Friday, February 17, 2012

Daytona 500 Winner Bayne Keeps Accentuating the Positive

For the second year in a row, Trevor Bayne comes to Daytona International Speedway knowing there are only 14 races on his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series dance card. 

And for some reason, he’s still smiling.

Trevor Bayne is still smiling
An upset win in last year’s Daytona 500 thrust Bayne into the national spotlight, bringing congratulatory phone calls from Vice President Joe Biden and celebrity sex symbol Pamela Anderson. His good looks and humble, self-effacing attitude made him a media darling; NASCAR’s version of Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy. Unfortunately, it didn’t add a single dollar to Wood Brothers Racing’s sponsorship coffers, forcing the team – and Bayne -- to miss far more races than they ran.

The 2012 season appears to be a carbon copy of 2011, with just 14 races scheduled. He also has no ride on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, after competing fulltime for Roush Fenway Racing a year ago. He comes to the Daytona 500 as the race’s defending champion, but has no guaranteed starting spot for the event and will be forced to sweat it out through pole qualifying and next week’s Gatorade Duel. Most drivers in Bayne’s shoes would be singing the blues, but after a traumatic 12-month run that has carried him from the highest heights to the lowest of the lows, the Tennessee native insists he’s got a lot to be thankful for.

Not long after claiming the checkered flag in the “Great American Race,” Bayne was forced to step out of the cockpit when a mysterious autoimmune disorder left him with blurred vision, muscle weakness and fatigue. Doctors struggled to diagnose the disorder, and speculation was rampant that he suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or other major malady. He returned after weeks of inactivity, and said recently that while doctors believe he may have suffered from Lyme Disease, there will likely never be a firm diagnosis.

The prospect of forfeiting his racing career prompted the deeply religious Bayne to count his blessings like never before. The illness, he said, made him take stock of “how much you appreciate being here.” Even a too-short 2012 race schedule has not diminished his appreciation.   

“We’re making the best of what we’ve got,” said Bayne yesterday at Daytona International Speedway’s annual Pre-500 Media Day. “It’s tough to do that when you only have a few races (but) I’m running about the same schedule I ran last year; one a month with the 21 car.

One year ago next week...
“I had hoped to run a full season in Nationwide and run for a championship. But, right now, we’re only going to run the first three races, (then) work on some sponsorship deals. Obviously, as a young guy, you want to have championships under your belt and full seasons. But it just shows how tough it is right now.”

Bayne said he feels fortunate to race for Wood Brothers Racing, one of the last family-based teams that remain in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “It’s almost like being a part of the family there,” said Bayne. “At this point in my career, Wood Brothers Racing is the best place for me to be. If we could run full-time, that would be better, but I enjoy that family and the support they give me.”

Trevor Bayne continues to wait for the big break that will make him a full-time NASCAR star; all while sipping from a glass that is decidedly half-full.

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