CONCORD Thank goodness Trevor Bayne plans to be back to racing next week in Chicago.
NASCAR needs Bayne. He is one of those young people that makes you feel like the world is in good hands whenever you get near him. Hes enthusiastic, funny, God-fearing, apple-cheeked and best of all, he won the Daytona 500 earlier this year at age 20.
But the weirdest thing about Baynes recent absence due to a mysterious illness is we still dont know what was wrong with him and no one can be totally certain that it wont happen again.
I have three young sons of my own, and Id be happy for all of them to grow up to act like Bayne. Id also still be very worried if any of them had the sort of medical issues Bayne has suffered through over the past month.
Bayne talked to the media Thursday for the first time since late April, when he woke up one morning with double vision and embarked upon the sort of medical journey no one wants to take.
As Bayne described some of it, including his two trips to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota: "Spinal taps at midnight are not exactly what you are looking forward to, but it happens . I know at one point I had like 16 needles in my body at once and shock pads and stuff that I didnt even know existed."
The NASCAR community is a lot like a small town albeit a richer one. Instead of fixing broccoli casseroles and leaving them on the front porch, people like Tony Stewart and Jack Roush did things like loan out private planes so Bayne and his family could fly wherever it needed to for tests and treatments. Carl Edwards also flew to Minnesota, brought a guitar to Baynes hospital room and hung out for a couple of hours.
Of course, the townspeople whispered among themselves, too. Noted Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, in his opening comments Thursday: "We recognize that when the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 misses a number of races with a mysterious illness that it is newsworthy . There were rumors running rampant about all sorts of sinister things that were going on."
So what was it?
Not cancer, Bayne said. Not leukemia. Nothing terminal.
Maybe Lyme disease caused by an earlier insect bite. Maybe his immune system was down after the frenzy of appearances following Daytona. Maybe this, maybe that.
Bottom line: His symptoms inflammation, double vision, nausea, fatigue have gone away. No one really knows what caused them.
Bayne said he just had to learn to accept that. His deep religious faith has helped in that regard.
In the meantime, Bayne has watched and waited and been poked and prodded. He has missed one race after another, including last weeks all-star race "crushing," Bayne called that. He wants badly to race this weekend, but is being held out one more time as a precaution.
"Another thing that has been put into perspective for me is how blessed we are to be race car drivers," Bayne said. "You get wrapped up sometimes and go through the motions, but when you have to sit there for four or five weeks and watch races you realize how cool it is that you get to be the one driving it."
If he gets to drive one again next week, no one in the garage will be happier to start turning left. Bayne has lived mostly on his own in Mooresville since he was age 15, trying to catch his big break. His dream was sidetracked for awhile. Now hes getting it back.
"I told everybody that I didnt buy a ticket to get on the roller coaster," Bayne said of the past few weeks.
He has ridden it anyway.
I hope the ride is over now and that hes getting off for good.
But the disconcerting thing is that we really just dont know.
Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140; email@example.com
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