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Trevor-mania? Daytona 500 runner-up Carl Edwards says there's a new NASCAR buzz this week

  Everybody wants to know who is this Trevor Bayne (Photo:Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Trevor Bayne hit the wall here Friday.
   Well, actually just scraped it, when his cold brakes didn't work quite right that first lap of Phoenix 500 practice.
   Now to the backup car for Saturday's qualifying session for Sunday's second Cup race of the season.  
   This sport has a way of slapping a man back to reality in a heartbeat.

   Just wait till NASCAR's newest next-best-thing checks out Darlington Raceway.
   Still, life is just a dream for the Daytona 500 winner, so what's a bump or two here and there? And Bayne has been rechecking with reality with another 'next-best-thing,' Joey Logano for tips on how to deal with this stuff.
    NASCAR isn't all roses, of course.
   However the whirlwind of the past four days has been simply amazing for Bayne.   
    "It's definitely been way more than I expected," Bayne said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, awaiting practice runs and then Saturday qualifying for Sunday's race.
    "I knew myself, and everybody in our community thought the 500 was a really big deal….but I didn't realize the support we were going to get from outside our community.
    "The rest of the United States is just really fired up about everything, for the Wood brothers, and the history…and then the youth part of it. 
     "It's been a really, really cool week, and a humbling experience."

    While he was in the Green Room waiting to go on the Ellen DeGeneres show Wednesday, Bayne got a call from Vice President Joe Biden.
   "So I'm talking to him on the phone, and he's a big car guy, used to drag race. 'We're proud of you. You represent everything good.'
    "And then he said 'Hey, you want to come and check out the White House?  Bring whoever you want.'
    "Then I run in to do the Ellen show….
    "And I come out and I'm on the phone with Tim Tebow….then I hang up, and as soon as I do that Pamela Anderson comes in the room to meet me. The first thing she said was 'You remind me of my son.' I wasn't born when 'Baywatch' was on, so it was cool to meet her.  I remember watching Borat when he puts her in the bag and runs off to marry her.'
    "Then I get done with that and I go over to film the George Lopez Show, and while I'm in the waiting room Bobby Valentino, the singer, asks me for my phone number in case he wants to come to a race….
    "I'm like 'What is going on? What is this?'"



    The newest hottest-new-thing in NASCAR, and he's only 20 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Nervous? I mean he's only 20, and this is pretty high-powered stuff.
  "I was a little bit star struck backstage…but I enjoyed it," Bayne admits.
    "But I was actually more nervous for this kind of stuff (Friday's showdown with the NASCAR media), because you know what I'm saying, you know what I'm talking about," Bayne said with a rueful laugh.  "I can say anything on those shows and they're like 'Oh, great!' That's kind of fun because they don't know much about racing and we can take it wherever and just talk."

    Indeed, what the heck is going on here? The NASCAR season opens with some of the strangest racing ever seen, this two-man 'sack racing' stuff, and then a little known kid from Tennessee whips the meanest, toughest guys in stock car racing to win the biggest race…..
    Any girlfriends around to celebrate with?
    Apparently not. Yet.
   "The girl I was dating before she went into the missionary fields is in India and has been there for three months…and I've got a picture on my phone (which she sent him) with a lot of the kids that are around in the slums.  She's wearing the Indian outfits and sitting there, and all the kids have a banner that says
'Good job, Trevor.  We're proud.'
    "I thought that was just neat, to get a text with a picture from kids in India."
    Just when you think this Trevor Bayne story can't get any wilder…..
    Especially for Bayne himself, who like Leonardo DiCaprio with that spinning top in 'Inception,' has kept wearing that huge Daytona 500 ring: "I wanted to keep it on so I could wake up and look down and make sure it's still there. 
    "I've been trying to talk to Simpson about some special gloves so I can keep it on.  I left it on most of the time because the first couple nights I was scared I’d wake up and it would be a dream.
     "It is a lot of bling, and normally not something I would wear.  But maybe here in a couple of weeks, when it finally sets in, I can take it off."



Trevor Bayne (L) listening to the man who helped him win the Daytona 500, Bobby Labonte (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Among the many things that Bayne hasn't anticipated is the positive reaction from his fellow drivers. "I talked to Joey Logano a minute ago, and all the drivers have just been really, really supportive.  It kind of shocked me.  I expected them to have a little bit of resentment, because it was our first Daytona and we came in and won.
     "But they've actually showed a whole lot of support….more than I could have asked for. I can't thank them enough for that."

