Photo Courtesy NASCAR
In 15 short years, Trevor Bayne went from racing karts at the age of 5, to becoming by far the youngest winner of the Daytona 500. In doing so, he may well have launched another Jeff Gordon-style phenomenon whereby many youngsters would aspire to be where Trevor is and their parents would wish the same success on their children. It happened before, it can happen again.
I would be willing to bet that a majority of short track racers don't follow Cup racing. That being said, all are aware of it and it's the dream of many young drivers to become highly paid and recognized Cup drivers. Heck, we all aspire to be something when we grow up and many now realize this career path is not an impossible dream.
Some 15 years or so ago, another young driver's rise to fame drove a multitude of youngsters and their families to pursue the dream of one day becoming a NASCAR "insert major sponsor du jour" Cup driver. Jeff Gordon worked his way into a top ride coming from much the same early start as 20-year-old Trevor.
Jeff had jumped into a Quarter Midget at age 5 and when he was 6 had won 35 main events and set five track records. In 1997, at the age of 25, Jeff won his first Daytona 500. Trevor also started racing at age 5 and coincidentally was born on February 19, 1991, just two days after the running of that year's Daytona 500 race. The winner of that race, Ernie Irvan, also started his racing career in karts at age 9 in California.
Trevor first raced the karts for eight years taking home three World Championships, won more than 300 feature events and 18 State and Track Championships. At the ripe old age of 13, he moved on to racing 3/4-scale stock cars in the Allison Legacy Race Series. In 2005 he became the National Champion of that series.
His professional career began with a call from the folks at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. where he became a development driver going on to race in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. There he won his first race at Thompson International Speedway.
So, the progression was from karts, to Allison 3/4-scale stock cars, to the East Series, to Nationwide Series, to Cup cars. And, in only his second start in the top series, he won the most coveted race, one that Dale Sr. took many years and tears to win.
The minimum age for racing in the very fast Allison cars is 12. In my opinion, if a driver of any age has eight years of racing under his driving suit, and 300 wins, I would suggest he/she is ready to take on the stock cars—and a series like the one the Allisons started is ideal.
We feel that the rate of progression and the type of racing youngsters are involved in are important in both proper development and in the area of safety. A person under 12 isn't developed enough in his/her bone structure and muscles to survive high impacts without injury, so say most experts. That's a physiological fact that none of us can get around, like it or not.
We intend to present a series on how to bring up, or raise would be a better word, a race driver from a young age through several forms of motorsports and into larger stock cars. Trevor definitely was on a very good track and I applaud his parents for making him take his time. After experiencing so many wins in his career, he was both surprised and comfortable taking the checkered flag at Daytona.
There is a right way and somewhat of a wrong way to do the progression into racing stock cars. Maybe if we can make some suggestions and offer an outline that can be used as a guideline to help racing families chart the best course for their child, it may well enhance the experience while helping to keep our youngsters safer.