Bayne May Become NASCAR’s Next “Pied Piper”

Trevor Bayne could be just the tonic NASCAR needs.

And, believe me, the sanctioning body is thinking the same thing.

Bayne’s victory in the Daytona 500 was stunning and heartwarming. He won in only his second Sprint Cup start and became, at 20, the second-youngest driver ever to win on NASCAR’s premier circuit.

His victory captured nationwide media attention and was accomplished in front of a much larger television audience than saw last year’s 500.

All of this, certainly, is good for NASCAR. But perhaps Bayne can do more.

One thing NASCAR needs to do is recapture the youth market. As I understand it, the sport’s appeal in the 18-34 demographic has slipped.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in marketing, but I don’t think it takes one to figure out that should NASCAR successfully cultivate young fans, it has the opportunity keep them for life. That’s the goal of every professional sport.

Bayne could be just the right man for the job.

Yes, Joey Logano has already laid the groundwork. He was 19 when he won at New Hampshire in 2009 and remains the youngest driver to win a Cup race.

His presence in NASCAR, with Joe Gibbs Racing, is now well-established and I have to think he’s admired and followed by younger fans. Certainly he has been a magnet for them – and that’s helped NASCAR.

Logano is already a star and could well become much more in the future. I have to think he appeals to young people. But when compared to Bayne, at least for now, there is a big difference:

Bayne unexpectedly won the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race, earned vast media attention and thus gained quick, wide notoriety. That is the big difference at this point.

At 20, Bayne, like Logano, is a catalyst to snare the market NASCAR wants. I suspect it wouldn’t be hard for young people to identify with Bayne as they may have with Logano. Bayne is personable, unassuming, innocent, good looking and a young man of faith. He’s the latest new and fresh addition to the NASCAR world.

And he’s already attracted a wealth of positive attention for stock car racing with his Daytona 500 victory.

He’s all about racing. It’s all he’s wanted to do. We’ve already read stories about how he was racing go-karts at age five and moved alone from his home in Knoxville, Tenn., to Mooresville, N.C., at age 15 to pursue a career.

His father Rocky traveled to Mooresville often to be with his son, who had a job driving for a lower-tier circuit for Dale Earnhardt Inc. His crew chief drove him to work and back until Bayne got his driver’s license.

Bayne quit school but got his GED diploma online.

Seems to me that all of this is a positive example of how a young person’s dedication, and the family sacrifice, is the way to reach his or her goals.

And Bayne, like Logano, personifies it. Coupled with Bayne’s other attributes – and a Daytona 500 victory – NASCAR has a near-perfect link to the youth market.

I think others realize that. I wouldn’t be surprised if, because of what he’s done, Bayne may receive endorsement offers from companies that provide products targeted for young people. It could happen.

Obviously, all would work best for NASCAR if Bayne’s Cup career is sustained and he, at the least, has the opportunity to experience more success.

Bayne elected to run for the Nationwide Series championship because he was scheduled to run in only 17 Cup races, with Wood Brothers Racing, to which he was loaned out by Roush Fenway Racing.

However, we already know that NASCAR, which has declared a driver can only run for one title in its top three series, has told Bayne he can change his mind and compete for the Cup title. He still gets no points for this 500 victory, but the win itself will count toward a run for The Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Which means the Woods are going to have to compete on the full Cup schedule, something the team hasn’t done since 2008, for Bayne to have any chance at a top 20 spot in points before the Chase cutoff.

It’s the Woods goal to run a full schedule. But that will require sponsorship, more than has been given them from Ford, which, along with technology from Roush Fenway, has helped the team raise the bar.

It will also require cooperation from Roush Fenway, which has signed Bayne to a Nationwide deal but has yet to acquire sponsorship.

If the Woods did get funding for a full ride for Bayne I doubt Roush Fenway would stand in the way – at least for this season.

Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood said a couple of days ago that he’s already received text messages from potential sponsors and he’ll likely get more.

I think it would be ideal if Bayne and the Woods got the opportunity to make a run at the Chase. Not only would it allow them the chance for more success, it would also grant Bayne more exposure.

And more exposure would certainly benefit NASCAR in its quest for a market it covets – and needs.

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