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Bayne pulled from All-Star and Iowa

19 May 2011

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.

"With that disruption in his schedule, he has not been able to take part in our daily training activities and he's going to need a little more time to get acclimated to the strenuous demands of a NASCAR racing schedule,” Newmark explained. “Obviously we would love to have him back out on the track, but we are not prepared to do that until we are sure that he's 100 percent."

Unusually, Roush Fenway have decided not to replace Bayne at the Nationwide Series race at Iowa, and have said that they will not be running the #16 at all at the John Deere Dealers 250 at Iowa Speedway on Sunday.

In the first two Nationwide races for which he was absent, Bayne's seat was taken by 18-year-old Roush Fenway development driver Chris Buescher, who finished a solid 17th place in both races. The #16 was taken over by Kevin Swindell, 17-year-old son of Sprint Car legend Sammy Swindell, for last week's race at Dover International Speedway, but Swindell's race ended early when he was involved in an accident with Alex Kennedy, for which Kennedy was subsequently summoned to the NASCAR hauler.

Less surprisingly, Wood Brothers have also announced that they will not run a replacement for Bayne at the All-Star event at Charlotte - although the team has said that they do still intend to participate in the Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday evening.

Although the press announcement stressed that this is a joint decision between Roush Fenway and Wood Brothers, in fact Bayne is first and foremost a Roush driver and is released to Wood Brothers by arrangement.

"We knew all along that there was not a timetable for his return," said Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing. "We knew it would be a process and we continue to work towards his return. Trevor really wants to be back, and we remain hopeful that we'll have him competing again soon."


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