “At first, you don’t want to hear something like that. You always want to be invincible and when you find out you’re not – we all know that in the back of our minds but we don’t really think about it – so, for me, when I got that diagnosis it became reality. It was tough at first, but I knew that God wasn’t just doing that to do it. He’s seen me through everything, whether it’s been good things or bad things. I knew that He was gonna stand by my side through all of it and, to me, it’s just another platform to reach people for Christ and it just gives me something as a daily dependence on the Lord to sustain me and keep me going every day.”

HAVE YOU HEARD FROM FANS WITH MS? “Yeah, it’s been really cool getting their feedback. They all send magazines with articles about ways to get better – all kinds of stuff – and it’s all because they care. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had symptoms or anything like that, so it’s been nice, but there are fans that do and I want to be as supportive for them as they’ve been for me. It’s been a huge encouragement with all the people that have reached out.”

YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE THIS IS GOING TO AFFECT YOUR DRIVING DO YOU? “I hope not. For me, at this point, it does not and hopefully it never will, but none of us can be 100 percent sure of anything and that’s for sure with this. I said you can’t be sure, but you can be sure of that. To me, it’s just taking it day by day and I’ve been great so far, and hopefully it will stay that way.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS FAITH IN YOUR LIFE? “It’s everything to me. That’s why I’m here. It’s my purpose and in this even it gets me through it. Without my faith in Christ, I wouldn’t really have my value, I wouldn’t have my meaning and my purpose and that’s what gives me purpose.”

HOW LONG DO YOU WANT TO KEEP RACING? “I guess as long as I can. I want to be a Sprint Cup champion one day, so however long that takes, and then hopefully you can do it more than once. It might take a few years after you get the first one, but I see this as being the only thing I’ve ever done and the only thing I’ll hopefully do. I’ll stay in it as long as I can be competitive.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE COMING BACK HERE? “Coming back to Daytona is special every year. For me, when you drive into this place it just feels different than any other race track, so you get used to it a little bit year after year. But then you watch the old races and you realize how big of a deal the Daytona 500 is and just to be a part of it is really special to every driver.”

WHERE DID YOUR WORK ETHIC COME FROM? “I think it’s just our drive for competitiveness and our work ethic is what gets us here, and that’s why when you see us at this level and you see the work ethic that we have, that’s the reason we are here. Every person in this room that is a driver and has a firesuit on has had some level of sacrifice or dedication to this. It doesn’t come easy. You have to work at it, especially when you get to this level. Growing up in go-karts or Allison Legacy cars, for me it kind of came easy. I didn’t have to work that hard to be good at it, but once you get to this level and everybody is that talented, you do have to outwork the next guy. That’s why Jimmie Johnson runs eight to 10 miles a day and all the training that he does, that’s the little bit of edge he thinks he can get on everybody else. There isn’t much you can do as a driver during the week to be better. You can’t go practice every week like a football team. You’re really limited in things you can do, so those little things you have to make the most of them.”

DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST WHEELS? “I had a big wheel when I was really little, but my first ride was a dirt bike when I was three years old with training wheels on it. I was riding it around until my parents took the training wheels off and then I started crashing everywhere and that’s why I got my go-kart when I turned five.”

DO THESE CHANGES GIVE YOU A BETTER CHANCE OF MAKING THE CHASE THAN BEFORE? “For me as a part-time driver, I choose to run Nationwide full-time, so I don’t have an opportunity to run for a championship because I choose the points for Nationwide Series to run full-time. Next season, if we were able to run Cup full-time as a rookie going into this series, it does give you a bigger opportunity because you’re gonna have a learning year. Somebody like Ricky Stenhouse, it gives him a better chance this season because if he gets one win then he’s in the Chase. It’s harder to be consistent when you’re new to a series, so I think it does create a little bit of an atmosphere for that.”

