Trevor Bayne, the 20-year-old surprise winner of this year's Daytona 500 event in February, is to miss this weekend's All-Star competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The All-Star exhibition race is one of the NASCAR season's biggest and most prestigious events, and Bayne qualified to run in it for the first time with his Daytona victory.
Missing the All-Star event will be a huge blow for the young driver, and will startle many pundits who had been confidently assuming that Bayne would be back on active duty this weekend for Wood Brothers in the Sprint Cup class, and for Roush Fenway in the Nationwide Series.
“Although we would like for Trevor to be on the track this weekend, we want to make sure that he is fully back to prime condition before he goes out to compete with the best drivers in the world,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark.
The decision to withhold Bayne for a fourth week will heighten speculation about the severity and the underlying cause of Bayne's mystery illness, which was originally assumed to be a spider or insect bite that caused Bayne's arm to swell up early in April and which saw him in hospital for a day.
However, a recurrence of symptoms of nausea, fatigue and vision impairment toward the end of last month led to the Roush Fenway team deciding to send Bayne for tests at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he was admitted and stayed for a week of tests and observation. Team owner Jack Roush had previously recuperated at the same facility in 2010 after losing vision in his left eye following a plane crash.
At the time of Bayne's release from hospital, doctors said that the nausea and fatigue had lessened while he was in the hospital, and the vision impairment was responding well to medication but that "further assessments will be made over the next couple of weeks."
Clearly the vision impairment is a critical matter for the driver of a vehicle running at speeds approaching 200 mph, and it's thought that this factor is the key determinant in deciding whether Bayne could return this weekend. "His symptoms have improved tremendously, but we're still not all the way back to where we want to be," said Newmark.
The Roush Fenway/Wood Brothers statement made no mention of whether they expected Bayne to return for next week's Top Gear 300 Nationwide race at Charlotte on May 28, or when (or if) he is likely to return to the Sprint Cup. However, that omission is more likely to be to avoid raising any further false hopes for a quick return, after previous optimistic statements have repeatedly ended in disappointment for Bayne and his many fans.
Newmark cited the tests and enforced rest as some of the reasons behind the team's decision to bench Bayne this weekend.