This week SPEED.com looks at some of the rising stars who made the most of their opportunities in 2010.
Trevor Bayne is only 19 years old, but he’s a “veteran” when it comes to gaining an understanding of the often troublesome world of NASCAR sponsorship.
A superstar in go-cart and short-track racing, Bayne got his first big break at higher levels in 2008 when he was signed to the Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver development program. It was the sort of open door that talented regional drivers – Bayne is from Knoxville, Tenn. – labor to reach as they search for an ultimate spot in one of NASCAR’s major national series.
The signing immediately put Bayne on a new plateau, but the eventual dissolution of the DEI program because of sponsorship woes left him hanging.
In 2009, he landed a ride in the Nationwide Series with NASCAR veteran Jimmy Means and made his series debut at Bristol in his home state. That led to a 12-race run that season with Diamond-Waltrip Racing, owned by Michael Waltrip and Gary Bechtel.
At that point, Bayne assumed he would have a shot at eventually moving into the Cup series with Waltrip’s operation, but sponsorship problems intervened again, and Bayne suddenly became a free agent in the closing months of this past season.
Team owner Jack Roush, always on the lookout for new talent, jumped in to offer Bayne one of his Nationwide cars, and Bayne made the move Sept. 10. He is scheduled to drive for Roush Fenway Racing in Nationwide in 2011.
He has gained enough experience and run enough laps at enough different tracks in his brief big-league career to have a shot at doing well next season.
Bayne ran the Nationwide Series full time for the first time in 2010 and, despite not scoring a win, had a productive year. He finished eighth in the point standings, won three poles, scored six top fives and 11 top 10s.
He had scored his first series pole (at O’Reilly Raceway Park near Indianapolis) and a pair of top 10s in an abbreviated season in 2009.
Bayne polished his resume in 2009 by finishing second in the Toyota All-Star Showdown in Irwindale, Calif.
Bayne made a major step in his career last month by qualifying for his Sprint Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway. He ran a sound, uneventful race in the Wood Brothers Ford, finishing 17th on the lead lap and drawing praise from garage area denizens.
After scoring several go-cart championships, Bayne built a strong resume in the Allison Legacy Series, scoring 14 victories and the series’ 2005 championship. He went on to race in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series before signing with DEI.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.