By HEATHER WILLIAMS
5:31 PM CST, February 20, 2011
Unless you are a hard core racing fan, you may not know the name Trevor Bayne. And you my think that the road to the Daytona 500 was easy for the young 20 year old phenom.
In many ways you would be right. He never ran an ARCA or a truck race. He basically went from a season of regional racing to Nationwide to the top of the NASCAR world. That being said there were also times in his career when he didn't have a ride. He was a DEI developmental driver in 2008, driving in the Camping World East Series. But at the end of the season that team lost funding and and he didn't have a ride for 6 months.
After driving a handful of races for Michael Waltrip in late 2009, at the beginning of last season, Bayne seemed to get his big break, a full time ride with Diamond Waltrip racing in the Nationwide series. And the kid was showing his stuff, yet despite running in the top 10 points, DWR dropped him in September due to lack of funding.
That's when his real break came. Jack Roush snatched up the kid and put him a car with no sponsors. He finished 7th in the Nationwide points.
"Me sitting here is because a lot of people that have believed in me," said Bayne. "You know, at that point two years ago, I didn't know what I would be doing. I think it's just been really cool to see how fast it's progressed."
The move to Roush is also how he got hooked up with the Wood Brothers. There was talk of the kid running Daytona in 2011, but to do that, he had to show he could run at some smaller tracks. So Roush got the Wood Brothers to put Bayne in their car for two races. They missed Martinsville because qualifying was rained out. They finished 17th at Texas.
But Len and Eddie Wood saw enough in the kid that they decided to continue the partnership for a 17 race schedule in 2011.
The kid started paying them back for their faith almost immediately. Third on pole qualifying day, one of the best cars in his duel, before a late wreck took him out. But the ultimate pay off came on the biggest stage. As he became the youngest driver by five years to win the Daytona 500(Jeff Gordon was 25). He also becomes just the second driver to win in his first 500 (Lee Petty is the other) and the second driver to win in just his second start (Jamie McMurray is the other).
"It's an incredible list," said Bayne. "All the 500 winners, to be added to that list, period, is crazy, especially at our first attempt. That's just insane."
"It's amazing to watch him have that success." said Carl Edwards who finished second. "I've only known him for a short time, but he's what seems to be truly a good guy. I think a lot of people in the sport see that. Hopefully a lot of the fans see that. So that's good for the sport."
NASCAR has been trying to find the next group of stars. And has been concerned about where they might come from because of so many Cup drivers were running in the lower series. They even changed the rules to help with the development of the young guys. But the truth of the matter is, they don't need to. Just like Jerry Rice playing at Mississippi Valley State or Kurt Warner at Northern Iowa. If you are talented, you will find your way to the top. Trevor Bayne proved that in Daytona.
"He will be a great one," said Eddie Wood. "I told somebody the other day that I felt like he just might be the next big deal, and I think he is."
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