Q&A: 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne on adversity and the AAA Auto Skills Competition

Todd Warshaw

Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 but has struggled to secure sponsorship in the years since. Bayne explains why the future is bright regardless of the adversity in an exclusive Q&A with SB Nation.

Trevor Bayne has had some dreadful luck this season but he's not letting it drag him down.

Bayne is still remembered for his upset victory in the 2011 Daytona 500 but he has since struggled to secure steady sponsorship and remain in NASCAR. This is remarkable given his boyish appearance and wholesome personality.

And yet, at 22-years-old, Bayne is still considered a top prospect and is ever-hopeful that he will join the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on a full-time basis in the coming years.

In an exclusive interview with SB Nation, Trevor Bayne talks about his struggles since winning the Daytona 500, misconceptions about sponsorships and why he is still a legitimate Nationwide Series championship contender this season.

SB Nation: Since winning the Daytona 500, things have been frustrating. You had the illness, sponsorship woes and now a lot of bad luck in your first full Nationwide season since winning the Daytona 500. Where is your head at right now?

Trevor Bayne: For sure, things have been tough. There is this one Bible verse that I keep coming back to, James 1:2 that really resonates with me right now (he paraphrases:)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

And that's what happened. Our faith is being tested. Sometimes we can learn the most about ourselves in hard times. Our team has really banded together and remained strong. We had the gear issue at Daytona and overheated at Vegas but we haven't had the same issues twice. I think that is important. We have to endure and then we can get back into this championship.

SBN: You mention the championship. Do you think you can turn it around and chase the title or is it a little too late for that?

TB: I haven't really looked at the standings lately. It'll just make me sick to my stomach. It's just been so disappointing to be so fast and not get the results my team deserves. I really think we can still win this championship. Look at what this team has done over the past two years. We just need to run a perfect season from here on out.

SBN: How is your relationship with (new crew chief) Mike Kelley?

TB: My relationship with Kelley is great. We had to work at it just a little bit but we've been completely on the same page for a few weeks now.

I can be a bit of an over-thinker sometimes and I would give him five things to fix instead of the main problem. Our car chief has taken over the No. 16 Nationwide team for Chris Buescher and we've had to fill in there as well. So those are some of the challenges that we've faced this year -- but Mike Kelley is definitely not one of them.

SBN: Are you on just a one-year deal in the Nationwide Series and where does your Cup ride with the Wood Brothers fall into this?

TB: I wanted to be in Sprint Cup a few years ago but the right situation just didn't present itself. I have a great opportunity to keep learning with the Woods right now. It's hard to fight for wins in a part-time effort but we're really happy with scoring top-15s and building from there.

It's always a positive to be in a competitive car and that's what I'm most focused on. While it's challenging to race for two different owners between the two series, I'm having a lot of fun right now. It's been worth it just to get all the experience in a Sprint Cup car.

It's frustrating sometimes to race against some of these fully-funded teams but we're certainly up to the challenge.

SBN: Your career has been marred at times by the struggle to secure sponsorship to run the full season. What has your approach been to securing sponsors and why haven't you had the success we might thought you would have?

TB: Well, there is a lot more to sponsorship than most people realize.

It's a lot more than just a logo on a car or having a name on the fire suit. It's about activating their product. I sat in a sponsorship meeting one year with representatives from both Texaco and McDonalds and watched them talk business. I was thinking, "What could these two companies possibly have in common," and they eventually came together and sponsored my Hooter's Pro Cup effort.

We had an alcohol sponsor approach us during the off-season but we had to turn it down because I just didn't think that I would be a very good ambassador for their product. So it has to be a perfect fit. And Roush-Fenway Racing does a great job of finding those perfect fits like we have with Cargill.

SBN: How about this weekend -- the Nationwide race and Coca-Cola 600? What are your chances and is this an opportunity for you to break out and have some good luck?

TB: For sure. We thought we had arrived at Vegas but things just kept happening. We thought we had found it but the reality was that we just never did. But we have to be faithful. The Lord put me in this position for a reason and I believe we're going to turn it around this weekend.

SBN: You're working with AAA on the Auto Skills Competition. Could you tell us about that project and how important it is for NASCAR and their partners to invest in the sport's future?

TB: It's a huge deal for us to be involved with this project. This is a competition that has taken place for 64 years. It's something both the Wood Brothers and Roush Racing have been involved with over the years through their relationship with Ford.

We're even hoping to get the Penske guys involved soon as well.

It's huge for the next generation of guys who want to be crew chiefs or engineers at the NASCAR level. This is a competition that takes the best engineers right out of high school and college and has them join top teams in top positions.

That's what I love about this competition. It selects the best teams from each state and gives them a car with a variety of problems and allows them display their individual skill sets. It's really cool to watch and I'm excited to have the winners shadow us at Daytona in July.

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For the second consecutive year, Trevor Bayne and Wood Brothers Racing have partnered with Ford and AAA to participate in the Student Auto Skills Competition, which serves as an annual launching pad for thousands of students seeking careers in automotive technology by offering nearly $12 million in scholarships to participants across the country.

Bayne will appear at the 64th annual Auto Skills National Finals at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. on June 11, where promising automotive students from all 50 states will engage in a face-to-face showdown to determine the country's best young auto minds.

In addition to scholarship dollars, the national champions will earn a weeklong job shadow experience with Bayne and the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team leading up to and during the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona this July.

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