BY DARREN REESE
SUN SPORTS WRITER
BULLS GAP - Trevor Bayne saw some of his buddies doing it, so he wanted to give it a try.
That's how the 2011 winner of the Daytona 500 first got the itch to race on a dirt track.
Bayne made his competitive Super Late Model debut at Volunteer Speedway last year. He was back at the track Thursday night to compete in the Lucas Oil Late Model Series-sanctioned "Scorcher" for the second consecutive year.
Bayne started on the outside of row six for the feature event and went on to finish a respectable 12th. He was one lap down at the end.
It was only the second time he had ran on dirt this year.
"As I'm getting ready to go out there, I'm trying to run through my head all of these things that you have to do different," said Bayne, who is currently eighth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings with one victory on the season.
"This is definitely the most nervous I get all year, when I come out and do these dirt races."
Bayne's racing career began on dirt when he was a pre-teen behind the wheel of a go-kart. Most of his experience prior to joining the NASCAR circuit, though, came on asphalt.
Early last year, he was watching the Prelude to the Dream exhibition race - a charity dirt track event that brings together stars from NASCAR, NHRA and IndyCar at the Tony Stewart-owned Eldora Speedway in western Ohio.
Bayne felt like he was missing out on the fun.
"It's always an awesome race, and I want to be in it every year," Bayne said in an interview with USA Today at the time.
He said he didn't "want to go there as my (first dirt track race). Hopefully next year, we'll be ready to go."
Only, the Prelude wasn't held in 2013.
Bayne still followed through on his desire, though.
He ran a couple of test sessions at Smoky Mountain Speedway last June and raced in a Limited Late Model event at the track two months later.
Just a week after his dirt debut, Bayne jumped up to the Super Late Models in last year's Scorcher at Volunteer.
Larry Garner - part-owner of Smoky Mountain Speedway, as well as owner of Blount Motorsports - is the one who first gave Bayne a car to drive last year.
Bayne was back behind the wheel of a BMS machine Thursday night at Volunteer.
Blount Motorsports fielded two cars in this year's Scorcher, with primary BMS driver Billy Ogle, Jr. finishing second in the race.
"It started out with them getting me some laps at (Smoky Mountain Speedway) last year, and that went pretty good," Bayne explained. "I saw those guys win a bunch of races last year, and I really wanted to try and run with them at some point this year."
Growing up in East Tennessee, Bayne - who went to high school at Knox Central - was already familiar with many of the local dirt track legends even before he tried to match skills with them on the track.
"I know Chris Madden pretty well and Earl Pearson, Jr.," he noted. "Of course, guys like Billy Ogle, Jr, who is my teammate tonight, he's been around Knoxville his whole life."
"Then you have guys like Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens. Everybody knows them around here."
With such little experience on the dirt racing surface, Bayne said he had to rely mainly on what his crew told him as far as handling some of the intricacies.
"When it comes to the line to run and what these cars are going to do and what to expect, for sure, I have to listen to what they tell me," he said. "The rest is just a feel thing."
"All of our turns are done with the front end (in a stock car). Out here, these turns are done with the back end of these cars. You drive them so hard and get in the gas so soon. They actually grip up in the turn. It's just a trust thing."
The week has been one to celebrate for Bayne, as Wednesday it was announced that Advocare was coming onboard as full-time sponsor of his Roush Fenway Racing car in the Nationwide Series in 2014.
"Having one sponsor takes a lot of stress off our backs," Bayne said. "It's going to be cool working with them."
Bayne has had trouble finding a full-time ride on the Sprint Cup Series, despite winning the circuit's biggest race - the Daytona 500 - two years ago.
He has been running a part-time Sprint Cup schedule in the No. 21 Wood Brothers car ever since that victory.
Bayne was racing at Volunteer Speedway in advance of Friday's Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The driver said he considers it a homecoming. He has made nine starts at Bristol and has finished in the top 10 twice.
Last year, he sat on the pole at the fall Nationwide race at Bristol, driving the "We Back Pat" Ford Fusion in honor of former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.
"I love to come home every chance I get," Bayne said. "Bristol is a place like no other."
"Even if I wasn't from here, I would still enjoy it. But being from here, it makes it extra special."