With the Wood Brothers Racing team not competing in Pocono and the NASCAR Nationwide Series off, Trevor Bayne isn’t racing this weekend. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t busy.
Bayne will be heading to Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. for the finals of the 65th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, which take place June 8 – 10. There, 50 teams of high school juniors and seniors – one team from each state – will square off in competition.
Each team will first take a written exam, then the teams will have to diagnose and repair a different set of "bugs" in a 2014 Ford Fusion during a timed competition. The team with the best combined written test and hands-on competition scores wins the national title.
"For me, I’m just there to kind of encourage those guys and be a part of the prize, I guess," said Bayne.
At stake are millions of dollars in scholarships, automotive equipment and a trip to the Wood Brothers Racing facility in Harrisburg, N.C., where the students and instructor will work on race cars and learn from top automotive engineers. The winning team also gets to shadow Bayne and the Wood Brothers at Daytona International Speedway in July.
"I’ve been a part of it for the last three years and it’s really cool," said Bayne. "The first time I went, I didn’t really know what to expect or what it was. But when I got there and saw what was going on, I was kind of surprised by how cool it was."
Bayne said the competition begins with 13,000 participants from whom the 50 two-man teams are culled.
"The cool part of the competition isn’t the online exam," said Bayne. "I’m sure nobody looks forward to doing that, especially if you like working on cars, I’m sure the last thing you want to do is be on a computer.
"But when you get there, they have these Ford Fusions sitting out a field, and they all have intentional, implanted bugs in them," Bayne said. "And the students have to figure out what’s wrong with the cars. They don’t know if there’s five things wrong with them, 20 things wrong or what’s wrong, so they have to search the entire vehicle to do it faster than anybody else and come through with the least amount of mistakes."
Bayne said the winning students enjoy coming to Daytona with the Wood Brothers team.
"They’ll be wearing the crew shirts and seeing what it’s like to be a NASCAR crew guy instead of an automotive technician at the Quick Lane Ford dealership," said Bayne. "They can see whether they want to go down a career path of competition in NASCAR or if they just want to stay in the automotive industry working on cars."