Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion, is the defending champion of the Daytona 500. As he celebrated his 21st birthday today, Bayne spent some time in the media center answering questions from the press.
DOES IT GET OLD HEARING DAYTONA 500 CHAMPION? “I don’t know if that will ever get old to be honest. This year has been a wild one. You guys know that – a little bit up-and-down, but I’m feeling good day. I’m on the upside. We’ve got a fast car and I think we’ve got a good shot at defending our title here. We never knew that we would have a title to defend, but it feels good to have that and it’s great to be back in Daytona. We’ve got beautiful weather and beautiful people to hang out here with, so they sang me Happy Birthday. I’m just glad to be here today."
ARE YOU GLAD YOU MISSED THE SHOOTOUT AFTER WATCHING IT? “I wanted to get in on the action, but it looked like there was a lot of action going on that I didn’t want to be in on. I didn’t know what to expect, but I got to watch Kyle and he did a great job with those two saves. I would have over-corrected for sure, probably, and everytime I would think of something I’d be like, ‘Alright, somebody should try this as you back up,’ and Kyle would do it, so I kind of felt like I was in the race he won, which was unbelievable after what he went through. But that race was a lot of fun to watch. I don’t know if it was very fun to drive in. I couldn’t hear the interviews because I was on top of the hauler, so I don’t really know if the drivers were raving about it or going mad about it, but it looks like fun though. I think it’s kind of a combination. You can just stay alive, I guess. That’s gonna be the hardest part is staying alive in these races and not getting ahead of yourself because you want to be at the front to miss the wrecks, but in order to get to the front you’ve got to be in the madness and push up through there, so I don’t know where the safe place to be is. I guess you just try to stay at the bottom and stay out of the messes, but even on the bottom they got collected sometimes, so it’s gonna be being in the right place at the right time on Sunday, for sure."
DO YOU WANT TO BE IN THE LEAD ON THE WHITE FLAG LAP OR BEHIND? “I have no idea. Last year, I thought I wanted to be in second just like Kyle did there and most of the other races we’ve seen that, but if there are two packs coming, then the person that’s pushing you isn’t gonna pull out because then he’s gonna drop back and finish fourth, instead of having a shot at second, so it’s all about timing again. If you’re spread out from the rest of the field, like Tony and Kyle were, then you want to be second. But if you’re racing with other packs, or if it’s a big group, I think you want to be the front car because then you’re the one that’s gonna get the best position."
DO YOU ALMOST ASSUME THAT THESE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES ARE GOING TO END GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER? “Just about, especially after watching last night, but I guess we’ll have to have cars left in the field to create a caution at the end. There might only be 10 people out there running around single-file by the end of it and we won’t have to worry about it (laughing). I think if it comes down to a green-white-checker it’ll be just like last year, where you’ve got to hook up with somebody because you can push for that long. Once you’re cooled down I think they could only do it for about a lap yesterday if they had been running under green, but if you have a caution beforehand, I think you can make it the whole two laps and go for it like that."
ANY BIRTHDAY PLANS TODAY AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DRIVING THE BEACH THE OTHER DAY? “I don’t have any plans yet, to be honest. My whole posse – everybody calls them – is coming down on Wednesday, my family and all my friends that were here in Victory Lane going crazy last year, they’re gonna be down so we’ll probably go to eat dinner maybe. We went to the Deck Down Under or something last year with all my race team guys, so we might do that again. The schedule is a little bit busier this year, so I haven’t had as much time, but Monday I’ve got the day off so I’ll probably do something. The beach drive was really, really cool. That was something that nobody else has gotten to do. I can honestly say that besides the people that used to race on the beach. They had that portion shut down, so I almost felt like I should have bottled up some sand and taken it with me from there because you felt the history when you were there, and to be able to drive on it with the 21 car and make the turn at the North Turn, and turn left where those guys had, obviously the condos and stuff look a little different now but to go out there on that street and drive all the way here to the speedway, you could just kind of feel the change from what it was to what it is now, which they’re both great racing. I wish I could go back and race on that beach, though, and get it all rutted up and just have the battles that they had, but I got to do a donut out here in the intersection. That was pretty cool and it was a really good time."
