Is Trevor Bayne's decision to avoid alcohol sponsorship admirable or naive? Both sides have a point.
While browsing magazines this weekend, I came across a very interesting article in one NASCAR publication.
The article focused on young drivers who are particularly religious and how they balance that with their careers -- drivers included in the feature included Trevor Bayne, Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Bayne's story was the most interesting to me. He has been very outspoken about his religious beliefs since arriving in the top levels of NASCAR and especially after winning the Daytona 500 a couple years back. He has come upon a rough stretch in his career, not competing full-time right now due to lack of sponsorship, but that doesn't stop him from making some decisions that some people might call not so smart.
Specifically, he says in the article that there is an alcohol-based company that is willing to sponsor him for a full season in Nationwide, but he would not accept that kind of sponsor, for fear of projecting an image to his fans that endorses alcohol. He wants to be a role model, something few athletes are these days -- and this is either admirable or naive depending how you view it.
Another example in the article was similar. McDowell said that in his younger days, a Grand-Am car he drove for featured a Playboy sponsorship and he objected. But he drove anyway since he was under contract. Today, he wouldn't do that, McDowell said.
Bayne's view is not so much a directly religious objection, but it's basically a moral stance. Richard Petty took a similar stance, mainly because he promised his mom he would never race for an alcohol company, but he was Richard Petty. He could pretty much do what he wanted.
Trevor Bayne has a much different situation than Petty. Like I said, does not have a ride right now. He says that it's not worth compromising his values just to have a year of sponsorship. There are two ways one could react to that.
1. Some might say kudos to him: He's standing up for his principles and isn't going to sacrifice them just to advance his career.
2. Others might be more cynical, saying he is being silly and naive, especially since any long absence from the sport can kill your career in NASCAR. And that one year of sponsorship could turn into a long-term deal that might last your whole career if you do well in those colors. Why would you turn that down in an era where sponsorship is very hard to find, as Bayne very obviously knows right now.
What do I think? I think Trevor Bayne knows himself and what he can and can not do, whether it's based on religion, general morals or something else. And I'm not going to second-guess that too much. Only he knows what is in his head and heart.
This debate interests me quite a bit, because you so rarely find people who will raise such objections to their potential sponsors. Most of them just want to race, and couldn't care less who the sponsor is.
On one hand, I can see the side of people who say Bayne is being stupid to eliminate at the start a certain segment of sponsor, as that makes his sponsor search even more difficult than it would be normally.
But at the same time, I'm not going to criticize him for exercising his beliefs at the expense of his career. He is the one who will suffer the consequences of his decision if they are negative.
And from what I know about Trevor, even if this line of decision making seriously slows down or ends his career, he wouldn't be too upset, because racing is not the be-all, end-all in his life.
Even if everyone calls him crazy for turning down sponsorship, he won't bend his beliefs. And there's nothing wrong with that.