Hit brakes on the hype

Daytona winner Bayne can't live up to crazy expectations

April 13, 2011|By George Diaz

It wasn't too long ago that Trevor Bayne was the refreshing face who would re-energize NASCAR.

He had the wholesome personality, the gracious demeanor and, of most importance, the talent to become a rising star. The cheering in the press box after he won the Daytona 500 reflected the deep connection Bayne made with everybody, even folks who mistook their media credentials for pom-poms.

Brand Affinity Technologies, a sports marketing firm, named him the top rising sports star in March, noting his popularity had risen 352 percent. His T-shirt sales ranked fourth among drivers last month.

But the cheering has subsided. Substantially.

Bayne's 17th-place showing at Texas on Saturday was his highest finish since Daytona in Sprint Cup races. His average finish has been 27.2 in the last five Cup races.

"It's kind of tough," Bayne said late last month. "I'm going through a learning curve, so I see kind of the ups and downs to being popular. It's like all the eyes are on you when you're doing good and when you're doing bad."

We should have known better than to place crazy expectations on Bayne. At 20, he was the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history. It would be silly to assume that he could tangle with guys named Johnson, Busch, Gordon, Harvick and Edwards consistently.

Not to mention the occasional insect.

Bayne was released from Carolinas Medical Center Hospital on Sunday after he sought emergency room treatment because of a bug bite on his elbow. He had returned to Charlotte, N.C., after Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

"Trevor has been treated and released from the hospital and is fine to continue with his daily activities — including driving a race car," Roush Fenway President Steve Newmark said in a release. "Doctors are still waiting for the test results to determine for sure what caused the reaction, but Trevor has been treated, is at home and doing fine."

I suspect we will be able to say the same thing about his driving once everybody dials down their expectations. After you get past Bayne's dismal Sprint Cup stats, you will find great promise in what he is doing on the Nationwide circuit. He has three top 10s in six races and a top five (the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas).

There's progress on the Cup circuit too. Bayne will compete in the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 21 after picking up sponsorship from Camping World and Good Sam Club.

Give the kid time. The cheering will pick back up, hopefully with the exception of the press box.

gdiaz@tribune.com

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