A 20-year-old lived his dream Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla. He reached the pinnacle of his sport in just his second appearance.
Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500, the most important and prestigious race in all of stock car racing.
As the final laps of NASCAR’s Super Bowl clicked away and cars were wrecking all over the place, Bayne stayed at the front in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. He drove with the patience and nerve of a 10-year veteran, not a young man — who had turned 20 only a day before — making only his second career Sprint Cup Series start and first in the Daytona 500.
I found myself rooting for Bayne — who is just more than 14 months younger than me — in those closing moments. Not just because he was the underdog or because the iconic car he was driving resembled so closely that driven to victory lane in the 1976 Daytona 500 by David Pearson, a 2011 Hall of Famer.
I was rooting for Bayne because he was living the dream so many others like him have — winning the sport’s ultimate prize. He was living my dream too.
As a small-time racer myself — I race go-karts competitively over the summer — I’ve dreamed of climbing in a Cup car and crossing the Daytona start/finish line first. I was living vicariously through him.
It doesn’t matter that he’s a NASCAR driver — and one that just might bring some attention to a sport that desperately needs it, might I add. It matters that he’s a person who proved that the seemingly impossible isn’t always so.
His victory proved the power of a dream. He worked his way to that victory lane, was handed very few breaks and persevered through a split with Michael Waltrip Racing late last season that threatened his NASCAR career.
I know it’s cliche, but Bayne is just a regular guy who now will be thrust into the national spotlight. He could just as easily be the kid sitting next to you in geology or biology as the guy hoisting the Harley J. Earl Trophy. That’s what makes his win meaningful.
In very few sports can a person rise so quickly from obscurity to fame. NBA and NFL players have the closely-scrutinized years of college sports to show the world what they can do.
The closest thing I can compare it to would be if an amateur won the Masters or Wimbeldon.
Bayne’s win will do more than just boost his career. It is the moment children who have dreams will point to and say, “See, if he can do it, so can I.” His youth can connect him to a wide range of people and show them the immense power of not giving up and never letting go of those ever-so-elusive hopes and dreams.
So what are your dreams? What do you hope to be one day?
I don’t mean do you hope to be an investment banker or hotel manager. I mean those things we wished for when we were kids — being a race car driver, a movie star or a recording artist.
What do you want? Because Trevor Bayne proved Sunday that what you want might not be as hard to reach as you think.
We’ve all just got to have the guts to reach for them in the first place.