The “Cat in the Hat” lands one and this time it had a very happy ending!!!

Last year, two-time Daytona 500 winner  and eventual NASCAR team  owner Michael Waltrip was forced to eliminate a promising young driving  talent due to lack of sponsorship for Waltrip’s Naionwide Series. His name? Trevor  Bayne, the now-famous 2011 winner of the 53rd annual Daytona 500.  Bayne’s potential however did not go completely unnoticed in the garage area.  Once it became officially announced that he was a “free-agent”, Sprint Cup owner Jack Roush immediately nabbed the Knoxville TN youngster to be a driver for Roush-Fenway’s Nationwide Series efforts.  Even then, Roush, (whose nickname is “The Cat in the Hat” due to his trademark straw hat and sly grin that he always wears) could not have imagined that then baby-faced teenager would go on to win the “Great American Race”.  Roush , who already has 4 Sprint Cup teams with other relatively young drivers, was faced with a dilemma: where would Bayne fit in the long-term plans of the organization? Obviously, the four drivers(Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and David Ragan (who recently signed a long-term contract with the organization) aren’t leaving anytime soon; Once again the cagey Roush proved how good his judgment was in spotting promising drivers and finding ways to keep them.  In what turned out to be a“perfect storm” of events for Bayne, Roush formulated a plan to retain the services of the youthful newcomer while still providing ever-important “seat-time” as well.  A plan was put into place whereby Trevor would continue to drive for Roush while honing his skills, leading to an eventual Cup series ride. Enter the famed Wood Brothers team whose participation started along with the speedway in its inaugural season in 1959, earning multi-time Daytona wins with driving greats like David Pearson, Tiny Lund and Cale Yarborough.  Now a part-time team, barely a mirror of its former self, but having a technical alliance with Roush, provided a solution.  At Roush’s urging, the storied team would take on the rising young star to replace the veteran Bill Elliott, which proved out to be a great decision for all parties save for Elliott, adding another chapter to the Wood Brother’s success story while providing additional lore to NASCAR and its premiere racing event at their palace-like famed track where every driver aspires to race—and win. Let’s not forget how it well it worked out for Roush, who also possesses a Daytona 500 win with Kenseth!  But what an inspiring story! One other tidbit Bayne was a development driver for DEI in 2008 and raced at Adirondack Speedway while competing in the NASCAR Camping  World East series.  Maybe one of the great ironies of the victory is that “The King” Richard Petty, who was a huge rival in the Cup division vs. the Wood Brothers over the years, is officially listed as the owner of the car due to a strange set of circumstances involving trades of owner points during the off-season.  Some believe it was also a huge boost for NASCAR itself, in dire need of a “fresh face”. They now also have a heart warming story to somewhat offset the tragic event of 10 years ago, which like a torn scab began bleeding again for many fans…But, remember the next race at Phoenix will tell a whole new story, one which perhaps will provide a more accurate forecast of the real players for the rest of the season!!!