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Trevor Bayne dealing with MS in same way he did with 2011 Daytona 500 win

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When the initial shock finally subsided after Trevor Bayne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last November, he did the exact same thing that he did after winning the 2011 Daytona 500:

He embraced them both.

One was the win of a lifetime, while the other is the battle of a lifetime. And just like the way be beat Daytona on that day in February three years ago, Bayne also intends on beating MS, rather than the other way around.

“The first thing is what does this mean for me, and so far it’s just a diagnosis,” Bayne said. “Fortunately, it’s not something I have to live with every day at this point.

“I’m so thankful for every day. It just kind of put things in perspective for me. We all feel kind of invincible, whether we’re 12 years old or 50 years old, there’s a point in our lives where we feel like nothing can go wrong.

“For me, it’s more of a reality check a little bit. It’s not like I live in fear of that, it makes me more appreciative every single day that I wake up, God gives me another day, it makes you want to use it. You wake up, your eyes are good, your hands are good and you’re ready to go. Fortunately, every single day has been good.”

The outpouring of support for Bayne’s medical condition has virtually equaled the support he received after Carl Edwards pushed him to victory in the 2011 Daytona 500. He considers himself a fortunate man to have both.

At the same time, while countless NASCAR fans will never be able to personally relate to Bayne’s accomplishment in the Great American Race, there are countless others dealing with various medical conditions that can relate to the type of illness he’s been diagnosed with, and he is grateful for the support he’s received from both events.

“More people can relate to something that’s tough, a trial, a struggle, than they can to people out winning a NASCAR race,” Bayne said. “There’s only 43 guys that get to do that every weekend and the rest of the world does not.

“I get stopped every single day just about from different fans with suggestions for diets and all kinds of stuff because they care. It’s kind of like having a million moms out there that care for you and want to take care of you. It’s nice to have.”

But Bayne is quick to add that he doesn’t want his medical condition to be his sole story going forward. If he remains healthy and follows his doctor’s orders, it could be many years, if not decades, before he has to worry about MS beginning to manifest itself in him.

“They definitely keep an eye on me and make sure they’re doing everything they can,” Bayne said. “We’re not just going to ignore it and act like there was no diagnosis.”

So for now and his long-range future, Bayne has compartmentalized his MS. He knows its there, but as long as it doesn’t begin to affect his performance on the race track and he isn’t a danger to fellow racers, he’d much rather talk racing – and only racing.

In particular, he waxes effusive about last season in the Nationwide Series, when he finished a career-high sixth in the standings. In 33 starts, he won a race, as well as added seven top-5 and 21 top-10 finishes.

“We don’t want to be content when we finish 15th or 17th place, we want to be contending for top-fives,” he said matter of factly. “We definitely expected to try and contend for a championship, and that being my first full year in a Nationwide car with one team all year long, I felt I learned so much about a championship mindset, what that means and what you can and cannot do and still contend for that championship. The last half of the season last year, we earned more points than anybody except for the 3 car with Austin Dillon, and obviously he went on to win the championship. I keep following these champions along. I just need to do it myself.”

Bayne turns 23 on Feb. 19, just three days before the Nationwide Series season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. With two-time Nationwide champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. having moved up to Sprint Cup last season, and 2013 Nationwide champ Dillon having moved up to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014, Bayne’s chances for a Nationwide championship are as bright as they ever have been.

“Our team this season, we feel really good about it and our mindset and understanding where we fell short last year,” Bayne said. “Our performance on the race track was okay, but I think we could have been better, contended for more top-fives and more wins and that would have led maybe to a better points finish.

“To me, our biggest weakness was the bad days that went really bad. We broke a gear at Daytona running second and finished 32nd or something like that. We got grass in our grill at Texas running fourth and finished 34th. Some of those things were out of our control.

“But there were some days where it was in my control, like at Darlington, where I got into it with a lapped car running 10th, crashed the car, probably would have finished 20th but I wasn’t content with that, so I tried to push for 15th, backed it into the fence again and finished 30th.

“Those are the kinds of days that hinder a championship run, and that’s something I think we’re more focused on this year, is what does that look like, to gain the most possible points every weekend and not make those mistakes, where it gets in your head that you have to make up those points. You don’t really want to be in a chasing situation, where you’re trying to make up points. You want to be strong at the beginning so that in the last half of the season, you’re focused on race wins and not trying to make up 20 or 30 points.

“We finished sixth instead of fourth because of (the difference of just) four points. That could have been for the championship. … Every single point counts, and that’s the biggest driving force last year that I learned from.”

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Although it has now been three years, it still seems like only yesterday that Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history:

CJ Wilson completes first test in Porsche GT3 Cup car

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Photo courtesy of CJ Wilson Racing
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CJ Wilson’s new career is officially underway, following his retirement from professional baseball and now having completed his first test last week at Texas World Speedway in his new 2017 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

Wilson, who formally announced the news he’d be transitioning into racing full-time during Rolex 24 at Daytona race week, did a two-day test at the still active oval/road course combo track in College Station, Texas. Wilson tested one of the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports (the team runs two in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge) and then advanced into the Cup car.

Wilson got fairly close to teammate Marc Miller’s times during the test as he acclimated to both the Cup car and the Yokohama tires.

“It’s great to take another step towards my goals,” Wilson said. “We had a chance to burn through two sets of tires today and I made a lot of progress. Having Marc as my coach was incredibly helpful because we have a lot of faith in each other and communicate using the same terms. Having sat in driver debriefings for the past six years with the race team, I was able to take all the input logically and make progress each session.