    Even Carl Edwards, the man he beat Sunday to win the 500, a man who admits he and Bayne didn't always see eye-to-eye last season while racing each other in Nationwide.
   Edwards has been remarkably effusive in praise for Bayne. Though conceding if he'd won the 500 his current contract renegotiation might be wrapped up a lot quicker, Edwards says he can sense the new, different NASCAR 'buzz' following Bayne's win:
    "I went to the Cartoon Network's Hall of Game awards ceremony (in Los Angeles), which is full-on Justin Bieber-mania.  Kids were everywhere.
    "And there were a lot of people there talking about 'this 20-year-old that won the Daytona 500.'
     "There was a real buzz at this Cartoon Network Awards thing.  Kobe Bryant was there, and T.O., and Venus Williams…and people knew what was going on.
     "I went to Vegas (Thursday) and it was the same thing there.  People were pumped about it. 
     "I have one fan -- this young girl that I guess I used to be her favorite driver. And the text I got from her after the race was 'So, I need to know a little bit more about this Bayne kid.  He's cute.' 
    "She's about his age, so I think that's the general feeling.
     "He's a new guy on the scene, and he's positive for the sport.  I think that's pretty cool.

      Carl Edwards, runner-up by two lengths at Daytona, says Trevor Bayne is "cool" for this sport and is creating a dramatic new buzz about NASCAR, in some very interesting circles (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     "Yes, he won the Daytona 500. But he had my respect before that," Edwards went on. 
     "He's like a number of the young guys coming in -- him, David Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse, Joey Logano. He's one of a group of these young guys that come in and they treat people right and they earn that respect. So when they do something good, people are happy for them.  That's really hard to do.
    "I think that says a lot more about them as people than it does about them as drivers.
     "We've had a couple times where we (Bayne and Edwards) have talked after races where we didn't really agree…but we were able to talk about it. And I came away feeling 'Hey, he wants to understand my position,' and that made me want to understand his.
     "The way he interacts with people, the way he handles himself, he seems like a straight-up guy, a normal guy.  That's pretty cool."

   Ironically perhaps Bayne and the Woods aren't scheduled to run at Talladega in April, the tour's next restrictor plate event. They're running a limited Sprint Cup schedule, which right now only runs through Martinsville April 3rd for the moment.
   Sponsorship, Bayne says, is sorely needed to keep this team up and running. "You'll see this weekend, our car is solid white, and that's not because we think it looks cool. We need some people to come on board. And I'd love to run Talladega. Obviously we've got fast restrictor plate cars."

    Next up, after Sunday's race here, is Las Vegas.
    But Bayne isn't planning on any wild night action.
    His main goal: "Sleep.  I didn't get to do a lot of that this week.
    "Obviously I can't go to a casino (under 21), and I don't even know I would if I could.
     "But they've got roller-coasters in some of the hotels, and water shows. 
     "That's a cool place….but I've never been a Vegas-flashy kind of guy anyway. 
     "I'm pumped to go there; I love the track.  We finished sixth last year in Nationwide. It's a really fun track. I'm looking forward to that most of all."
    What, Vegas, big stock car racing star, and no hot table games, no hot showgirls…..
    Heck, Bayne says he didn't even get a valentine last week.
    But since Sunday he's even getting offers of marriage.
     Girls, girls, girls, and he's just turned 20.
    "It's been pretty wild…..it's been different," he says with a laugh. 
     "I got my first police escort in San Francisco. I'm like 'What is going on?'  We've got two black trucks here, cops going everywhere guiding us. And we get out on the red carpet, and girls have 'Marry me,' signs, and I'm like 'What is going on?'"
    Seven days ago Trevor Bayne was just another struggling racer, all-but unknown.
    Now he's one of the biggest stories in the country. And he's seen it up close during the PR run from Daytona to New York City to Chicago to San Francisco to Los Angeles and now here. And it's not ending any time soon either. Las Vegas promoter Chris Powell has plenty of promotions lined up for him too.
   What is stunning to watch, though, is the sense that this 20-year-old hits such a different note out in the real world. Sort of NASCAR Justin Bieber.
   "It's been cool to see the whole support of the United States outside of our community," Bayne says. "I get Twitters and Facebook that say 'I'm a fan of NASCAR now because of what you and the Wood Brothers have done.'
    "It's just the story line.  But to see the support from the young crowds….being on the Ellen show and the Lopez show…it's cool to make the young people see that our sport is cool -- because I think a lot of people have lost that. Even my friends are like 'Oh, it's NASCAR….'  And then they come to a race, and it's like 'Wow! This is something.  I never thought it would be like this.'
    "We've got to show them that this is an awesome sport. Maybe this story will get them involved in it again.
    "To see what God has done here…positioning me even through the tough times. He knew this was going to happen. 
    "This isn't for me.  It's not anything I did by myself….
     "That in itself should be enough to keep us humble, because in racing you have your ups but you definitely have more downs. We've got to keep that
in perspective and not get too much on the mountaintop here."

   Into every life a little rain must fall...and Friday this was the rain for Trevor Bayne, a brake issue and a wall slap (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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