Trevor Bayne is one of NASCAR's newest and hottest young guns, securing a Nationwide berth with Michael Waltrip Racing for the remainder of the 2009 season. But for Bayne, the connections he has made along the way in his racing career have been the key to his success.
As with many up and coming racers, Bayne's first connection to racing came through his family. One of his grandfathers raced stock cars at Greenville Pickens Speedway, while the other grandfather raced boats.
"We've always had speed in our family," Bayne said with a chuckle.
Bayne advised his first connection to a race car came when he was three years old. In fact, he started out on a dirt bike with training wheels.
"When I turned four, they took the training wheels off and I thought I was going to kill myself," said Bayne. "They ended up finding something with four wheels again," and that officially launched his go kart racing career.
Bayne is incredibly connected to his father, Rocky, who owned Bayne's Hooters Pro Cup team, as well as crew chiefed his legacy car to a championship. "He's never missed a lap on the track," said Bayne of his father. "He's a big support."
The next connection that Bayne made was to NASCAR legend Donnie Allison, whom he met through the Allison Legacy Series. The first year in the series, Bayne won two races and Rookie of the Year honors, both of which caught Allison's attention.
Allison strengthened his support of the young driver in his second year in the Legacy Series. That year, Bayne won 16 poles and won 12 out of 19 races, securing the national championship.
From the Legacy Series, Bayne then moved up to the Hooters Pro Cup Series. One of his team members was friends with another familiar NASCAR name Billy Ballew.
Bayne spent time connecting with Ballew at a race in Bristol. Ballew also introduced Bayne to someone with whom he was not familiar, Pat Suhy.
After the race, a challenging one as Bayne was leading with 15 laps to go before getting spun out, Ballew and Suhy met Bayne and the team. At that time, Suhy revealed to Bayne that he was the head of General Motors' NASCAR program.
Suhy kept his eye on Bayne, who then ran two years under the Chevy banner in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. "Pat took me to all of the Chevrolet Cup teams and I ended up going to Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated (DEI)," said Bayne, revealing his next important connection in his young racing career.
Bayne, along with Jeffrey Earnhardt, were the first two in DEI's driver development program. DEI then added Diversity driver Jesus Hernandez, who came to the team when DEI merged with Ginn Racing.
Bayne raced for DEI in the Camping World East Series, running one season. Bayne won one race, got two poles and earned the track record at Mansfield, Ohio.
While Bayne felt that he was on top of the world and moving forward to the next step in his racing career, he experienced one of his first disconnects, as well as a major disappointment.
Instead of moving forward from the Camping World East Series to a full-time Nationwide ride in 2009 with DEI as planned, Bayne was told there were no sponsors or money to fund his racing. In spite of his contract, DEI let him go and, for the first time, Bayne was without a ride.
Bayne was so disappointed and began searching for his next opportunity. He headed to Daytona and his next connection came in the person of Danielle Randall-Bauer, the President of Everest Marketing Group.
"We started talking and we really clicked," Bayne said of his encounter with Randall-Bauer. "She introduced me to Gary Bechtel, who used to own Diamond Ridge Motorsports."
Bechtel not only wanted to get back into motorsports but thought that Bayne was definitely of interest as a driver. "He decided he wanted to help a driver like he did with Elliott Sadler," Bayne said of Bechtel.
The connections that Bayne had made with Randall-Bauer and Bechtel immediately led to one of his best opportunities, racing with Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR). "It was a domino effect from there," Bayne acknowledged.
Initially, Bayne agreed to a six race deal. But this quickly turned into eight races and now has developed into a 12 race commitment. Bayne also picked up a ride in the No. 11 car for the Richmond race this past weekend.
"It changes every day what we will be doing next," Bayne said. "As of now, MWR is working on a second car to take to Lowes to run along side David Reutimann's car."
"Then I'd be running Texas and Phoenix as well in the No. 99 car," Bayne shared. "But like I said, it changes every day."
Bayne admitted that he has not yet signed a contract with any team. "Everybody thought I was with MWR until I ran the 11 car at Richmond," said Bayne. "That really created a lot of interest here within the last week."
"It's generated a lot of phone calls and a lot of cool things have been going on."
Bayne admits that he "likes it at MWR and it would be cool if that worked out." But Bayne is not ruling out any options, wanting to make sure that he carefully explores every possibility open to him.
The young driver is still focusing on the Nationwide Series, feeling that it is simply too soon for him to move up to the Cup level. He would like to run a full 2010 season in Nationwide and then, depending on his performance, decide if he is ready to take the next step up.
Whatever awaits Bayne next in his racing career, there is one connection that is vital to him, the connection to his faith. Bayne has a deep belief in God, stemming from his Methodist upbringing to his later involvement in the Baptist church.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Bayne of his faith. "God's always had a plan for my life."
"God's had his hand in everything that has happened to me."
Bayne has relied on his faith to sustain him, especially since he has been on his own since the age of 15. Bayne's family, including his parents and two siblings, stayed in Knoxville, Tennessee while Bayne moved to Mooresville, North Carolina to pursue his racing career, at that time with DEI.
"When I first moved here (to North Carolina), I had an apartment and then my crew chief would actually have to come and pick me up because I didn't have a driver's license," Bayne shared.
When Bayne turned 17, he moved into a house. He admitted that he would like find a roommate, "just to have some people around."
Bayne is also connected with good friends and his new hobby, wake-boarding. In fact, he admitted that they had to pull the boat over to the dock of the lake to do this interview.
Bayne had one last connection to share, his linkage to charities that he deeply believes in. When the young driver was in Richmond last weekend, he visited the McGuire VA Hospital.
"It's always humbling to go somewhere like that and see how fortunate I am to be in the situation that I'm in when there are 18 year olds like me going across the seas to go fight for us," said Bayne.
Bayne confided that he thinks one of the keys to his success might be the connections that he has made. But the real key according to Bayne is "staying humble, knowing where you came from, and keeping the faith."
"I just keep that in mind all the time," Bayne concluded. "I never take it for granted."