Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne will make his NASCAR return next weekend, but he still doesn't know the cause of a mysterious illness that has kept him out of competition for more than a month.
Bayne will drive the Nationwide Series at Chicagoland Speedway before returning to the Sprint Cup Series the following week at Michigan International Speedway, and met with the media on Thursday for the first time since being hospitalized.
Doctors still do not know what caused Bayne's symptoms of double-vision and inflammation, even after running numerous tests, including MRIs and spinal taps.
"Their biggest hope is that it was an isolated event and it was temporary and that's it's gone now," Bayne said. "The diagnosis, I don't have it yet. I don't know."
One thing Bayne pointed to as a possible cause was the whirlwind time that followed the Daytona 500 wearing down his immune system. Surprising many with his dramatic win in the season’s opening race, Bayne was shuffled around the country to do a variety of interviews and other media event and the non-stop action eventually wore down on the 20-year-old driver.
Even though doctors have not been able to pinpoint the cause for Bayne’s symptoms, they were able to rule out a number of causes, including cancer.
“It is not anything terminal or anything like that,” Bayne said. “I heard somebody say cancer and leukemia and those things but that is not even a word that I heard in the hospital. That was not even an option. They have ruled out all those things.
“I am hoping it was a temporary inflammation that caused that and it has been going away, as they said from day one that it should be like a four-week deal and go away. That is pretty much what happened.”
With such a cloud of mystery surrounding the unknown illness, Bayne says the experience was "a real eye opener" of how supportive everyone in the NASCAR garage has been.
Carl Edwards flew to the Mayo Clinic with to entertain him with a guitar, Tony Stewart loaned the Bayne family a private jet to get back and forth from Minnesota and Michael McDowell spent five days at the hospital with his close friend.
Although all of his symptoms have subsided, Bayne chose to sit out last weekend's All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and this weekend Roush Fenway Racing officials decided to hold Bayne's return another week to ensure he was 100 percent.
"Missing the All-Star kind of crushed me, but we're back now and we're ready to go and as ready as ever," Bayne said.
"We recognize when the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 misses a number of races with a mysterious illness that it is newsworthy," Newmark said. "We also recognize that this garage is a small community and there were rumors running rampant about all sorts of sinister things that were going on."
Poised as the ‘next best thing’ following his historic win, Bayne said he never thought ‘Why me?’ during his time away from the car.
“I think this year is just helping me figure out what I’m made of," he said. "If you can handle the biggest up you can have and the farthest bottom you can have, the rest of it should be easy from here.
"I’m thankful for the ups and the downs and everything to find out what I’m made of and to find out who is really there to support me. Through this I’ve found a lot of supporters that I was either unsure of or I didn’t even know where there.”