Trevor Bayne’s rise through the ranks of racing was a meteoric one that took the Knoxville, Tenn. native all the way to the pinnacle of the sport as he became the youngest driver to ever win the biggest event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The then 20-year-old driver scored a popular although improbable victory in the 2011 Daytona 500 in the famed Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford.
However, no more victories came at the top level of stock car racing for the personable driver. As a result, Bayne found himself out of a ride when he parted ways with Roush-Fenway Racing in 2018 and has not driven since.
Bayne and wife Ashton have three young children and currently reside on a farm in the Knoxville area. Their love of Hawaii and coffee brought about a new business venture for the couple in 2019 as they opened their own Mahalo Coffee Roasters in their hometown.
“Regrouping, I guess,” Bayne replied to InsideCircleTrack.com when asked what he has been doing for the past couple of years. “My wife and I have three kids now, and a business, and a farm here in Knoxville so that has kept us plenty busy, that’s for sure. We haven’t been around the race track much because, at first, when I stepped away from racing I was like, ‘Well, let’s see how it goes without it, and obviously, when it’s in your blood it’s in your blood so here we are watching some dirt races tonight.”
Bayne and his family attended the Schaeffer’s Oil Iron-Man Late Model Series event at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, TN this past Saturday evening. While there, the winner of two NASCAR Xfinity Series races told the crowd during an interview on the public address system that he is looking to re-enter racing in a Dirt Late Model as soon as this year.
The passion for racing remains strong for the winner of over 300 go-kart races during his youth. And the dirt ovals around east Tennessee provide a perfect place to satisfy that desire to compete at high speed.
“I miss it,” Bayne stated. “I mean there’s parts of it I don’t miss and parts of it I do miss. Really, what I miss is the on-track racing, you know, just racing. That’s what’s so cool about dirt racing is there’s not a lot to it except just going racing. You know, you show up at five or six o’clock, practice, qualify, and go race.”
Now 29, Bayne says he would have enjoyed racing in the situation NASCAR now finds itself in during this coronavirus-interrupted season with its mid-week and double-header weekend shows.
“I would have,” he replied. “It’s a lot more racing condensed into one. I think the only hard part would be, like I said, we have three kids and the families can’t go to the race track. For all of my friends that are still in it, that’s the hardest part on them is travelling and leaving their families all these days in a row. But as far as just getting to the track, hoping in the car, and just going racing, they’re loving that part of it. I would like that.”
The driver who competed for three full seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series believes that some of those things being labeled as the “new normal” could actually become normal in NASCAR.
“I think that NASCAR is probably seeing that all the days of practicing and qualifying they could have really done in one day,” the driver who twice finished sixth in the Xfinity Series standings said. “The racing has been good. For no practice the guys have to be on their toes for the first few laps. But growing up racing, that’s what you did, you go out and make five hot laps, you qualify, and you go.”
Health issues sent Bayne to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he was ultimately diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. However, he says that his health never affected his ability to race and he feels fine now.
“I’ve been doing really good,” he explained. “I did injure my lumbar- my spine -a few months ago but it’s recovering now. Training wise and fitness wise I feel great. That was never a limitation for me in the Cup Series. A lot of people, because of the way everything happened, wondered if I was sick and what happened. But really, when I look back on it, I have no idea how we got where we got but I definitely have no health issues or anything like that.”
In 2012 and 2013 Bayne briefly took up Dirt Late Model racing. But the hectic NASCAR schedule prevented him from getting too deeply involved. Now, with more time to dedicate to it, he hopes to re-enter that realm of competition beginning at the Crate Late Model level then perhaps moving into the higher ranks of Super Late Model action.
“If you live in Knoxville, Tennessee you’re in the middle of a lot of good dirt racing,” Bayne declared. “Growing go-kart racing and watching dirt races, there are guys still running out here that I watched and looked up to growing up because they were in dirt and that’s what we have plenty of around here.”
And the connections to get on the dirt are there.
“We’ve got a lot of friends that do it who crew chief or drive so we’ve got connections to help us get started but we’ve got to get a car built and an engine together and all of that stuff,” he pointed out. “We’re going to start out probably with a crate car this year just to get my feet wet and go and learn how to keep up momentum.”
The youngest national champion in the history of the Allison Legacy Series believes that the racing he did as a youngster prepared him for what he is about to take on.
“One of the best cars that I ever drove and taught me the most was an Allison Legacy Car because there’s not much to it, you know, it’s 120 horsepower Mazda engine with a three-quarter scale race car that Donnie Allison and his guys put together,” Bayne recalled. “That car taught me how to keep momentum up, and when you go Cup racing, it still carries over. Even with all that horsepower, you have to know how to keep momentum up in traffic and how to be smooth and that’s what I think a crate will do for me is teach me how to be smooth and control the car to make it go as fast as possible without all the engine. Then when you add the engine to it, if you’ve got good car control, you’re going to go faster down the straightaway.”
Even though he is quite young still, there are even younger drivers currently competing around east Tennessee who grew up hoping to emulate the path Trevor Bayne laid out on his way to a Daytona 500 victory. The humble driver is flattered by that.
“That’s pretty funny. To me, it’s wild to think that being 29 there are kids getting to that point now that they watched me growing up. I had those guys that I looked up to who weren’t far in front of me either. Brian Vickers kind of went the same path that I went, Joey Logano and those guys are only a couple of years ahead of me. You watch those guys and see how they do things and the paths they take, and your dads talk about what you’re doing next year and they figure it out. It’s cool that young guys look up to you. But for me, I just want to go back racing and enjoy the racing aspect of it, and again, being here in Tennessee, I think there are a lot of good tracks around here.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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