DO YOU GET A SENSE OF THE HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE BEING AROUND LEN, EDDIE AND THE WOOD’S? “Yeah, for sure. They’ve got a story for every single year just about, and it’s crazy because they remember the exact year. They’ll be like, ‘In 1971 this happened.’ They’re like a walking history book, but the stories that they tell aren’t ones that you fall asleep in. They’re the ones that you can’t believe they’re telling you and should be on the History Channel or a special on Speed or something because it’s just wild hearing what they used to have to go through and what they used to have to do in order to get to the race track. I think they drove to the track in the car they raced a couple times and they’d stay up late working, just like growing up racing. That’s kind of how it was, but they still keep that sense alive. I remember last year everybody was talking about was I happy to be able to see the history and I kept saying I hope to be a part of it and, luckily, last year we were able to do that a little bit. But they deserve to be around. They’ve worked hard. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but they’ve been able to keep their same family approach and same racer approach and not get like a big business kind of race team. They’ve just kept that and stayed alive all the way until now, so they’re one of the greatest teams in NASCAR to drive for."
DID YOU EVER ALLOW YOURSELF TO THINK THAT AFTER LAST YEAR THINGS SHOULD BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR, LIKE YOU WOULD HAVE A FULL-TIME SPONSOR AND FULL SCHEDULE? “Yeah, I definitely thought so. I thought we’d be full-time Nationwide and full-time Cup this year, to be honest, right after the 500. But as the season wore on and nothing was really happening, this is kind of what I figured. I’d hoped to run full-time Nationwide this year. We have the first three races right now and then we’re gonna go from there. I figure if we can maybe be leading the points by then, then it would be hard for them to stop racing, but you would hope you could accumulate some kind of funding or some kind of sponsorship after the year that we had last year. It’s just tough right now for us and for every team out there. The Wood Brothers have been really happy running their part-time schedule. I don’t think they’re really disappointed this year to be running it again, but we would all love to run more races, so if something came along, we’d be happy to go run a full-time schedule or run 20 races or so. The one good thing about the Wood Brothers is that they won’t spread themselves thin. They won’t do something that they can’t be competitive in. They could probably take the funding that we have and try to run 20 races and do it part of the way, but if they go to the track, they want to go to win and that’s the same here. So I would rather run 14 races and be competitive than run 25 and be there just to make the race."
YOU WERE FAST IN PRACTICE. DOES THAT ADD TO THE PRESSURE TODAY THAT YOU SHOULD GUARANTEE A SPOT? “If anything, the pressure is not on me because I just have to hold it wide-open and stay on the bottom of the track. I’m more relieved than I was before because I didn’t know what kind of speed the car would have. I thought it might come down to a duel, which it could because anything can happen, but I’m fairly confident that we’re gonna be in the show today after qualifying, and I’m pretty confident that we’ve got a shot at the front row. It’s all about the wind. When do you go out? How is the wind blowing? I could feel the gusts yesterday. It was kind of wild. I don’t know if it’s the extra shark fin on the back or what, but you could kind of feel it on the frontstretch, so I’m looking forward to today. We go out 38th, which is kind of later, and I don’t know what the track is gonna be like then or what the weather is gonna be like, but I think we’ve got a good shot at the front row after yesterday."
ARE YOU ACTIVELY TAKING BUSINESS MEETINGS AND SPONSORSHIP MEETINGS RIGHT NOW? “Yeah, we’d be silly not to take those meetings. We’re actually going out and trying to find them, so it’s not a great climate right now, but it’s just like our fans. Once you get them to the track, once they see how great our sport is, then they want to be a part of it and they’re almost crazy not to be a part of it. We have one of the best sports in the world, one of the most fun to be around, and one of the most sponsor-friendly sports in the world. That’s just the hardest part is getting in the door and bringing them to the track and showing them that you have something to offer, which we do, so that’s what we’re working at is just getting their interest, bringing them to the track and getting them on board with us."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SHOOTOUT BEING FOR POLE-WINNERS NEXT YEAR? “That’s okay. I’m good with that. I’m fine with earning your way in. It’s hard though when you’re a part-time team to go for poles or wins because you don’t have the momentum. We have good chemistry, but we don’t have that feel that some of the other teams do after running thirtysomething races a year. It’s tough for us to do those kind of things, but we can. I don’t see why we can’t. We won this race last year. We ran really fast at Charlotte and Homestead, a couple places like that. I wish I was just locked in. That would be nice, but I wish I had a Daytona 500 provisional too and I don’t get that, so I’ve just got to go for it again, I guess.”