Three days earlier, Bayne, who drives in the Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway Racing, finished third at Dover International Speedway. Three days later, Bayne had to report to Iowa Speedway for the 12th race of the 32 event schedule.
No, Newton, Iowa, has never been a hotspot for a honeymoon, but the trip to Victory Lane made it all worthwhile.
Six weeks later, the newlyweds received the news that Bayne, 22, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“She's been completely supportive and awesome,” Bayne said of his bride. “She's been by my side all the way through this. That is what is so great about being married to somebody who is the same as you are in their faith and through everything. Man, she's been unbelievable.
"Sometimes she's as competitive, if not more than I am, about racing stuff, and she's the same about this. We want to go after it and, obviously, trust in the Lord and his plan for me.”
For Bayne, that “plan” includes bringing awareness to multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system. MS is difficult to detect and more prominent in women. Bayne’s sister Sarah also suffers from the disease. But the symptoms can manifest differently in each individual depending on the classification of MS.
Although Bayne did not realize it at the time, the most common signs were there.
Two years ago, and just months after Bayne, then 20, became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, he developed what was originally thought to be symptoms from a bug bite. The swelling, rash and bumps on his left arm landed Bayne in the infield care center at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7. When swelling didn’t subside after he was administered antibiotics and numbness began to set in, Bayne checked himself into the hospital when he returned to Charlotte early Sunday morning.
After Bayne awoke with blurred vision on April 25, accompanied with nausea and fatigue, arrangements were made to undergo tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., later that week. After further evaluation, Bayne was released on May 5, but sidelined for five weeks from NASCAR competition. Upon his return on June 4 he finished third at Chicagoland Speedway.
Still, uncertain of his earlier episodes, Bayne stayed in touch regularly with the Mayo Clinic to “get tests done and try to figure out an answer.”
“In the beginning they were unsure, and they're not going to give it a diagnosis until they are sure,” Bayne said. “That's what I appreciate about the doctors there.
“From all the testing we've done there through their knowledge and experience they were able to diagnose me … I have no symptoms. It was really on our doing, of continuing to pursue a diagnosis and continuing to find out answers.”
On Tuesday, Bayne acknowledged that he does not take medication for his condition but manages it with diet and exercise instead. As for his earlier bouts with fatigue, Bayne’s participation in his first triathlon last December to test his “limitations” (he finished 38 out 440 athletes), should dispel any doubts.
And Bayne has been cleared for competition by NASCAR. For a driver who's been racing since he was five years old, that may be the greatest relief of all.
“I've got a team around me that supports me completely and I have a platform to share it and encourage other people,” Bayne said. “So through this, it's been great to have that kind of support. Also I'm in a sport that's performance-based so it's giving me the mindset of wanting to know everything I can about it and to go after it.
“Racing has kind of molded my life a lot. We're very competitive people, and that gives me more of a fire to be better through this. I don't really know what I'd be doing without racing because it's all I've ever done.”
While Bayne’s parents helped guide him throughout his career, he realizes this latest setback is “probably a little bit difficult for them.”
Prior to his announcement, his parents offered their encouragement via text. But it was Ashton, Bayne’s wife of five months, who sat by his side.
“I couldn't ask for a better wife through this kind of thing,” Bayne said. “She's never wavered or doubted or anything like that. She's been completely supportive of whether I announced this or whether I don't. Whatever decisions I've made, she's completely stood by me and given me good perspective, and that's been awesome.”