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Bayne A Rising-Star Attraction in Garages

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 10 2009
Impressive teen-ager Trevor Bayne will be in the No. 11 Nationwide car at Fontana.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Impressive teen-ager Trevor Bayne will be in the No. 11 CJM Racing Nationwide car at Fontana. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Fontana, Calif. – Seconds after flashing his boyish, All-American smile, 18-year-old Trevor Bayne stood in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage on Friday and calmly delivered a bold prediction about today’s Copart 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

“I think a top-five finish is a good expectation for me,” said Bayne, who will be making just his 13th Nationwide Series career start today.

Considering that the rookie driver from Knoxville, Tenn. has managed to produce 10 top-10 starts, including a pole position, led 34 laps and scored a pair of seventh-place finishes in his abbreviated NASCAR career, perhaps such brash talk isn’t without some merit.

After driving Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 99 Toyota to the front of the field during much of the summer, Bayne will climb behind the wheel of the No. 11 Toyota this weekend for the second time this season.

“I know (CJM Racing) has got really good equipment and a really good team,” said Bayne, whose other start in the No. 11 Camry resulted in a seventh-place finish at Richmond last month.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less than a top-five out of this team. I know they can do it. And with the experience I’ve been accumulating throughout the year in the Nationwide cars, I think I’ve got to the point where I can do that as well.”

Bayne’s immediate impact in the sport has created quite a buzz in the Nationwide Series garage. He’s even managed to capture the attention of two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

“The little bit I’ve seen of Trevor, he’s done a great job so far,” Stewart said. “He came into the deal right away and was fast.

“It’s hard to teach guys how to go fast, or it’s not hard to teach guys to go fast. That’s something that comes more natural. Then you’ve got to tech them to race smart.

“He seems like he’s got both, so I think from that side he’s going to be in good shape.”

Even with his new-found success, Bayne hasn’t been overwhelmed just yet by autograph seekers.

But as he continues to figure out his plans for next season, he is delighted to see that Nationwide Series team owners and decision makers have taken note of his ability to drive a race car.

“Nobody recognizes me unless I’m wearing a race suit still,” Bayne said with a slight chuckle. “I can still walk through the garage in blue jeans and nobody’s stopped me yet. That just comes with time.

“But things have changed within the garage though, as far as people and stuff with teams. There are not a whole lot of opportunities out there. But when you start running good, it creates that opportunity.”

Bayne is scheduled to compete in two of this year’s final five Nationwide Series races. He’ll return to the wheel of MRW’s No. 99 Camry in Texas and Phoenix next month.

But with guidance from former NASCAR team owner Gary Bechtel, it’s a pretty good bet that Bayne will wind up in a competitive ride on a full-time basis in the Nationwide Series in 2010.

“Anything’s a possibility right now,” said Bayne, when asked if he’ll wind up in the No. 11 or No. 99 next season. “We’re definitely working toward every opportunity to see what the best thing is.

“You don’t count anything out. You’ve just got to build those relationships because this sport is a full circle. And if we do something different next year, that doesn’t mean five years down the road it won’t be back in the circle again.

“You’ve got to build all those relationships you can, seek out those opportunities and figure out which one is the best.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 10 2009