DO YOU THINK THE MAKE-UP OF TRACKS IN THIS SERIES IS A TRUE INDICATOR OF THE CHAMPION? “I think so because once you get into the Chase, those 10 races that are in that are diverse. You have a lot of different tracks. You have short tracks, you have superspeedways, you have mile-and-a-halfs. You have Homestead, which is kind of one on its own, so I think other than road courses it’s such a tough and diverse series of 10 races that I think the true champion will rise to the top.”

SHOULD A ROAD COURSE BE IN THE CHASE? “I don’t think that’s gonna define your championship. When you have a bunch of guys that grow up racing ovals, a majority of them are – there are very few that come from an all-road course background maybe an AJ Allmendinger or somebody like that – but for us I think it’s a good mixture of races right now as it is for those 10 races.”

A LOT OF YOUNGER GUYS HAVE SAID JIMMIE JOHNSON IS THEIR ROLE MODEL. “I think what Jimmie Johnson does deserves that a little bit – on the track and off the track. That guy pushes his body and pushes his limits, and the teamwork that him and Chad have together and the whole Hendrick group, that’s what you want. You want that chemistry with your crew chief. You want that work ethic off the race track when he’s going out and running 10 miles a day. You want who he is in the media and how he carries himself, and then he wins at the end of the day – so the reason a lot of guys might want to be like Jimmie Johnson is he wins at the end of the day and gets it done. That’s something we all look forward to doing and he’s the guy that we’ve grown up watching do it.”

SO THAT’S AN ACCURATE FEELING ABOUT YOUNGER DRIVERS AND HOW JIMMIE IS VIEWED? “I definitely believe that. Why wouldn’t you if he’s the guy that has won six championships in our era, which is really tough. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt did that, but it was a different era. Now it’s so close and so competitive and so tough, not saying it wasn’t back then, but it is different now and I think if you have a guy that can show dominance year after year with the series being so tough and so close there’s some kind of edge there that you look for.”

AND HE’S APPROACHABLE TOO, RIGHT? HE’LL TALK WITH YOU. “He will. I remember I was at Talladega last year I was out doing my running and here he comes by me. He was running a little quicker than I was, but he slowed down and we started running together and talking. He’s always approachable and just seems like a pretty humble guy and that’s what you want.”

WHAT ABOUT KIDS WHO SAY THEY WANT TO BE LIKE YOU? “That’s the thing, we all have to have that rope above us that we’re trying to climb, so you’ve got to have that guy that’s higher up the rope that you’re pulling up. We use that in our discipleship program and our faith as Christians we talk about that all the time. You’ve got to have the guy above you that you look up to and there is gonna be somebody below you that looks up to you that you have to be a role model for and you have to pull up that rope, so that’s how it goes. It’s awesome to have people call us and ask us questions because I still feel young and I don’t have all the answers, but having teammates like Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed who have come to me a lot this season is cool to have a chance to speak in younger guys’ lives that are learning now as they go.”

SO IF YOU WIN A RACE THIS YEAR IT WON’T GET YOU IN THE CHASE? “I’m not sure about the team. It may get the 21 team in the Chase, but as far as driver points I’m not eligible as a Nationwide driver.”

David Gilliland – No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion – YOU TWEETED A PICTURE FROM YOUR DRIVE YESTERDAY THROUGH THE SNOW. HOW WAS IT? “It was an adventure that started on Monday. I was scheduled to drive my motorhome down here on Wednesday and obviously with the storm coming we had to change our plans. We were gonna fly down on the Roush plane and then it got moved up a couple days, so my father-in-law, Arnold, bailed me out and drove it down here for me on Monday, but then we decided to drive down with David Ragan and Jacqueline. We knew the storm was coming and it was an adventure. If we had left 30 minutes later, we would have been in trouble for sure.

David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports Ford
David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Trevor Horn

There was a lot of stuff happening but luckily it was a couple of exits behind us as we were going. Seeing all the ice and the snow and the trees breaking while we were driving down I-77 and seeing all the power outages it’s stuff I’m not used to being from southern California, for sure. Luckily, we avoided all the accidents. We saw a lot of cars spun out heading the wrong way and slipping and sliding all over, but we made it here safely.”

