Bayne Leaning Toward Sticking With Decision To Pursue Nationwide Title
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne "has declared to compete for the Nationwide Series championship" this season, though he "could choose to change and compete for" the Sprint Cup Series title, according to Bob Pockrass of SCENEDAILY.com. Bayne "had not planned to run the entire Cup season as he has only 17 races with sponsorship for Wood Brothers Racing," but "thanks to the win Sunday, the team already has said it would add Martinsville next month and would compete in at least the first seven races." Bayne is "unsponsored in Nationwide but has a commitment from Roush Fenway Racing to run every event." If Bayne decided to compete for the Sprint Cup title instead, RFR co-Owner Jack Roush "would have to approve the switch as Bayne is a Roush Fenway driver on loan to Wood Brothers for Cup races for 2011." If Bayne did switch, the Daytona 500 points are "not retroactive -- he would start this week with zero points." Bayne: "We knew this was a possibility. I don't think we knew it was as strong of a possibility, but we knew it was and we made that decision. And we still have to get sponsorship, too. That's a big part. If we get full-time sponsorship, then I'll really be kicking myself in the butt, but, for now, I think we're probably just sticking with what we planned" (SCENEDAILY.com, 2/21). NASCAR officials yesterday said that Bayne "would be allowed to change his mind." USA TODAY's Nate Ryan reports while the points Bayne earned from the Daytona 500 "wouldn't count, the victory would in determining his eligibility for the Chase for the Sprint Cup." Under a new format this season, the 12-driver Chase "will feature the top 10 in points and the two drivers ranked 11th to 20th with the most wins" (USA TODAY, 2/22).
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Wood Brothers Racing co-Owner Eddie Wood said the team's limited schedule "enables us to continue racing, but you need to be in all of them." Wood: "That's our goal to get back full time." In Tennessee, Andrew Gribble noted the Wood Brothers "haven't fielded a full cup schedule since 2008." Wood Brothers co-Owner Len Wood: "The price hasn't gone up. We're still the same guys that missed this race in 2008. We're trying to turn it around and hopefully we gained a little credibility yesterday. If something turns up, we're ready to go." Gribble noted Jamie McMurray, who won the '10 Daytona 500, "landed a sponsorship deal with McDonald's less than a week after the race to cover the 12 races he and his other sponsors hadn't budgeted for." But that deal was "in the works long before the 2010 season" (KNOXNEWS.com, 2/21). In L.A., Jim Peltz noted Bayne is "running only a limited schedule in the premier Sprint Cup Series this season and much of his success will depend on whether he gets a full-time Cup ride with stout race cars." If so, he would be a "race promoter's dream and could help NASCAR's effort to appeal to younger fans." The Hartford Courant's Shawn Courchesne wrote, "Even if Trevor Bayne is the next big thing, it's highly unlikely that fans will see that in 2011." But the Allentown Morning Call's Keith Groller wrote, "The Daytona win, and the PR-friendly way he handled it, should give him the perfect boost to secure the sponsors needed for more Sprint Cup starts this year" (LATIMES.com, 2/21).
STORYBOOK ENDING: FOXSPORTS.com's Rea White wrote in a week "filled with stirring stories, the energetic and charismatic young man took things to a new level." Bayne "captured the imagination of fans everywhere as he stormed to victory in what, at this point, is a part-time Cup effort." White: "Over the course of Speedweeks he has charmed a fan base just getting to know him and garnered the respect of a slate of NASCAR veterans" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/21). In N.Y., Viv Bernstein writes, "NASCAR itself could not have scripted an ending to this year's Daytona 500 that would have put the Wood Brothers in victory lane on Sunday" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/22). ESPN's J.A. Adande said NASCAR is in a "similar quandary to golf in that you want big names up on the leaderboard or lead lap, but how are you going to get more big names if they don't win races or win events? So it's good that you have another major Daytona 500 winner in the mix" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/21). A Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL editorial states, "The wild, win-or-crash race also seems to have attracted some new fans to NASCAR -- or at least brought back some fans whose attention had wandered in the highly competitive professional sports market. ... In with the new, but preserve some of the old, too. That's a good strategy for NASCAR" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/22).
NOT NEEDED, BUT NICE TO HAVE: ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said NASCAR did not need Bayne, “a guy that nobody knew until the last 10 laps of the race, to win to be the best thing for NASCAR." Wilbon: "It could be a great thing going down the road if we look back and this is the start of something special. But there is a big enough constellation of stars in NASCAR ... that you don't need this kid to win." ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser noted the ratings for the race “were enormous,” as it “really beat” the NBA All-Star Game. But Wilbon noted that "those people did not tune in to see an unknown kid necessarily win the race" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/21).