Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues today with Roush Fenway Racing Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne, who shocked the racing world by winning the Daytona 500 in his part-time Sprint Cup ride at Wood Brothers Racing earlier this season.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
TB: David Reutimann. He's just a low-key guy – and he probably plays it that way himself – but man, he can drive a race car. He can get it done, and nobody really expects it out of him. If you watch the Michael Waltrip Racing cars, he's always the guy that's setting the bar for their other couple drivers. So he's pretty good.
SBN: What's a race you didn't win in your career that still bothers you?
TB: Well there's a lot of races I haven't won that I wish I would have! (laughs) But as far as races I was close on, probably the one at ORP a couple years ago (in 2009). I was leading and got spun out under caution. I felt like that was probably my best shot. Either that one, or at Bristol when we were running third and a lapped car crashed us and we were catching the two leaders.
In those two races, I was like, 'Man...!' There's not too many times when you have the best car on the race track and you know it's a winning car. The two times I felt like we really had the best car, we got taken out. So that was frustrating. I'd like to have those two back for sure.
SBN: Let's say you can make a four-car Sprint Cup team and you can pick your other three teammates – except you can't pick anybody from Roush Fenway Racing. Who would you pick?
TB: So Carl (Edwards) is out?
SBN: He's out.
TB: Man. Well, I'd definitely put Jimmie (Johnson) on my team. And Jeff (Gordon). And Kyle (Busch). I feel like that's alright! (Laughs) I feel like we could get it done.
But maybe I need somebody who is going to run worse than me every once in awhile to keep my confidence up. If I'm racing with those guys, I'm going to feel pretty down about myself.
SBN: So are your reasons purely performance-based?
TB: Well, I think Kyle just gets the most out of the car. I think that's good to see the bar you need to be at. Jimmie has really been a big help to me and has talked to me about keeping focused and all that. And I'd pick Jeff just because he's Jeff Gordon, and it would be really cool to be on his team.
SBN: Got it.
TB: Actually, there's one more, too. I don't know who you'd take out to put him in, but I'm sitting here thinking about it, and I'd love to team up with Tony Stewart. He's a racer and he'd probably be taking off to run dirt races now and then and he'd just be a cool teammate.
SBN: I think I know the answer to this from all the post-Daytona 500 interviews you did, but when you were coming up through the ranks, what driver did you want to model yourself after?
TB: When I was little, Jeff Gordon was the guy. My first number was 24, and when I got my first go-kart, I was kind of upset that the numbers were orange instead of yellow like his. Everything about him is what I was trying to do.
SBN: Everybody seems to make a mad dash for the airport after these races. What's a memorable post-race escape you've made from the track?
TB: Man, I don't know. Normally, I'm pretty mellow. I usually let somebody else go out in front of me, and when they do something to make the cops mad, I can go around them without being seen. The sneak attack is the way to go. Let somebody lead the way and get 'em on the last lap.
SBN: Who is somebody famous you'd like to meet who you haven't met yet?
TB: Somebody famous...wow... (thinks for a long time)
SBN: I guess you've probably met a lot of famous people already since Daytona.
TB: Yeah, I know, man. Like last (month), I was at the Taylor Swift concert. And I've met Tim Tebow and Bethany Hamilton this year.
It's just like every day, you're meeting new people. It's kind of wild, because you think you'd be starstruck every time, but now you just kind of get immune to it. You know?
Even at the Taylor Swift concert, I was like, 'Man, I'm standing backstage with Dan Wheldon and the owner of Big Machine Records at a Taylor Swift concert. This is pretty insane.' You take it for granted sometimes.
I guess I haven't really met many actors. Maybe Adam Sandler would be kinda cool.
SBN: Last year, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard and the fall Charlotte race but missed the Chase; Jeff Gordon didn't win any races but made the Chase and contended. Which would you rather have for yourself?
TB: So are you saying if I make the Chase, I'd have a shot at the championship? Because I'd do that...
