Shakedown Session: Welcome To Reality, Trevor Bayne

by Brody Jones

Unless you’ve been living under a rock during the past week, the newest darling of NASCAR, following his Cinderella-esque Daytona 500 victory, has been Trevor Bayne. The recent Daytona 500 winner has enjoyed fame and notoriety that very few in NASCAR have ever enjoyed. It took Dale Earnhardt 20 years to accomplish what Trevor accomplished in just two career starts! From going to Ghiardelli Square in San Francisco, to the “Ellen Degeneres Show”, to a rally in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, hosted by the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway, Bayne has most certainly gone from relative anonymity into a household name. Make no mistake, Trevor Bayne is the first thing Knoxvillians have had to be proud of since the Tennessee Volunteers won the 1998 NCAA National Championship in football. Going into Phoenix, the media was agog hoping that Bayne could again win at Phoenix. Many were hoping lightning would strike twice.

But alas, as stated in my “Running Their Mouth” column on Monday, Trevor’s golden (or red, white, and gold for that matter) horsepower drawn carriage turned into a pumpkin at Phoenix. Not only did he hit the wall hard with his primary car in practice, he crashed his backup car doing a maneuver that reminded this journalist that Bayne is still a rookie and he will make rookie mistakes. When he cut in front of Travis Kvapil and slid into the wall, the hard impact of the Turn 1 wall at Phoenix proved to be a very sobering dose of reality for the young wunderkind.

Make no mistake, Trevor Bayne is a very talented young driver with a very bright future, but let’s take a reality break for a minute, race fans. Is it truly fair for the fans, the media, and all those associated with racing to be hailing Trevor as some sort of demigod with only three career starts? Is it fair to Trevor that this Daytona 500 win has now put more pressure on him to be lionized by many as the next Jimmie Johnson or the next Dale Earnhardt? I have to say no, it isn’t. And if the fans are expecting Trevor to win every week, they’re going to be very disappointed. Trevor Bayne is going to make rookie mistakes. There is no side-skirting that issue. Phoenix proved that. But, it seems like people have forgotten that we’ve hailed so many others over the years to be the next big thing in NASCAR and they didn’t pan out. Do race fans remember the names Tighe Scott, the late Rob Moroso, Bobby Hillin, Jr., or Casey Atwood? All hailed as “the future of NASCAR” early in their careers and did any of these drivers make any kind of memorable impact? Even drivers like Joey Logano, the jury is still out on whether he will ever truly be the greatest thing since “sliced bread” as his nickname dictates (or even demands). The fact is its still too early to tell if Bayne will flourish where so many others have floundered.

By no means am I dismissing what Bayne accomplished at Daytona. I just want to remind race fans he has a whole career ahead of him to define whatever his legacy will be, and to automatically anoint him for sainthood just for winning one race (albeit, the most prestigious race on the NASCAR schedule) is just simply asking for too much. The key components are undeniably in place for Trevor to succeed in NASCAR. Jack Roush is very high on him. He’s very well grounded compared to so many drivers who have an ego the size of Montana. He’s been one of only a few Nationwide Series drivers to keep any kind of pace with the Cup interlopers.

This is, in no way, intended to be critical of Trevor. I just want to remind race fans that, as tempting as it may be to lift Trevor on a pedestal, to merely give him time to progress as a driver. Jack Roush and the Wood Brothers would likely tell you the same thing. Does he have the potential to be a driver in contention for multiple wins and championships in his NASCAR career? Absolutely. However, as race fans and as the media, we simply can’t try to force this on Trevor immediately. He has to progress into it. Even Trevor knows this. That is why he chose to keep running for Nationwide points, although he likely would have been a lock for Sprint Cup Rookie Of The Year honors. Trevor’s thinking of the big picture, which is what all of us need to be in the mindset of regarding Bayne’s NASCAR career.

In a society that wants everything to happen immediately, it is hard for many of us to grasp this concept. But masterpieces take time to create. It took the artist Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer took over a decade to compose. It could very well take Trevor Bayne one, possibly even two, decades to be officially declared as one of the best to ever get behind the wheel of a stock car. However, he has written one heck of a first chapter. So, let’s just sit back and let him compose the rest of his potential masterpiece, eh?

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