TALLADEGA, Ala. – Trevor Bayne speeds around tracks in his No. 21 Ford, getting himself and his car ready for the upcoming season, and then does it some more in his running shoes whenever he gets the chance.
The 2011 Daytona 500 winner and part-time triathlete is fit, motivated, and hungry to contend for another big win upon his return later this month to the scene of his greatest triumph and to challenge for a Nationwide Series championship.
"This is a really big year for us," Bayne said during a break from Thursday's solitary testing session.
He's scheduled to run 12 Sprint Cup races, including all four on the speedways, with The Wood Brothers, plus a full-time Nationwide schedule for Roush Fenway Racing.
"Being here at Talladega by ourselves today, I think that shows that this team wants to do what it takes to be the best and to have a shot to win those 12 races that we show up at," he said.
The daily workouts, including those squeezed-in runs at racetracks, are also indicative of his thriving health. Bayne went public in November with the revelation that he has multiple sclerosis, but said he still has no symptoms and isn't taking medication.
An outspoken Christian, who often shares his religious testimony in speeches, Bayne said that good health just reinforces his faith. Bayne also said he's been training harder than ever, meeting three times a week with a personal trainer, and going on 1½-mile swims, 3-mile runs and 25-plus mile bike rides.
Wintry weather played havoc with his lunchtime running plans on the 2.66-mile tri-oval Thursday. But he's got his next triathlon coming up in April in Charleston, S.C., so clearly multiple sclerosis isn't slowing him down.
"Fortunately for me at this point, it's had no impact on me," Bayne said. "That's been a huge blessing, because there are people that have it worse. There are some that never even know they have it and live a perfectly normal life. To know that I have it is good to me because it creates a dependence for me daily on the Lord."
The 22-year-old, who also got married last year, hasn't recaptured the winning formula since becoming the youngest winner of NASCAR's biggest race at 20. In fact, he's only had two Top 10 finishes in his other 45 starts, one of them coming at Talladega in 2012.
Nowhere near old enough to be a has-been, he's still in the early stages of a career that happened to start in stirring fashion.
"He's 22, he's just getting started," team co-owner Len Wood said. "Fortunately for him, he started with a bang.
"It was only his second-ever start. That was a big deal when it happened, and if we get him another one, that could be equally as big."
Bayne will return to Daytona International Speedway in a couple of weeks for the Feb. 23 race.
The restrictor plate races are a priority for The Wood Brothers. They tested at Daytona earlier, and then spent 2 days working the car around the tri-oval at Talladega, running solo on Thursday.
Since he won't be competing in every Sprint Cup race, Bayne will face extra pressure in NASCAR's overhauled qualifying sessions to make sure he makes the field in his scheduled events.