Twenty-year-old Trevor Bayne beat the best stock-car drivers in the world the last time he was at Daytona International Speedway. He then promptly proceeded to stump the best doctors in the world.
Bayne returns to the historic Daytona tri-oval this weekend to race in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 hoping to do everything possible to repeat the former feat and then avoid the latter.
"We've had a lot of other stuff happen in the season that has kind of slowed us down a little on that excitement train," Bayne said this week, "but it's been a good year so far and we're looking forward to going back to Daytona this weekend."
When Bayne arrived at DIS for the 500 as a rookie in February, his car was more famous than he. Bayne was gripping the wheel of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing machine that icons such as David Pearson and Cale Yarborough had driven to victory at Daytona.
When Bayne left Central Florida the day after the race, he did so as the impressive winner of the most prestigious stock-car race in the world, the hearts of fans and the respect of his veteran peers.
So impressive was he on the high banks of super-bad Daytona, so adept did he prove to be at the two-by-two racing which restrictor-plate tracks now feature, that those fellow drivers already have asked if they can "dance" with him in this weekend's 400.
"I have drivers wanting to work with me now," Bayne said. "I've had a few Cup drivers text me and ask if they can put me in their radio."
In April, the stump-the-doctors part of the story began. Bayne was hit by a bizarre illness. He suffered from dizziness, nausea and fatigue. He was sent to doctors. Lots of doctors. Finally, doctors at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
His illness still has not been fully diagnosed.
"It's kind of scary when you don't know," said Bayne, who missed almost two months worth of racing. "But then again, I don't really have to know as long as I'm getting better, and I am. To me, it's like we just keep digging and hopefully it doesn't come back."
It has not come back. Now, Bayne hopes the success he had in February at Daytona does.
Bayne will be at the wheel of the No. 21 car again this weekend, but not the same car which he drove to victory in February -- that one, as is customary, was hauled off to the museum at DIS.
"We do have a car that is just as good as the car we had the last race," Bayne said, "so I'm really excited about that. In the wind tunnel the car was very similar, so I think we're going to have a good piece there in Cup."
The bigger problem for Bayne this weekend may be his own expectations and pressure from others.
"The expectations are different and that's the hardest part, keeping that in check and not going there thinking, 'Man, I've got to win this thing,' and then drive too hard and get myself in trouble to where I crash," he said.
"I just have to take that and not add any more pressure because a lot of people are going to be asking me if we can back it up."
"Yes, we can," he said. "I think we definitely have the ability to do it."
Win the race, that is, not stump the doctors.