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS THIS YEAR? “My personal goal is obviously to try and win my first Cup race. We’ve been close a couple times and finished second a couple times, third, but haven’t been able to get that victory yet. I feel good about our chances, especially at the speedway races. We’ve proven as a team and as an organization we could do that last year, and now with the Chase format changing a little bit, it’s kind of mixing things up a little bit. Bob Jenkins is more motivated than ever, not only with the speedway program, but our program as a whole at all style of race tracks. I’ve won a lot of road races in different series, so I think we’re gonna do more road race testing this year. We’re really putting a lot of emphasis on trying to get our first win and elevate Front Row Motorsports.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ALL THE CHANGES THIS YEAR? IS IT FOR THE BETTER? “I think so. I think NASCAR is always looking to elevate their organization and the show that we put on on a weekly basis. I think the rule changes that they’ve made will definitely, in my opinion, level out the playing field a little bit – especially for teams like us. We’re excited about that obviously and the Chase rule changes makes it to where Front Row Motorsports can actually talk about the possibility of making the Chase. If they hadn’t changed that, realistically with where we’re at as an organization right now, it wouldn’t be possible probably. It’s exciting and to be part of it, I think the qualifying rule changes I think NASCAR has done a good job of listening to the fans and listening to what they want to see. We’re here to put on the best show we can for them. Without our fans, we wouldn’t have anything. I’m excited. I feel like it’s definitely a couple steps in the right direction.”

WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP? “I’m not sure. Hopefully the next step will be us putting on the style of races and the closeness of racing that we all want to see – not only the fans want to see but that we want to be part of as drivers. We don’t like catching a car and not being able to pass them either because of aerodynamics. Hopefully, it will be better.”

GUYS LIKE TONY STEWART HAVE COMPLIMENTED YOU ON YOUR DRAFTING ABILITY, AND WE’VE SEEN YOU PUSH DAVID RAGAN AND CARL EDWARDS HERE AT DAYTONA DOWN THE STRETCH. DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF ONE OF THE WELL-KEPT SECRETS IN THE GARAGE AS FAR AS BEING A GOOD RESTRICTOR PLATE RACER? “I think so. With Tony coming up to me, and obviously helping David and Carl when we finished second and third in the Daytona 500 a couple years ago, I enjoy this style of racing. I think that’s what makes a difference. I was telling somebody earlier, when it’s time for driver introductions for the Daytona 500 it’s pretty much split right down the middle as far as drivers. Either they love it or hate it. If you come into it with the attitude that you love it, you’re happy to be here, you’re excited about the race, this is a great opportunity for not only myself but our team to do well and have a great day, I think it makes a big difference. So I enjoy racing here for sure. I feel like we do get a lot of respect out there racing and it’s a lot of fun.”

DO YOU FEEL IF YOU’RE IN POSITION NEXT SUNDAY THAT SOMEONE WILL GO WITH YOU AND WORK WITH YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR PAST SUCCESS? “Yeah, for sure and that’s what it takes. You don’t just get respect, you have to be there and drive around these guys and race smart and build their confidence to be able to want to do that. I think over the last couple of years we’ve definitely gotten there and that’s what even makes my expectations and hopes that much greater that a win is definitely not out of the question.”

David Ragan – No. 34 CSX/Farm Rich Ford Fusion – THOUGHTS ON THE NEW FORMAT. “I think this opens the field up for the Chase for another 20 potential teams. A team like us that can win a race, but we’re not consistently good enough to be 10th in points or 12th in points.

David Ragan
David Ragan

Photo by: Trevor Horn

We’re gonna work hard at those six or eight race tracks that we feel like we will have a chance to win at – Daytona, Talladega, Watkins Glen, Sonoma – David Gilliland is very strong there – I think we’re good at Bristol and Martinsville. We’ll work hard and try to get that win. We know that we’re not a top-five car every single week, but there only like 10 or 12 cars that are, so I think you look at our team, Richard Petty Motorsports, BK Racing, Swan Racing, you even look at a team like Chip Ganassi’s. They’re not good enough to run in the top 10 every single week, but if they could win a race, you’re in the Chase and then anything can happen.”

