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Riding Shotgun with 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne

Trevor Bayne sits in his car before going

Trevor Bayne sits in his car before going out on the track for NASCAR auto race practicing at Daytona International Speedway. (Feb. 19, 2012) Credit: AP

Trevor Bayne drives the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. Last year, at the age of 20 years and one day, he became the youngest driver in history to win the Daytona 500. It was his only Sprint Cup win of the season. Sunday, at 1 p.m. on Fox, Bayne sets out to defend his Daytona 500 title.

Trading Paint: What was is it like to become the youngest winner in the history of the Daytona 500?

Trevor Bayne: It didn't sink in right away. I'll tell you when it really sank in. It was much later and we were at an awards dinner and they were showing all these historic highlights of the Daytona 500. I'm sitting there watching Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough. I grew up watching them race. That's when I realized I was part of the history of the Daytona 500.

TP: The Daytona International Speedway is one of auto racing's historic venues. What's it like racing there?

TB: That track is just unbelievable. I remember driving by there as a little kid going to race go karts. When you are on the highway, it feels like it takes an hour just to pass it. That's how big the place is. And inside, it seems just as big. You have a feeling like no other when you race there. All the history. All the people who come out to watch the Daytona 500. It's unbelievable how many people pay attention to that race.

TP: How has your life changed since winning the Daytona 500?

TB: I have to get up a lot earlier now. I am 20 years old and I like to sleep. But there have been a lot appearances and media obligations. That's what has changed the most.

TP: Danica Patrick joins NASCAR full time this season, how do you think she'll do?

TB: She has what it takes to be a really good driver. Anyone who comes over from open-wheel racing, there is an adjustment period and ittakes time. But she brings a lot of fans to our sport and that's exciting. Everyone realizes that.

TP: Talk about last year's incredible finish.

TB: It doesn't get any better than that. Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart racing for the title on the last day of the season. Really, coming down to the last lap. It was great for our sport. A walk-off win. Tony put a lot of pressure on himself, saying he was going to win. But he went out and did it. To win five races in the chase is unbelievable.

TP: Can Jimmie Johnson rebound and win another title?

TB: They have a great team. Jimmie is a great leader. Jimmie has a way of staying focused and getting the most out of each race. He doesn't get distracted. And Chad Knaus doesn't get enough credit for what he does. They will always be tough to beat.

TP: I understand you are a big football fan. TB: I am a Steelers fan. I started watching them when they had Jerome Bettis running the ball. But I am from Knoxville, Tennessee, so I am also a Peyton Manning fan.

TP: Does Manning stay in Indianapolis or will he come here to New York to play in the same city as Eli?

TB: Well, I would hate to see him come back to football playing at anything less than he was. If he does come back, I think it will be with the Colts. He built everything there. And I am glad Eli won another Super Bowl for the Giants. At least there was a Manning in the Super Bowl.

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