By Joe Dunn
With little fanfare, Knoxville, Tennessee’s Trevor Bayne slipped into the seat of the unsponsored Michael Waltrip Racing No. 99 NASCAR Nationwide Series car Friday at Nashville SuperSpeedway. A Friday afternoon press conference introduced Bayne, with few media members knowing much about him.
Living in East Tennessee, I was aware of Bayne having watched him compete at Bristol Motor Speedway in the USAR Pro Cup series. Trevor was also a bit of a legend around the local go kart tracks, where he won over 300 races, and earned 22 titles. Three times Bayne earned the World Karting Association, World Champion title.
Obviously that success would propel him to move, which he did by running the Allison Legacy Series. At 13 years old, he became the youngest race winner as well as the youngest Top Rookie. Over two years in the series, he had 41 starts, 14 wins and 30 top 5’s. In 2005 Bayne captured the series National Championship. From there he went on to two years in the Pro Cup Series.
In 2007 Trevor signed a Developmental Driver contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc. the plan was to run one more year in Pro Cup and 2008 in the NASCAR Camping World East Series, as a teammate to Jeffrey Earnhardt. 2009 was supposed to bring a full time NNS ride, but the downturn in the Economy hurt DEI and forced them to cut the NNS program. DEI did manage to get Bayne a car for Bristol, which was run by the Jimmy Means team. The MWR ride at Nashville was his second race in the series.
Without all the hype and fanfare that followed Joey Logano to Nashville last year, Bayne posted a qualify speed that put him on the provisional pole. He held that spot, until the 29th qualifier, Kyle Bush edged him to the outside of the front row.
I talked to several crew members on the 99 car both Friday and Saturday at Nashville and they all seemed very excited about this little known kid. When another big wreck coming out of turn 4 on lap 123 happened, Bayne had no escape, taking a battering from the front and the rear. Though the 99 crew worked feverishly to get the car back out, they only garnered 3 more laps when it appeared beyond repair. Despite the early night, everyone on the team was optimistic that a better run is ahead for the team next week at Kentucky.
The 2007 sensation was Joey Logano as he set the NNS on it’s ear with his instant success. That fanfare was bumped in mid season when Tony Stewart announced his departure from JGR. That information forced a rush on the development plans for Logano, pushing him into the Home Depot Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, ahead of schedule. Logano is an extremely talented driver, but that push has shown it’s drawbacks as Joey has struggled in the top series.
I like Trevor Bayne and in my opinion, he could be the future of MWR or another top NASCAR team. But my hope is that they don’t push him too hard or advance him ahead of his time. Under the guidance of his father, Trevor, like Jeff Gordon has climbed a methodical trail to earn success.
I’ll look for a better run for Bayne at Kentucky. In the mean time he and his closets supporters are working on getting a release from his DEI contract, with an eye toward a possible full time deal with MWR. He now has 8 more races to prove his worth.