News & Media

Spotlight: Be it from boos or challenges, Bayne motivated

November 02, 2011, Joe Menzer,

Trevor Bayne always knew the day would come when he might hear it.

Not the cheers he grew accustomed to after shocking the world and winning the 2011 Daytona 500 -- but his first boo. We're not talking a mild, single, Halloween-induced boo designed to momentarily frighten the young driver, but that first, honest-to-goodness boo from a fan dissatisfied in the stands -- the kind of boo that can leave a lasting impression.

Season breakdown

Trevor Bayne was tied for fourth (credited with fifth place) in the standings and just for four points out prior to his five-race absence.

Laps Led3373
Lead Lap Fin.611
Avg. Start5.99.8
Avg. Finish12.015.6
Points Per Race32.528.5

"I think being out for five weeks definitely threw a curve at us in our season. I think we would have had a shot at the championship. ... If we can get this team together for next year, I definitely think we can run for a championship."


And guess what? He's come to the realization that he's not afraid to hear it. In some ways, he said he will consider it a right of passage in his on-going development as a race car driver.

In light of the recent controversy involving him and driver Jeff Gordon at the end of a Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, Bayne said he knows that first boo could come this weekend when he's back on the track for his full-time gig as a driver in the Nationwide Series at Texas Motor Speedway.

"There could be some [boos] in Texas. This could be the weekend, man," Bayne said, chuckling. "But you know, the boos just make the cheers seem louder. So I don't know if I'll hear boos or not, but Jeff Gordon heard both sides of that when he started out; Dale Earnhardt heard both sides of that.

"Pretty much every driver out there has experienced both sides of it, so it's just part of breaking into the big leagues, I guess. You've got to have some cheers in there, too, though."

Bayne remains guaranteed to receive plenty of those, no matter what happens on the other side. His boyish good looks and down-to-earth charm made him an instant fan favorite when he seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Daytona 500.

But then, as now, his main focus this season is on the Nationwide Series. It's where he chose to run for a championship as a series regular -- even after being given the chance to opt out of that decision by NASCAR and instead pursue a Cup title after winning the season's biggest race in the opener this past February.

It has been an up-and-down season on the Nationwide side for Bayne, who sits 11th in points heading into this Texas weekend. He missed a stretch of five races earlier in the year while being treated for Lyme Disease after suffering complications he and doctors believe resulted from a tick bite, which took him out of the championship hunt before it really had begun in earnest.

"The Nationwide season has been more of a challenge than my Cup season for sure. I've had my difficulties and my struggles," Bayne said. "I've had moments where I've had strong races, too, but I think being out for five weeks definitely threw a curve at us in our season. I think we would have had a shot at the championship.

"I also wish we could have had a win by now. We've been strong, but we've had things happen -- something happens on pit road or like at [Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis] where we were running second the whole race and the engine blew up at the end. It just seems like something always happens at the end when we've had a strong car. ... I really believe when we can put all the races together, we'll be fine. I definitely think we're fast enough."

In other words, Bayne already is thinking ahead with excitement toward next season. He said he also sees what his good buddy, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has been able to do this season and wants to get in that mix at the top of the Nationwide standings. With three races left in the season, Stenhouse is atop the standings and holds a 15-point advantage over Elliott Sadler, his closest pursuer.

Watching Roush Fenway Racing teammate Stenhouse do so well this season has motivated Bayne for next season. Plus, Bayne remains well aware that while he won the biggest stock car race in the world, he remains winless on the Nationwide side despite four top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 26 starts this year.

"It's definitely bittersweet -- because you want [Stenhouse] to do well, but we want to be having that same kind of success, too," Bayne said. "I'm glad he's got a shot at the championship, but like I've said, I think if we could have run those other five races, we'd be right there with those guys. When you get out of the running for a championship, at that point you kind of become a second-string guy for the team. And that's tough, because you always want to be that guy trying to win the races -- and we still are trying to win the races, but you have to be a little bit more of a team player.

"We want to be having those kinds of seasons. I want to be a championship contender at the end of the season and I want to win races. Hopefully, I'll have a good shot to win one of these last three races."

He said his current crew chief, Chad Norris, who replaced Chris Andrews in August, has helped him accelerate his development.

"He's taught me a lot for my Nationwide car and my Cup car. He likes a driver who really gets after it," Bayne said.

"If we can get this team together for next year, I definitely think we can run for a championship. Seeing Ricky run for a championship is great. Seeing Carl [Edwards of RFR] run for a Cup championship is great, too. But next year we want to be the ones doing it."

They've displayed that kind of potential recently with a string of solid finishes. In his past three Nationwide starts, Bayne has finished sixth, ninth and third, respectively. The latter of those finishes took place at Talladega, where one day later Bayne also was near the front in the Cup race when he told Gordon he would work with him on the final restart -- only to switch at the last minute to team instead with Matt Kenseth, a fellow Ford driver who happens to be employed by the same team that fields Bayne's No. 16 Nationwide entry.

The move infuriated Gordon at first, as well as many of his fans. How much they've forgotten and/or forgiven may be revealed during driver introductions for the Nationwide race this Saturday at Texas. Bayne admitted he will be listening for the reaction when his name is announced.

"There are going to be things that happen where people say bad things about you," Bayne said. "And no matter how much you always say, 'Aw, I've got too many other things to worry about. That stuff doesn't bother me,' when you go through those tough situations you realize how much it does [bother you] and you try to guard from it. I still care about what people think. It means a lot to me.

"I always wondered when I would get my first boo. I was always like, 'Man, one of these days I'm going to do something somebody doesn't like and they're going to boo me.' I haven't had that yet -- but I had a lot of things happen that week after Talladega where I was taking criticism from fans and some other people. I had to back away from it and learn how much to take from the fans, and how much to block out and remain focused."