By admin | August 12, 2012
By Richard Allen
Over the years, the Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tennessee has played host to some of the biggest names in racing history. NASCAR used to race regularly on the track throughout the 1960s and several of the sport’s top stars have roared around the facility in both its dirt and asphalt configurations.
Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dick Hutcherson and Bobby Isaac are among the legendary names to have won at ‘The Mountain’.
On Saturday night, another star added his name to the roster of those to have competed on the track as 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne made his dirt late model debut on the 4/10 mile clay oval. The native of nearby Knoxville, Tennessee had previously tested on the track and wanted to get in some competitive laps as he looks to further his involvement in dirt late model racing.
The Southern Regional Racing Series super late model event was to be the feature attraction on the racing card but Bayne drove in the Limited Late Model class in a CVR Race Car furnished by east Tennessee regular John Cobb.
Out of 24 cars on hand in that class, virtually all with drivers much more experienced on dirt than Bayne, the NASCAR star qualified a very respectable 7th with a lap of 17.42 seconds. That compared to a time of 17. 27 seconds posted by pole sitter David Crabtree.
“With as limited number of laps as I have in these things, every lap’s going to make a big difference,” Bayne explained of his progress throughout the night.
Due to a looming curfew, track officials decided to cancel the previously scheduled heat races and simply line the field up based on qualifying times. While Bayne was assured of a good starting spot, this circumstance may have worked against him just a bit as he would have gotten more time behind the wheel in the preliminary event.
During the times when cars from other divisions were on the track, Bayne did not stay hidden in the back of a hauler. Rather, he spent much of his time standing near the entrance of turn one watching the veteran drivers work their way around the speedway in hopes of picking up tips as to how to get around the track faster. He also spent time talking to and asking questions of dirt stars such as Ronnie Johnson, Dale McDowell and fellow NASCAR competitor Ty Dillon.
“I was here for the opposite of appearances,” Bayne explained of his trip to Smoky Mountain. “I came here to learn and try to get some seat time before we go to Bulls Gap.”
At the start of the feature Bayne raced hard, but carefully, as he ran among other cars for the first time. As the race wore on it was obvious the driver was gaining confidence as he drove the car harder around each turn.
For the most part, Bayne raced at the back of the top-10 with the likes of veteran east Tennessee drivers Matt Henderson, Mark Rosner and Steve Smith.
A late race caution set up a green/white/checkered finish and Bayne decided to push his car closer to the limit in hopes of gaining experience under pressure and moving up the leader board. Unfortunately, the right rear of his car scraped the outside wall in turn one and that, in turn, jerked the front end around and into the wall as well. The wreck ended his night a little earlier than hoped. He was scored in the 12th position at the finish.
“I was just trying to learn,” Bayne explained of the single car incident. “I wasn’t driving it really hard enough(earlier in the race) and I tried to on the restart and it wasn’t the time to try it. There were marbles up there and it didn’t work out real good.”
The race was eventually won by Mike ‘Milkman’ Weeks.
As far as the night as a whole was concerned, Bayne considered his first foray into the dirt late model world a success. “I learned a lot and I had fun,” he said. “That’s what I came to do.”
Bayne intends to compete in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee on Thursday, August 23rd.
Click here to listen to post-race comments from Trevor Bayne-> Trevor Bayne post-race at Smoky Mountain(8-11-12)
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