A lack of sponsorship forced Roush Fenway Racing to sideline Trevor Bayne for this week's race at Texas Motor Speedway, even though he's ranked fourth in the Nationwide Series standings.
Bayne went into the season knowing the organization could sit the No. 60 team at any time. Roush President Steve Newmark said Wednesday the organization had hoped to lure a sponsor by running Bayne in the first five races of the season.
"We started the year with the idea we were going to run him and spur some additional interest. But at some point we knew it wasn't tenable to continue that program this year," Newmark said. "But it is not a reflection of our commitment to Trevor, and we fully expect him to be a mainstay at the (Sprint) Cup level for years to come."
Bayne is scheduled to race Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race for the Wood Brothers, the team he drove for last year when he won the Daytona 500. It will be his third Cup start of the season, and Texas is where he made his Cup debut in 2010.
Newmark said the No. 60 Ford is not shuttered, and if sponsorship becomes available, Bayne will resume racing in the Nationwide Series on a part-time basis. He leaves trailing series leader Elliott Sadler by 34 points, and with three top-10 finishes in the first five races.
Sponsorship issues have plagued the personable 21-year-old Bayne the last two years, even after his breakthrough Daytona victory. The Wood Brothers, a partner with Roush, could not attract a sponsor to run Bayne for the full Cup schedule last year or this season, and his Nationwide program has been largely unsponsored.
Newmark said the first two months of the season have been difficult on Bayne. But the organization hopes that between the Wood Brothers and the Nationwide program Bayne will run about 30 races this year, leading to an eventual full-time Cup ride.
"The character and maturity that Trevor has, I often forget that he's only 21," said Newmark. "It's been tough on him, but I think he also recognized that living week-to-week wasn't an ideal situation for him or his team guys. But we'll continue looking, and the expectation is that we'll add more races. By no means is he done in the Nationwide Series this year. We just came to the recognition it's not going to be full time."
Still, Newmark said the focus at Roush right now is selling races for 2013.
Despite being one of NASCAR's elite organizations, the team has been hit hard by sponsorship cutbacks. Former series champion Matt Kenseth, this year's Daytona 500 winner, does not have full season sponsorship despite being tied for third in the Cup standings.
The cutback in spending by primary sponsor UPS caused Roush to suspend its No. 6 Cup program, and both Bayne and defending Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have been short on funding this year.
Newmark said the difficulty in landing sponsors for Nationwide drivers stems in part to the amount of availability in the Cup Series. With many sponsors no longer stepping up for a full 36-race schedule, companies are able to buy into a Cup program at a smaller level.
"I don't think it's a reflection on Trevor, but, in large part, it's been the availability of races with Cup drivers over the last few months," he said. "There are so many folks out there, and the price points had fallen. And, at the end of the day, Cup does provide benefits to partners that Nationwide does not."
With an eye on 2013, the goal at Roush is to get Stenhouse into the No. 6 Cup ride full time next year. He ran the car in the Daytona 500, but Newmark said there are no plans this year to enter him in any more Cup races at this time.
"The goal is to try to figure out how to have Ricky in that car full time for next year," Newmark said. "We want both of them full time in Cup, but, I think what we're realistically looking at is Ricky in Cup and Trevor full time in Nationwide and running Cup with the Wood Brothers."