It seems so long ago since Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 and was slated as the next great prospect from Roush Fenway Racing.
Yet both so much and so little has happened for Bayne since then.
Illness. Wins. More illness, which again translated into sitting on the sidelines as everyone, Bayne included, wondered what came next. The Nationwide Series has been his home for admittedly longer than anyone expected, and that Bayne hasn’t accomplished all that was hyped up for him has undeniably been a major letdown. From 2011 to now, it seems time has stood still.
Bayne currently sits in the Nationwide Series with two career wins (2011 and 2013), continuing to scratch for a championship — not that it’ll really matter after 2014. He’s run a total of 51 Sprint Cup races and moves into the series full time next year as a rookie.
Good for him; it’s about time — although until recently I couldn’t help but wonder the Cup Series was even in Bayne’s future.
It may sound pessimistic, but not that long ago it seemed as though Bayne was mired in a rut. For me and for others, the Trevor Bayne story wasn’t as engrossing as it had been in 2011. Quite simply, it became boring, and I couldn’t have been the only one with questions. “What does the future look like for him?” “Should I be expecting more?” “Why is everyone so high on him?”
Then suddenly, he woke up.
Now it’s as though I’m looking at a different driver and a different team — one not just running around in circles and blending in, but also looking like a driver that belongs and, and maybe one who won’t become another “what could have been” type of driver after all. I’m sure memories of Casey Atwood aren’t hard to conjure.
While winless thus far after 12 races and having yet to lead a lap in his No. 6 AdvoCare Ford, Bayne looks closer than ever before to making all of that happen on a consistent basis. His numbers rank among the best, Cup drivers include. He’s posted two top 5s and 10 top 10s, including a runner-up effort last weekend at Dover.
But while he sits fourth in points — a 23rd-place finish in Texas the culprit in his decline from the points lead — those stats are second-best to points leader Regan Smith.
So, where did this come from?
“I feel like we were a little hot and cold last year,” Bayne said after the Dover finish. “We would either really hit it or have bad days and the bad days sometimes were self-inflicted. I feel like I have matured a little bit as a driver on those days when we have an eighth-place car, I try to run a little better than that if I can but if we end up eighth that is where we end up.
“You aren’t going to win races with an eighth-place car as good as the field is now. We know we have to work on our race cars and take what we can and I feel like we have done a better job of that.”
If confidence did in fact relate to speed, Bayne would be the fastest driver in the Nationwide Series. Since his arrival in the sport he’s been a model of positive thinking, lives his life full of beliefs and praise and has, if anything, provided a great feel-good story throughout the years.
Fortunately for Bayne and everyone else watching and invested, there seems to be more that could be added to the story.
Earlier this year it was easy to write that Bayne was going nowhere because he didn’t peg the meter and it felt as if it were about time to start demanding more. The car that he’s sitting in and the team that he works for is certainly capable and the talent is there. For years now, everyone has just been sitting and waiting for something to happen.
As Bayne becomes a face of the Roush Fenway Racing franchise, there needs to be something he can stand on. Who knew it would take nearly three years for it to come to fruition? Of course as he heads into the summer months, which Bayne believes are his best, we watch with a renewed sense of optimism and confidence.
Finally, the Trevor Bayne that we’ve all been waiting for has emerged. So far he looks pretty good, now let’s see how far and how high he can go.