How come you were in Daytona?
The sports staff at the News Sentinel planned this story about two and a half weeks in advance, and he wasn’t even guaranteed a spot in the race—we planned on writing about a 19-year-old who could potentially race in the Daytona, which is an achievement within itself. About a week before I left, they put him in the race.
Did you want the assignment, or since you’ve been on staff just five months, did they stick you with it?
I was excited, but my NASCAR experience was pretty minimal. I didn’t know much beforehand, just some driver names.
Had you met him before you drove down?
No, I hadn’t.
Where are you from originally?
Strongsville, Ohio, outside Cleveland.
Big NASCAR country?
Uh, no. Soccer is the big sport there.
What struck you most about Bayne before he raced and won?
As the nation has kind of seen, he is only 20, but that’s really only in appearance. He’s been living on his own since he was 15, running his own business. He makes decisions on his own. He’s twice as mature as I was when I was 20—I was still living in a dorm at Ohio University.
Did you offer to drink his victory champagne since he was too young?
The funny thing is, I had access all week, I watched him film commercials, I talked to anyone who came across his path, I was the only reporter talking to him on a consistent basis. Then he wins, and I tried to get into Victory Lane and my credentials weren’t good enough. Apparently we didn’t fill out that part of the credential form.
Did you get to talk to him later?
He did a 40-minute press conference.
Did he holler at you?
No! He was kind of overwhelmed by it all, but maybe he was kind of sick of me.
Are athletes going to want you around for luck now?
This is really the first time I ever brought a great amount of luck to what I was covering. My first game on the Vols football beat was LSU, where they lost because they had 13 men on the field. And I actually left Auburn right before that to come here, and they go on to win a national championship.