Wood Brothers Racing confirmed Thursday that 19-year-old rookie driver Trevor Bayne will return to drive its No. 21 Ford for select races during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Bayne made his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 21 last season at Texas, qualifying on speed and finishing 17th in the race. Those stats don't tell the whole story. NASCAR's loop data shows that Bayne passed 140 cars during that race and was passed only 104 times, a difference of 36, best among the 43 starters in that race.
With the strong Texas performance behind them, the Woods and Bayne plan to run the first five races on the Cup schedule, then make selected appearances over the remainder of the season, with an expected total of 17 starts and possibly more. Veteran Donnie Wingo returns to crew chief the team in 2011.
"It's pretty awesome that the Wood Brothers have the confidence in me to believe that I can do it as a rookie," said Bayne, who will turn 20 the day before the Daytona 500. "That says a lot about our relationship already."
Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21, said NASCAR's oldest team is excited to get back to the track with its youngest Cup driver ever.
"We're really excited to be starting the season with Trevor," Wood said. "It's something new for us. We had a good race at Texas last year. That's where it all started."
Bayne said he's found the Woods to be a close-knit family that is serious about racing.
"It's been cool being around the shop," said Bayne. "It's really a family deal, and you don't see that in NASCAR much any more. They still do a great job with the business side of it, but the main focus is on family and how to get the best performance for the team and Ford."
Bayne's early racing years have other similarities to the Woods, including the ability to capture checkered flags. In addition to their triumphs in other racing series, the Woods have won 97 races and 118 poles in Cup since 1953. He said he's eager to prove that he's ready to race in NASCAR's top series.
"I'm looking forward to my first year in Cup," he said. "I know it's not full time, but it's been my dream since I was 5 years old. And you couldn't ask for a better group of people to have behind you. Donnie Wingo has been incredible, and he and the guys on the team have lot of experience and have been great mentors. Hopefully, we'll continue to gain momentum and represent the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team well, on and off the track."