Minter: Bayne Appears To Be A Genuine Article
Among the enjoyable things for a reporter to do at a short track is trying to pick out the drivers with the potential to move on to bigger and better things.
Back in 2007, at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, Ga., the track now known as Gresham Motorsports Park, a 16-year-old kid was in the grandstands signing hero cards. His name was Trevor Bayne and he’d just signed a deal with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
I moseyed over and introduced myself, and asked him for a quick interview. There were no PR types to deal with, no appointments to make. I just walked up with a tape recorder, and he said OK.
In between his conversations with autograph seekers, I asked a few questions.
I was impressed that he’d look you straight in the eye when he answered. He gave good answers, and he seemed like a true breath of fresh air in a sport that badly needed some.
I secretly hoped he’d make it big, and not just so I could say, “I told you so.”
But despite the optimism that summer night, Chevrolet and DEI apparently couldn’t make things work for him, and he was soon racing in the Nationwide Series in a Toyota for Diamond Waltrip Racing.
He qualified second at Nashville Superspeedway in his second career start and his first for Waltrip’s
team, which should have been an indication to all that he had the ability to find success in a hurry. All told in 2009, he qualified ninth or better in 10 of the 15 races he ran that year and got a pole at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
I asked him at some point about his string of qualifying successes, and he chose to answer by saying the qualifying runs didn’t mean much if he couldn’t back them up in the race. He said he needed to learn what kind of set-up he needed in his car to continue to be fast as the race went on. I remember thinking that kind of honesty was refreshing.
When Diamond Waltrip Racing let him go in mid-season last year, I wondered if there was something negative about him that I hadn’t picked up on. I checked with a veteran PR type who had knowledge of the situation. He answered my questions by saying he had recently told Bayne something that he never imagined himself saying to a race driver. He told him that he hoped his own children grew up to be just like Bayne.
In the few days since Bayne won the Daytona 500, the cynics are already saying that success will spoil him, that he won’t be the same sincere, humble guy for long.
But his answers in interviews indicate that the NASCAR world might be in for a pleasant surprise.
“I just have to be true to who Trevor Bayne is,” he said on Tuesday’s NASCAR teleconference. “I don’t
ever want to have anything to hide. I want to be as public and truthful as possible and be the same person in the media and away from it. I have tried to do that, and I try to stay humble through it all.”
He said his faith will help him with the scrutiny he’ll surely get.
“It does draw some attention that might be a lot to handle, but I also know that God is not going to give me more than I can handle with Him,” he said. “It might be too much for Trevor Bayne to handle, but never too much for Him to handle. Before I ever made the decision to run for the Wood Brothers in Cup this year I just prayed that whatever would happen would be something to draw me closer to God.
“I thought that would be because of struggles, but now it is because of the success. I have to manage the mountain tops and know there might be bad days ahead, and I just have to accept them.”
That sounded very much like that 16-year-old kid back at Jefferson four years ago.
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment