Trevor Bayne became the seventh driver to earn his first win in the Daytona 500, doing it in just his second NASCAR Sprint Cup series start. He also became the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history, just one day past his 20th birthday. Bayne also recorded Ford's 600th victory and talked about the whirlwind he has been part of since claiming the checkers in Daytona.
How has your mindset changed since you took the checkered flag on Sunday?
“I still haven't had a chance to let it sink in yet. We have been go, go, go since the race. As soon as I get 10-seconds to slow down and it starts to hit me it will be crazy. I never knew that it would be this big. I knew the 500 was huge and it has been my dream since I was five years old, but this is a really cool deal I am getting to experience.”
How is your energy level? What has been the high point of this week and what do you expect will be the response from other drivers when you walk through the gate at Phoenix later this week?
“You know, at first I was just in shock. I didn't know what to say and I was nervous in my interviews because I wanted to do it justice and explain what a big deal this was for the Wood Brothers and [crew chief] Donnie Wingo. I was scared to take any credit because as I talked about earlier, I felt weird coming in and winning our first one with all the other drivers who have been doing this so long. Now after seeing their support it helped me realize that we did earn this thing.
"I have been working at this since I was five years old. There is nobody that deserves this more than Leonard, Len, Eddie and Glen Wood – they have worked their butts off, and Donnie Wingo in his 31st Daytona 500. Now it is starting to set in a little bit. We are so excited about it. I don't know how to thank them enough for the opportunity to drive that racecar and be in the position to win. It is taking its time to sink in. The high point was probably when the White House called and said that the President was going to want to talk to me in the next couple of days. I still haven't talked to him yet. I had no idea who it was. A private number came up on my phone. I have had so many calls and texts from folks including Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon; all showing their support, but the White House was the one that stunned me the most.”
Now that NASCAR has basically defined what would happen if you chose to deselect Nationwide and select Cup, have you had any more thoughts about it and have you decided what you will do?
“I think I am going to stay with Nationwide. I think it is a great thing they are doing for the sport for the young drivers there to be able to rise up as champions. Nothing has really changed for me other than that I am the Daytona 500 champion, which is really incredible. I think we are still going to have an awesome year for Roush Fenway running for that Nationwide championship. Obviously, we still have a blank car and I would love to get some partners on it, but as of now we are still running for it full time over there. The Wood Brothers only have 18 races, 17 filled with Motorcraft and Quick Lane, which is really good support, but the 18th race is one we will run at Martinsville with the funds we got from Daytona. I am still not full-time Cup and I am going to run for the championship in Nationwide. I don't regret any of our decisions there. We are off to a good start in both series with a 10th and a first.”
Do you have the sense that you have done something that is of championship quality right now?
“I am starting to take that in a little bit, just because of all the hype around it. I have always known that this is an incredible thing and an incredible race but it is an even bigger deal than I ever expected. I always wondered what it was that separated the Daytona 500 from all the other races. Why it was that it meant so much to Mark Martin that he hasn't won one yet or when Dale Sr. finally got his win. Now I am starting to see it. The Daytona 500 is a big deal and it is so cool to win it. I just feel so blessed to have that good of a racecar that I was in that position to make the moves I made and be guided. I can't describe how crazy it is that God surrounded me with these quality people and equipment and made it come together that perfect on our first ever attempt.”
How much fun has it been for you and your family to be in the limelight for the last day and a half?
“I am finally starting to enjoy it a little bit. At first I was nervous and didn't know what to do and who to thank and what to say on all the interviews. I have learned to just be me. I am thankful for everything that has happened and I want to stay humble. Now it is starting to set in and I am enjoying the interviews and having a good time with all the people. It is becoming a lot of fun and I am getting to enjoy this win a lot more than I expected in the last few days.
"For my family, it is unbelievable how they are taking it in, too. There are reporters in Knoxville calling my friends and my brother and mom and dad and sister. It is fun to see them get some credibility from it too because they are my supporting factor. They are the ones who keep me sane off the track. They are sending me pictures of billboards in my hometown of Knoxville with congratulations messages on it from the movie theater to my elementary school. Just to see the hometown support and the national support is indescribable. It is way more than I ever expected it to be.”
A lot of people can identify with you as an underdog – can you offer some words of encouragement to folks who are down, whatever their walk, who are low on hope?
“You know, there were times when I was down. There was a six-month period when I was out of a racecar and I thought it was going to be the most crucial year of my career. I thought that my 17- and 18-year-old years would be very crucial, and they were. God had a plan for them all. When everything was falling apart last year, I didn't know what was happening. Had I not just followed his path there is no way I would be sitting here as the Daytona 500 champion right now. It is just like the prayer that I said before the race. Whether we have good results, bad results or whatever, just grow us closer to you. If we are only going off of wins or championships or performance or opinions of others, there is no way we would ever feel good enough. God has grown us closer to him through all the experiences. If we can take that out of it, then we are never gonna have a crashed day. I am not going to say things won't go wrong, because they do, but there is something greater to it if we are just faithful.”
What was going through your mind with one lap to go surrounded by guys who have been doing this for years?
“I had been watching the other races all weekend long, the Truck race and Nationwide race. All the races I watched were won by a different driver than who was leading on the last lap. I was concerned about that. I didn't want to be the guy who was leading and have the guy who was pushing him making a move or have the second pack come up behind us and catch us.
"I really couldn't have planned it any better, and I didn't plan it that way. If it had been any different, it probably wouldn't have worked. I am glad that my plan wasn't the one that came down to the end. The way it all happened with the 47 car of Bobby Labonte giving us that incredible push to the lead and Carl Edwards breaking up the 42 and 22 cars, the little pack that they had together and drafting past them and catching us and Carl making the move to the inside. I was able to wait until he got inside of the 47 and then pull down and hold him off. Had the 47 not left a little bit of room down low then Carl might not have been able to fit in, he might have went high and we might have lost. There are a lot of different scenarios that could have happened. I am so thankful it played out the way it did and we were able to hold everybody off.”
Going from where you were when you were released from Waltrip Racing and not sure if you would be able to race at Kansas to winning the Daytona 500 a few months later, how does it underscore your belief that this is bigger than racing for you?
“You know, before this ever happened I had a meeting with some of the people who are running my business and financial stuff, and my dad was involved and we sat down to figure out what was the goal of Trevor Bayne as a company, a person, anything. I told them that the goal was not to be the best racecar driver or the most marketable or most popular – it is none of those things, it is to build a platform and let God use us on the platform that he is building which might require me to become the best racecar driver or be the most marketable or most popular or whatever it is. I just want to stand on the platform that he is putting under me and that is our goal. If that is the goal then our highs and lows will be a lot more manageable.”
How does it feel to pull off a win where it seems everyone is happy that you won?
“I can't thank everyone enough. I was kind of worried about that at first. I thought they might think I was some punk 20-year-old kid who came in and stole their thunder. The driver support has been huge to me. They have all taken to me very well and helped me out. If it wasn't for Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., and so many other guys I worked with in that race there would be no way I won it. I think that a lot of the credit goes to them as well. You know, a lot of people like to see that Wood Brothers car back in Victory Lane. That is a big part of NASCAR history. They are one of the biggest parts of NASCAR still and with Donnie Wingo as my crew chief, everybody loves him, we have a great group surrounding us. It is well deserved for the Wood Brothers and I am glad I was fortunate enough to be the one to get them back to Victory Lane.”
Everyone, even non-NASCAR fans, seem to know about the 20-year-old kid who won the Daytona 500. Are you feeling any of that?
“Yeah, this has been so well received by everybody. We have had media outlets that have never been interested in NASCAR. I don't know if it is because of the underdog story or the history of the oldest team with the youngest driver or what. Everyone has taken to this so well. I have had so many people come up to me and say that this is exactly what the sport needed. I am just glad I am the lucky one in this situation."
What's it like to work with Donnie Wingo?
"Donnie Wingo is such a great guy and one of the best crew chiefs I have worked with. He stays calm all the time and doesn't get real excited. Even when I asked him after the race if he thought we could do this he said, ‘Yeah, I knew we could.' He never doubted it. He knew we had a great group of guys, an awesome car and engine and ford Motorcraft and Quick Lane supporting us to be able to do this to begin with. He knew we had what it would take. We have to manage our expectations and know that we can't do this every week.
"It is not expected. It is our first year and only our third racing coming up at Phoenix. As soon as the celebration was over Monday morning in Daytona, he was back in the shop working hard to get us ready for Phoenix. I can't thank him and our group enough for being so dedicated to running well this season.”
Do you feel prepared and how do you expect to handle things like if you get in a fender bender now, that is news or if you get a girlfriend, that is news. Are you ready for the off-track stuff that comes with winning the Daytona 500?
“I think that can be good and bad both ways. I just have to be true to who Trevor Bayne is. I don't ever want to have anything to hide. I want to be as public and truthful as possible and be the same person in the media and away from it. I have tried to do that and I try to stay humble through it all. It is crazy how much attention has been drawn to this. I have never expected it. I am so thankful for the fact that this might help our race team find partners to go on these racecars. I had that solid white suit on for the Roush Fenway Nationwide car the other day and that thing was not looking good. I hope this draws some more interest."
What was the two-car draft at Daytona like?
"When we went out for qualifying and qualified third, I think it changed a lot of drivers' perspective on their ability to work with us. They knew we had a fast car and it made them more willing. When Jeff Gordon hooked up with us in the Duel and let me push him around, it rubbed off on the rest of the drivers that if he had trust in me then they would, too. I think that is why there were so many drivers willing to work with us. The experience I got in the Nationwide race on Saturday helped with the Cup race on Sunday.
"I loved being the pusher. I felt I could stay out of trouble more. I talked to Joey Logano during one caution and told him I would push him, but we both wanted to be pushers for that same reason. I think that was the smart way to go. I planned on pushing until the end, but it ended up being that we were the one being pushed. I loved that kind of racing. I loved watching it during the first Duel, I wasn't in that one and it was good to watch it. As a driver it was cool to watch because I knew what was going on in the race car and how the air worked. I thought it was fun to watch and hope it was fun for the fans.”
Did anyone give you some advice that stuck in your head as you were driving around on Sunday?
“David Pearson gave me the best advice and it was small advice. He told me to be careful and to do the 21 car some justice. That stuck out to me. I entered that race with a totally different mindset than I normally had. As a 20-year-old, you want to be the guy who leads every lap and make a statement and do everything right. You can put a lot of pressure on yourself. When he said that, I went into the race in survival mode for the first 150 laps. I just wanted to avoid crashes, push and not be pushed, be smart the whole time. That was crucial because that kept me calm and kept me patient and when we would drop to the back on the restart, I was able to push back up through the field. It helped me to make smart moves at the end. Hopefully we did the 21 car some justice like he asked me to do. I think getting back in Victory Lane might have done it for him.”