SBN: No, I'm saying you can make the Chase but not win it.
TB: Man! Well, it depends on how many races you win. One win a year wouldn't cut it for me. If I could just have one big race a year to win, I'd rather make it in the Chase.
You kind of need both sometimes. It's good to have a year when you win some, and it's good to have a year where you're consistent and make the Chase. If you win two races a year and crash out in the rest, that's not very good. But if you have a year where you just run 10th every weekend, that's just mediocre.
So you need to make a splash every now and then, but the consistency, to me, would be really big right now. The 500 was something that was really cool. But if I could choose now at this point to either win another race or be top 10 every weekend, I'd choose top 10 because for me, I'm new at this and I need to be learning every week. It removes a little bit of pressure when you're just running strong every week.
SBN: Where does your motivation to win come from?
TB: It's just something that I love to do. Racing, for me, has always just been something fun and competitive.
Sometimes, I worry about too much what people think. I'm like, 'Man, we gotta back (the Daytona 500 win) up.' And then I realize, 'You know, we weren't even supposed to do that yet.' So it's OK. We'll get there eventually.
But in general, I just love racing. And if I wasn't racing, I'd probably be doing some other competitive sport, because I love to compete.
SBN: If you could switch lives with an athlete from another sport, who would you want to be?
TB: Man. I'd probably go with Tim Tebow. He's got a whole career ahead of him. He's pretty young. He has the same faith and all that.
Also, I didn't realize how big the guy was until the ESPYs. Those guys are massive! It'd be cool for a day to be out there on the football field.
SBN: I'm a big Denver Broncos fan. In your honest opinion, is it worth getting on the Tebow bandwagon?
TB: I hope so, man. I think he can do it. I'm a Tennessee Vols fan, so people probably get mad at me for liking a (Florida) Gators guy. But I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, also. So at the same time I like Tebow, I want Troy Polamalu to take him down.
SBN: How much does your personality change from when you're sitting here talking to when you're inside the car?
TB: I'd say my personality is pretty much the same, but the intensity goes up. I think all race car drivers are probably a little bit A.D.D. when they get out of the car. Because inside the car, it takes so much intensity and focus, you can't think about anything else.
When I'm out here, I'm kind of bouncing around and talking to five different people and thinking about 10 different things. But in the race car, something finally gets every bit of my attention.
SBN: What do you want your retirement story to say about you someday?
TB: I want to be a little bit different. Not crazy-haired different or weird different – not trying too hard. But I hope people could say, 'There was always a joy or a sense of peace about him. He wasn't defined by this.' That would be awesome.
At the same time, I don't want people to just say, 'Oh, he was a nice guy.' I want to be a winning race car driver that came in and was driven and competitive and won a bunch of races and championships. But also, if we're having a bad day, that I'm not the guy yelling at the pit crew and I'm not the guy going off on the crew chief or cussing somebody out.
I want to be a winner but be able to accept the bad days, too.
SBN: I feel bad asking this with what you've been through medically this year, but if you could take a year away from NASCAR someday and come back knowing you had a ride guaranteed, would you want to ever do that?
TB: I mean, if everything freezes in time and you get a year-long vacation, there's nothing bad about that. But if everybody else was still here racing, it'd drive me crazy.
If NASCAR shut down for a year and we all went away and came back and nothing was changed, it'd be alright. But if I had to step away while this whole parade was still going on, and I had to go away to a beach and watch it for a year, I wouldn't enjoy it too much.
Maybe at the end of my career when I'm Mark Martin or something, I'd like to take that year.
SBN: Let's say you're going to win the championship. You can either wrap it up after Phoenix or win it on Turn 4 of the last lap at Homestead. Which would you rather do?
TB: And you're going to win it either way?
TB: Well, I'd probably sleep a lot better if I won it after Phoenix. But it'd be a pretty cool deal to beat the pressure and win it off Turn 4. Then people would always say you could get it done under pressure. That'd be pretty neat.