“The only odd thing about the test is that nobody else was here, which was the first time I have ever been on a track completely alone, so when we did a race simulation I had to use my imagination. TWS is a really fast and bumpy track. Looking forward to getting back in the car in ten days and pick up where I left off.”

Miller added, “CJ did great job, but I expected as much. He is logical and methodical which makes him easy to help and that translated into a very quick progression along the learning curve. Like any professional athlete though he is never truly satisfied because he wants to be perfect. He took quickly to the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. It is confidence inspiring and such a capable platform so that suited him well in getting up to speed. Overall, it was a successful first outing and I look forward to working with CJ this season. I expect he will have a solid debut at Sebring. He better or I’m likely fired.”

A teaser of on-board footage is below, along with a couple other social posts from the test:

Danny Watts: ‘Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain’

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  (l to r) Strakka Racing drivers Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane pose during the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship Photo Call on March 22, 2013 at Potters Fields in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Watts (left) with Leventis and Kane in 2013. Photo: Getty Images
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Sports car veteran driver Danny Watts has announced his retirement from active competition, but is in the news for an entirely different reason on Monday.

The 37-year-old Brit has announced he’s gay, penning a first-person piece for the Huffington Post and also doing interviews with both Daily Sportscar and Autosport. The latter article features a well-written op-ed from author Matt Beer.

In the Huffington Post piece, Watts, an eight-time starter and 2010 LMP2 class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, wrote that hiding his sexuality in the heavily white male heterosexual world of motorsport was simply becoming too much to keep under wraps.

“There isn’t any one moment that stands out in my mind as the moment I realized I would need to live in the closet if I wanted my motorsport career to go anywhere; it was just a general feeling I got,” Watts wrote.

“All the other guys in the paddock had girlfriends, so I got one to blend in. When that relationship ended, I got another one, and so I continued pretending to be straight for seventeen years.

“Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain.

“I hope that there are a few people who are supportive. If the response I’ve had from the queer motorsport community thus far is any gauge, I feel hopeful that I’ll find a supportive group to start driving change for my queer siblings in the sport I love.”

Within the motorsports world, Watts’ name is best known to the sports car paddock, and he was a regular with the Strakka Racing team alongside co-drivers Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis. But he isn’t particularly known to the racing world at large.

This announcement comes as Watts has opted to call time on his full-time driving career and instead will focus on coaching for the future. It also represents one of the higher profile names in racing announcing his sexual orientation, which makes it newsworthy.

Despite some detractors (as you might expect), a number of other drivers and key motorsports figures have revealed their support for Watts, and why this news matters, on social media today:

Marino Franchitti returns to Mazda at Sebring

SEBRING, FL - MARCH 15:  Left to right, Marino Franchitti, Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett celebrate after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 15, 2014 in Sebring, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Franchitti (left) won at Sebring in 2014. Photo: Getty Images
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Marino Franchitti will make his return to a Mazda entry for next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, to be run March 18, as third driver in the team’s No. 70 Mazda RT24-P with Joel Miller and Tom Long.

The Scotsman competed in the team’s RX-8 and 6 models in the GT ranks but has been out of a drive since his role with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing last season in one of the team’s Ford GTs in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Franchitti replaces James Hinchcliffe, who was the third driver in the No. 70 car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’ll test for the team later this week at Sebring prior to the race run in the second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the year.

“A big part of those results are being with great teams and having great teammates. I’ve been fortunate in that regard,” said Franchitti, who co-drove to win overall at Sebring in 2014. “I love driving there, I always have since the first laps I did. It’s a proper old-school track. If you go over the limit, you crash, simple as that, rather than going onto some tarmac run-off like many tracks. I love the challenge of walking that tightrope. Of course, there’s the challenge of the bumps too, trying to get the car to handle over them and the beating the car and driver takes. There’s a reason people come from all over the world to endurance test their cars here, it’s the ultimate test of a vehicle and its durability.

No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“It’s so cool to be coming back into the Mazda family,” said Franchitti. “Like everyone else, I was blown away when I saw the first shots of the RT24-P and how incredible it looks, so there’s a lot of excitement at getting to drive it. I’m relieved I get a chance to test the car, as many times I’ve just jumped in and raced, so this is a bit of a luxury! Being a part of the development process of a car is something I’ve been lucky enough to do several times and it’s something I really love.”

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan added, “He’s a proven winner there, and he’s been a part of the Mazda family for years. Just look at his record at Sebring! He has the experience that can really help our team. Because he’s driven with Mazda before, we know his personality is a great fit. That’s important to us, and it goes a long way in helping the team chemistry remain strong. He’s a great fit with Tom [Long] and Joel [Miller], just as Spencer Pigot has been great with Nunez and Bomarito.”

Pipo Derani set for IndyCar test with SPM at Sebring

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Pipo Derani has become a star in the sports car world the last couple years, courtesy of his drives primarily with Tequila Patron ESM.

Meanwhile for at least a day, the 23-year-old Brazilian will be returning to his open-wheel roots in a big way.

NBC Sports has learned Derani will test for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on March 1 in a rookie test for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Derani joins Mexican driver Luis Michael Dorrbecker, who will also make his test debut that day at that test at Sebring International Raceway’s 1.5-mile short course.

Derani raced a partial season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series in 2014 with Team Pelfrey, before shifting to sports cars later that fall, starting with Murphy Prototypes.

Derani excelled with G-Drive in 2015 before his star turn with ESM last year. This year, his schedule grows even greater, as he’s been confirmed with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for the first three races of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the No. 67 Ford GT with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

It’ll be interesting to see what Derani does on the Sebring short course in one of SPM’s Honda-powered entries. He’ll be back at Sebring a couple weeks after his IndyCar test, as he prepares to defend his win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with ESM.