I first met 2011 Daytona 500 Winner Trevor Bayne in June 2008 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Trevor was 17 and had just graduated from high school. It was his 1st season in the NASCAR Camping World East Series, what was once the NASCAR Busch North Tour. Trevor was a development driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc., a member of a 3 car team that included Jeffrey Earnhardt and Jesus Hernandez. He won his 1st race and pole 2 weeks after Loudon when the East Series raced`at the Thompson International Speedway in Connecticut. The win came after just 6 starts in the series and followed a 2nd at the Magic Mile in New Hampshire. Much of the media and fan interest in this DEI team focused on the 4th generation of Earnhardt. Jeffrey might have had the spotlight, but Bayne stole the show.
When I interviewed him, it didn't feel like I was talking to a recent high schooler, rather somebody years older. What impressed me was his likeable and engaging personality, he was confident but not cocky, and he showed the poise of a young man years older than his actual age. His crew chief in 2008 was an Agawam, Massachusetts native Richard "Haskell" Lavalette. Haskell was a former member of the Mario Fiore "Kiddie Crew" on the #44 modified. Several of those once Kiddie Crew teammates have moved to North Carolina and are working in NASCAR's top divisions. At the time Bayne spoke about his 38 year old Crew Chief, "We're getting along good. He says I'm making him feel sometimes 20 years older, sometimes 20 years younger. When I'm sitting here giving him wet willies that's when he feels younger. We're having a fun time." A fun time that ended with a 4th place finish in points that season.
Trevor Bayne's home in 2010 was the NASCAR Nationwide Series, That's where he's planning to race this season for Roush-Fenway Racing. In 2008 Bayne said he liked the East Series but was candid about the big picture, "It's a stepping stone, hopefully I'll be moving up to the (Sprint) Cup Series in a couple years." It took a little bit longer than he planned back then, but he's arrived as an impact player. Trevor had a successful Saturday in the Nationwide race by choosing to push in the 2 car draft rather than lead. He pretty much followed a similar road map on Sunday. If a driver could only reach victory lane once in their career they'd want it to be the Daytona 500. Some win it multiple times, others win it once, most never win it. Bayne's victory capped an afternoon that had the Daytona 500 surpassing it's billing as The Great American Race. Some will refer to Trevor Bayne's history making afternoon as a Cinderella Story or shocking. But not everyone shares that reaction. Responding to a Facebook post right after the race, Haskell spoke from the perspective of a man who knows him well when we posted, "He didn't shock me!".