Trevor Bayne, one of NASCAR’s rising stars, began racing at the age of five. Since then, the 18-year-old rookie from Knoxville, TN, has earned 22 championships.
In eight years on the go-kart circuit, he amassed 3 World Championships, 300 feature wins and 18 State and Track Championships combined. From there, he entered the Allison Legacy Race Series and at 13 became the youngest top rookie in the series. During his two years in the series, Bayne had 14 wins, 19 poles and 30 top five finishes in only 41 starts. In 2005, he became the series National Champion.
One of Bayne’s grandfathers raced cars and the other raced boats so you might assume that he grew up surrounded by a family of racers who encouraged him to go in that direction. But, he explains that when he began racing, he wasn’t aware of the family connection.
“Well I don’t know if the family deal was really a big factor in that. My grandfather did race but that was before I was ever around and so that was kind of already washed away by the time I was growing up and knew what was going on. Once I got involved in racing then that’s when I realized that he used to race and that’s when the support factor came in from him and from my Dad because my Dad was around the racetrack with his Dad. So I had a lot of support.
“But that wasn’t the reason that pushed me into racing. Sometimes you see the Dads with the sons and they say Hey I’d like my son to race so this is the only option I’m going to give him. But I did everything, I played Tee Ball when I was little, I played football, I played quarterback for a little while. Then when I was five years old I started racing. And, you know, I had my options. It was like, ‘hey I want to be good at one of these things, now which one am I going do?’ And it was up to me. My Dad said ‘whatever you want to do, I’m going to support you.’
“So, I chose racing and it’s been on since then.”
It was while racing in the Legacy Series that Trevor met Donnie Allison. Allison proved to be one of Bayne’s biggest supporters and helped guide the young racer as he rose through the ranks.
“Somebody else that has really helped me out as a driver is Donnie Allison. I had the chance to work with him when I was 13 years old running the Allison Legacy Series. He actually helped crew chief alongside my Dad for the second season in the Allison Legacy cars when we won a National Championship. He’s taught me a lot about momentum and really about how to treat people.
“Donnie’s a great guy. He’s taught me a lot on and off the track.”
After the Legacy Series, Bayne transitioned to the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Southern Division and at the age of 15 became the youngest in the series to win top rookie honors.
His big break came in 2008 when Dale Eanrhardt Inc. signed him to their driver development program. Bayne and Jeffrey Earnhardt became the first two drivers enrolled in the DEI driver development program. He began competing in the Camping World East series and got his first win at Thompson International Speedway in July 2008. By the end of the season, he had six top-fives, seven top-10s and finished fourth in the points standings.
In 2009, he started off the year by finishing second in the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway. This outstanding finish helped him capture the Sunoco Rookie of the Race honor. His season, however, came to an abrupt halt when he lost his ride with DEI due to economic concerns and lack of sponsorship. He found himself out of a ride for the first time in his career.
I asked Bayne what he considered to be the turning point in his career. It wasn’t the success that he had previously earned that drove him forward but the disappointment of losing his ride with DEI. It taught him what he needed to do to become successful in this sport. Instead of letting it discourage him, he used the experience to help propel him to the next level.
“At the last minute in December, going into the year thinking we were running a full time Nationwide Series this year, the deal was gone away. And I was put back on the ground trying to find a ride and most of the seats were already taken because it was so late in the game.
“So I spent half a season just trying to get my hands on anything I could drive. I ran a couple of races. I ran the Hooters Pro Cup race in Concord and we actually won that. And I ran the All-Star Showdown in January and finished second. And I ran a couple of other races.
“It’s devastating to see what can actually happen. You know, I was kind of put in a bubble growing up my whole life because everything went so smooth. We were always running good in races, and that just created more opportunity. And then, the economy, when that happened, it didn’t matter the amount of talent that you had, or the ability, because nobody could fund it at that point.
“It kind of brought me back down to earth and I realized that we needed to work on some other things too. We met with a lady named Danielle ( Danielle Randall-Bauer, President of Everest Marketing Group) in February at Daytona and we started talking to her about some sponsorship opportunities. She introduced us to Gary Bechtel (former owner of Diamond Ridge Motorsports) who became a great friend of ours.
“He turned around and started talking to MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). We’d already talked with MWR a couple of times and they said they had eight races available for the season that weren’t sold yet. We put together a deal between MWR and Gary Bechtel to put me in the seat for those eight races. Well those eight turned into four more races so we had 12 total. We were able to prove ourselves in that amount of time. It’s drawn a lot of opportunity and I’m really appreciative for that chance to show what we can do.
“I would say that’s been the biggest turning point, just being able to get back in a race car and show what we can do and help create that interest. It’s been pretty awesome.”
On September 11, Bayne competed in his first race at Richmond in the No. 11 car for CJM Racing, qualifying ninth and finishing in the seventh position. This impressive run has generated increased interest and will almost certainly result in more future opportunities for Bayne.
He’s hoping for a full time Nationwide ride with the possibility of some Cup experience as well. This desire is tempered with the awareness that he needs to take his time and gain all the experience he can along the way.
“I don’t want to go too fast either. I want to learn things as I go. You can always step up but you can’t really take that step down and then step back up. So when I move to the next level I want to make sure that I’m doing it at the right time and that I’m ready to go.”
Bayne’s father has been there for him every step of the way and has never missed a single lap that his son has run. This family support and his faith in a higher purpose have given Bayne a firm foundation on which to build his career.
“God’s got a plan for my life and he’s shown that. Every time that I’ve been in a tough spot, he’s always prevailed and pulled me through. I know that he has a plan for everything. And at the time it seemed like the worst thing in the world that could possibly happen, losing the deal at DEI. But now, the opportunities that have been created, it’s been amazing to me. To see the plan going into action that God has laid out for my life, it’s pretty awesome.”
His calm self assurance and media friendly good looks are reminiscent of Jeff Gordon. He also has the competitive edge of Kyle Busch, without the brashness. These qualities combine to make Trevor Bayne the perfect candidate for the future of NASCAR.