Trevor Bayne expects to be a title contender in 2014

In 2011, Trevor Bayne shocked the motorsports world by winning the Daytona 500.

Since then, career highlights for the 22-year-old driver have been few and far between. Yes, Bayne has been to Victory Lane twice in the NASCAR Nationwide Series since becoming the youngest winner of the “Great American Race,” but circumstances have conspired to build roadblocks in the middle of his career path.

In April 2011, Bayne was sidelined with an illness presumed at the time to be the result of an insect bite. It wasn’t until November 2013, after multiple trips to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, that Bayne revealed the diagnosis that had baffled doctors for two years: multiple sclerosis.

Absent symptoms that might prevent him from racing, Bayne has been cleared for competition in NASCAR’s top two series, but the fact remains that the illness dealt his career a significant blow at an inopportune time, just as he was riding the wave of his Daytona 500 win.

Bayne, who will compete full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway Racing this year, has watched as younger drivers, notably 21-year-old Kyle Larson, have gotten full-time opportunities in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Bayne will compete in a limited NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule for the Wood Brothers, in the same car he drove to victory at Daytona.

With 118 NNS starts, he’s starting to feel like a veteran in that series, and he’s eager to advance to full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

“It’s weird being almost the old guy in the series now,” Bayne said during a break in Sunday NNS testing at Daytona International Speedway. “You see a lot of new faces coming through and a lot of guys getting opportunities in Cup, and it’s exciting for them. We’re definitely ready for that opportunity, but we’re also going to make the most of the ones that we have now.

“To have (sponsor) AdvoCare on board full-time this year, I think that’s probably the most special thing for me, to know that I have one sponsor all year that I can take care of and grow with. It’s a great company that I’ve used their products for a long time, with the triathlon training and stuff like that, so it goes right over to my lifestyle.”

With solid financial backing for his NASCAR Nationwide effort, Bayne expects to contend for the series title this season after a disappointing sixth-place result in the standings last year.

“For the race season, a successful year is obviously a championship?contending season,” Bayne said. “We wanted that last year, and a couple things took us out of it. A couple of them were parts failures, a couple of them were driver failures and making bad decisions on the race track, and those are things we have to eliminate…

“You can’t dig a hole for yourself, and I think I learned a lot about that last season, and that’s what’s going to help us be a championship contender this year.”