COULD THERE BE A TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT THAT WOULD LEAD TO SPONSORSHIP? “Absolutely, because if you’ve got a chance to be in the Chase or if you do get in the Chase, that builds those relationships and gives your sponsor a lot more exposure. Just opening up the Chase field a couple car is gonna help those teams that are on the borderline of being healthy or not healthy, that’s gonna help their relationships with their sponsors a tremendous amount.”

TOO BAD THESE NEW RULES WEREN’T IN PLACE LAST YEAR, RIGHT? “My W-2 would have looked a little bigger. I would have paid more taxes, but it would have been a big deal and it is a big deal for these mid-level teams. The Hendrick’s of the world and the Joe Gibbs’, they’re gonna do the same things and they’re gonna be good enough to make it, but if you look at the teams I mentioned earlier, there is gonna be a team that wouldn’t have made the Chase that is gonna make it because of a race win and that’s a good thing to have.”

EVERYBODY SAYS YOUR BEST LAP IN A QUALIFYING SESSION WILL BE ONE OF YOUR EARLY LAPS. THEY ALSO SAY IF YOU COME IN AND SIT FOR 20 MINUTES, YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO GO OUT LATE AND DO BETTER. IS THAT TRUE? “Only at a few tracks. What’s gonna happen like at California, you lose a tenth or two a lap sometimes on tires. The fastest guy in qualifying can qualify 24th because you’re gonna go slower and slower and slower. It’s gonna be weird to look, and that’s OK because it used to happen like that in the 80s and 90s when they had two-day qualifying. You’d qualify on a Friday and go back Saturday morning when it’s nice and cool and those guys have got their qualifying engine in. My dad, for instance, he’d go borrow Davey Allison’s qualifying engine from Robert Yates and put it in his car with the weather 20 degrees cooler on Saturday morning and they would go faster than the other day. Speed is not gonna make that much of a difference. Now there will be a few tracks – Michigan, Kansas, the newly repaved tracks – where you might get a little faster. But California, Atlanta – some of the tracks that are worn out – the guy that qualifies on the pole will be slower than the guy that qualifies 24th.”

SO THERE’S NO ADVANTAGE IN WAITING FOR THE LAST 4 MINUTES OF A SESSION? “At some tracks there will be. At Charlotte, where it’s very temperature-sensitive, maybe you go out and if you’re confident enough that you’re gonna go fast you go that very first two or three minutes, the track is gonna continue to slow down a little bit and you cool your stuff down. There are gonna be some different strategies at different tracks. Indy is gonna be a little different and it depends on the time of day. There’s gonna be some guys that have these crazy on-board fans and super-batteries. They’re gonna have 15 fans on their car trying to cool their stuff down, so it’ll be interesting to see what tricks everybody tries. Phoenix will be one of those tracks where you kind of get a little faster as you go because the race track is still green and the tires are hard, so Phoenix won’t be but when we get to California you’ll be slipping and sliding when you’re running your qualifying lap.”

SO THERE’S NO ADVANTAGE TO JUST WAITING ON PIT ROAD UNTIL THE VERY END? “Maybe. Again, at Charlotte possibly, but there are so many different factors. You have to weigh out tire wear versus the track temperature. You’ll have guys with some fans on board that are gonna be cooling their cars off, but the crew chief will have to weigh in. There will be some engineering going on where how long does it take to cool your car off versus how much grip is being gained in the race track. So if you can say the track is gonna gain a lot of grip, but you’re gonna take longer to cool off, there will be some very smart people trying to figure that out.”

SO THERE WILL BE MORE STRATEGY? “Absolutely, no question about it. Before, my spotter could be back at the hotel room hanging out during qualifying. Now, he’s gonna have to be out on top working with other spotters and asking when guys are going out and trying to help get a clean lap in, so there is definitely more of a team aspect and more strategy than there ever has been.”

Ford

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