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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who is Trevor Bayne?

Photo: Royalbroil
The PR person invited me inside the hauler of a 19-year-old NASCAR driver named Trevor Bayne at the Kansas Speedway last October. Bayne had just lost his ride that week with another team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (the second highest series in the sport) because sponsorship dried up, but he landed on his feet at Roush Fenway Racing – even though they didn’t have sponsorship lined up for him.

He was busy talking with his new team when I entered his hauler. We stood close to the doorway as I introduced myself and thanked him for making the time to talk to me for a feature I was writing about him for Baptist Press Sports. I started by chronicling the whirlwind of change he’d been through that week and he laughed nervously as I did so.

“It’s pretty wild man, to see God’s plan going into action,” he said. “It’s just wild. And the weird think about it is, there was never any worry or doubt in the meantime. Normally if something like this happened at MWR (Michale Waltrip Racing – his old race team) I’d be in a frenzy wondering, ‘Oh, what am I going to do?’ But I knew that we’d had such good runs all year long – top 10s – and I knew somebody had to see that. I didn’t think it would go unnoticed and it didn’t, fortunately.

“And Jack Roush [the owner of the new team he started driving for] stepped up, even without sponsorship, and said, “Ay, we’re ready to move forward.’ So, I’m really excited about that getting started this weekend.”

Nobody had any idea that just four months later he would secure a part-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series (the highest series in the sport) and would end up in Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 the way he did this afternoon. No rookie had ever won the Daytona 500. He’s the youngest driver to ever win it. And this was only his second start at the Sprint Cup level.

His win was so improbable that he didn’t even pack a suit for the media appearances the winner of the Daytona 500 does after he wins the race. He drove his Ford F-150 pickup truck to Daytona and after the race he had to figure out who was going to drive it back home for him. He expected to do that himself, but everything changed when he crossed the finish line first at Daytona.

This week he’ll be making the rounds on Letterman and “Regis and Kelly” and anywhere else his PR team points him. My guess is, you’ll hear the same guy I did in the hauler that day – a guy who calls interviewers “Sir” or “Ma’am.” You’ll hear him talking about putting God first in his life. And you’ll hear a guy who just seems thankful for the opportunities he’s been given.

In an age when so many athletes are in the headlines for the wrong reasons, it’ll be nice to see an athlete like Bayne get a chance to talk about things that really matter.

Here's a link to the feature I wrote about Bayne last October for Baptist Press Sports.


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