Archive | March, 2012

I knew Trevor Bayne before he was Trevor Bayne.

20 Mar

Well… truthfully he was Trevor Bayne; and, come to think of it, he was the same quality individual that is appearing on all the pre-Daytona 500 shows today. Trevor is the returning 500 champion having shocked the motorsports world with his 2011 victory in the Wood Brothers’ famed #21.

In 2004, I sold the Legends Car that I had campaigned at local tracks around Atlanta since turning 50 a decade earlier. At 60 I figured I wouldn’t have that many years left and grandchildren were starting to appear with regularity. What I wanted to do was run longer races and ideally visit a wider variety of tracks.

My Legend Car was one of the first 500 manufactured and had been built under contract by Allison Brothers Racing. With Legends well established, it was obvious that their sanctioning body 600 Racing, a subsidiary of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., was going to take manufacturing in house. In response, the Allisons developed their own “spec” class car, The Allison Legacy Car, and when I took my car to them in 1994 for end of season maintenance, I saw the early versions of the racecar.

I followed the development of the Allison Legacy program as they launched regional series under the direction of local distributors. In time they covered the Northeast, the West Coast, Texas, the Great Lakes and Florida. The Charlotte-centered Southeastern program evolved into a National Touring Division that really appealed to me and met my criteria for a new venue. They ran races as long as 200 laps, toured from Virginia to South Carolina and competed on some legendary tracks-South Boston, Hickory, Concord, Peach State, Greenville Pickens, Martinsville and Myrtle Beach.

The second year that I ran the series, 2005, there were 20 races with fields approaching 25 cars and a talented field of 12-17 year-old drivers…and me at 61. These young folks (yes there were girls) read like a Who’s Who of go-kart, Legend, Bandelero and Motocross champions. And the majority drove and behaved like true professionals. The best among them climbed under the car with their mechanics (usually dads), had coherent interviews with the track announcer and local media and related with fans.

None were in Driver Development Programs but they were all developing drivers. And a 14-year-old, blond-haired kid from Tennessee with a 1000-watt smile soon became a standout. Trevor Bayne and his dad, Rocky, showed up at the track with a modest but very professional presence. Their race cars were immaculate and from his successful career in go-karts, Trevor had attracted a handful of loyal crew members.

Trevor had won Rookie of the Year in 2004, but the 2005 season set the stage for his entry into Nascar’s top ranks. In 21 races he won 11 times, finished in the top five 19 times and won The Allison Legacy Series Championship title with an average finish of 4th. But there was one race that for me was illustrative of the man he would become.

It was late in the season and we were racing at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va. for the second time that year. Because gas prices had spiked and the points battle was settling out and Manassas was a longer haul than usual, only a limited number teams showed up. The field was thinned even further in practice when Michael Cooper who was within striking distance of Trevor in the points broke his transmission case.

I realized that with the small field, the elimination of the excitement over a points battle would severely detract from the show that the Allison’s and the track had invested in. And so I offered to lend my car to Michael but I qualified it that I was going to check with the Baynes first.

Despite the points race, Rocky and Trevor agreed that they wanted to race against their main rival and so I told Michael he could have the car. He asked me if he could put his setup on the car…springs, shocks, cross weight, etc. I said fine and he and I and my crew chief started to work.

It was a lot thrashing to get the transfer done and all of a sudden there were extra hands available. The Baynes had come over to help. Pretty amazing! For me this was just one example of many that revealed the kind of competitor he was; and, more importantly, what kind of man Trevor Bayne would become. I am glad I knew him.

Oh yeah, Trevor won the Old Dominion race. Michael had to start in the rear because of the car switch and drove up to second before spinning out (unfamiliar car). After starting at the back again, he got back to third as Trevor Bayne took the checkered flag.

Trevor Bayne’s Nascar career has been powered by participating in Driver Development Programs for Dale Ernhardt Incorporated, Michale Waltrip Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing. Only a few budding stars are chosen by race team owners for their Driver Development Programs. Basically, they induce sponsors to invest in unproven talent and the team owner winds up with the valuable asset if the driver succeeds.

There is an emerging strategy to set a better stage for both new potential sponsors and drivers struggling to find the next rung on their race career ladder. The Developed Driver Program, turns the traditional approach around. Read the ezine article “New Strategy to Link Sponsors With Race Teams”. If you are a motorsports marketing professional or a winning Late Model Touring Series Driver, contact “developeddriver” at

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