When I talked to Trevor Bayne last year on the phone in between his Nationwide races, after having been introduced to him by a mutual friend in Knoxville, he was struggling to find sponsors to continue on the junior NASCAR circuit. Now, he is at the pinnacle of the sport, having won the Daytona 500 on his very first try!
Roush Racing knew a diamond in the rough when it snapped up Bayne last season, partnering with the famous Wood Brothers team to give Trevor a ride in the Sprint Cup Series in 2010. He came out of the starting gate wild-eyed and ready today, and the Knoxville native has made himself an overnight superstar in a sport that is in need of heroes.
One of the first things you find out very quickly about Bayne is his total dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. He gave all credit and glory to God in his first Fox media interview after his win, something that he regularly does in conversations with others.
Trevor has been living on his own in Charlotte since he was 15. He had to have his crew chiefs come and pick him up at his apartment and drive him to the track, since he couldn't even legally drive on the streets when he first started racing.
He comes from a family of racers. His father, Rocky, was a stock car racer. His mom, Stephanie, is a Gibbs High and Carson-Newman College graduate. Bayne also went to Gibbs, which is also Kenny Chesney's alma mater, before finishing his high school studies at home and online while he was racing.
Now Trevor has made himself a sensation, and his fame is destined to be legendary. He became the youngest person to win the Daytona 500 by a huge margin, having just celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday. Jeff Gordon, at nearly age 26, had been the previous youngest Daytona winner.
Moreover, Bayne, racing in the 53rd edition of arguably NASCAR's greatest and most famous race, became only the seventh driver to win it on his first try—the last being a decade ago. He is also the first Daytona winner for the venerable Wood Brothers team since 1976, when David Pearson, who was just inducted into the Hall of Fame this week, won it.
On top of all that, however, is that unbelievably, this was only Bayne's second Sprint Cup race ever, and he finished 17th in Texas in that one. He was in the top 10 in today's field all day, having roared from his 32nd place start at the beginning in the 43-car field.
Bayne flirted with first place all day, drafting with David Ragan as the "pusher" most of the afternoon, and down the stretch, when Ragan was black flagged for changing lanes too soon, Trevor found himself in first place coming out of the final yellow flag for the day.
When the white flag came out, signaling the final lap of the race, he held off tons of experienced drivers behind him, two of whom tried to pass him on either side as he headed for the checkered flag.
Bayne is going to be a shot in the arm for a sport that is in need of young heroes and fresh faces to get people excited again. The pressure seems to barely faze him, and he handles all his media interviews adroitly.
Ironically, this was Bayne's first NASCAR win ever. To get that first victory at the sport's highest level and at the the circuit's most storied track makes it an almost surreal story. Which is why Trevor exclaimed after he exited his car in Victory Lane, "Are you kidding me?!"
Truly, Trevor Bayne became a household name today in the sports world. He is destined to become an iconic athlete that will be one of America's great role models.