I remember when Joey Logano entered NASCAR just a few short years ago. He became affectionately, or to some, not-so-affectionately known as “Sliced Bread”, as in the greatest thing since. The hype surrounding his arrival was rather annoying to many fans, therefore, they were unwilling give young Logano a chance to earn their admiration. Nevertheless, he has performed decently throughout his young NASCAR career.
Contrary to Logano’s pre-entrance and entrance into NASCAR, Trevor Bayne emerged with little fanfare over the last couple of years. He was a former development driver under the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. banner before Michael Waltrip picked him up in 2009. Bayne continued to display loads of potential in 2010 with Diamond-Waltrip Racing, but lack of sponsorship on the No. 99 derailed a lasting relationship between the driver and team. It did not take long for Bayne to find a new place of employment, as Jack Roush, who has a keen eye for young talent, swiftly signed the young driver from Tennessee.
Bayne completed the 2010 season in Roush’s Nationwide Series program, and scored a 17th place finish at Texas for the legendary Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford in his introductory Sprint Cup start.
Entering the 2011, Bayne’s primary plans were to compete for the Nationwide Series title driving the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. His secondary plans were to cut his teeth in the Sprint Cup Series while driving a 17-race schedule for the Wood Brothers. That opened up the opportunity to race in his first Daytona 500. The rest is history.
Bayne drove a smart race, dodged the big wreck, and put himself in position to contend for the win. He also received an assist from David Ragan’s blunder. As I am sure you so vividly recall, Ragan switched lanes before crossing the start-finish line on a green-white-checkered restart. Would it not be ironic if Bayne ends up replacing Ragan in the near future? Of course, that is a completely different topic for another day.
Bayne is on top of the NASCAR world when just four or five months ago, he was unsure if he would become another young driver to become a victim of a sponsorship dearth. He could have become Landon Cassill, Danny O’Quinn, Bryan Clausen, Josh Wise, Stephen Leicht, or Michael McDowell. That group of talented young drivers are either looking for, or piecing together part-time opportunities. Of course, Cassill impressed many in the Nationwide Series event, so he could land a solid opportunity in the near-future.
Bayne’s victory was a popular one in NASCAR, as it occurred on the sport’s largest stage, with the oldest and possibly the most respected team, on a record-breaking day. It was the perfect storm for the 20 year old. While Bayne is expected to compete for only the Nationwide Series championship, he still intends to make some noise in his limited Cup schedule. Of course, from what I gather, he can change his mind on which series he competes for the title if he so desires.
Just an opinion here, but I would stick to the original plan, because he is a legitimate title contender for the Nationwide title. However, on the Cup side, Bayne and the Wood Brothers can win on the super speedways, but they are still going to lag behind on the rest of the tracks. Furthermore, the No. 21 team would have to suddenly land a huge sponsor, or group of sponsors to fund the 19 races that are not accounted for. Bayne would really appreciate the championship trophy as opposed to battling for 20th in the Sprint Cup side.
Of course, who am I to lend career advice to a Daytona 500 champion.
It is likely that Bayne is the young driver to win over the fans. While Logano and Brad Keselowski possess as much talent, Logano had too much media hype, and Keselowski rubs too many fans the wrong way with his aggressive driving tactics. Bayne simply proved that you do not need the hype or the aggression to become the new star in NASCAR.