Rookie Trevor Bayne wins Daytona 500 Crash-fest
Driving a Ford for the legendary Wood Brothers team, Bayne led all three laps of the second green-white-checker shootout to hold off a determine charge from Carl Edwards to win NASCAR’s crown-jewel event, marking just the seventh time a driver has won his first race at the Daytona 500.
Having turned 20 years-old just one day prior, Bayne beat out Jeff Gordon – who won the 1997 Daytona 500 at age 26 – to become the youngest driver to win the 500.
“Our first 500, are you kidding me? To win our first one? Our second ever Cup race?” said Bayne. “I keep thinking I am dreaming, I really do. I have never been to a race track with so many people. To win on this platform is incredible. I didn’t know how to get to victory lane, but we will find our way back hopefully. This is unbelievable.”
“It is just amazing. How cool is it to see the Wood Brothers back in victory lane?”
Saturday’s victory was the fifth Daytona 500 win for the Wood Brothers team in their 61-year history and their first since NASCAR Hall of Fame driver David Pearson went to victory lane in 1976 and the first trip to victory lane for the Wood Brothers since 2001, when driver Elliott Sadler won at Bristol.
“You know, sometimes you wonder if rookies are capable of winning you know?” said team co-owner Leonard Wood. “Today I told him that he had already proved to me that he could win and then he goes out and does it. Awesome job. This is one of the greatest wins we have ever had. I have no doubts about this kid now. What an unbelievable day for him and for us.”
Edwards was second, followed by David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch.
Known mainly as a Nationwide Series driver, Bayne signed with Roush Racing late last season to drive in the Nationwide Series and planned on running only a partial schedule in the Sprint Cup Series for the Wood Brothers in 2011. His only previous Sprint Cup race was at Texas last November driving for the Wood Brothers, where he finished 17th.
Bayne came to the attention of many during Speedweeks for his cool demeanor and driving ability as he pushed veteran Jeff Gordon in the Gatorade Duel race held last Thursday before crashing out late in the event, after which Gordon called Bayne “ a heck of a race car driver.”
Bayne now joins an exclusive list of drivers including Tiny Lund, Mario Andretti, Pete Hamilton, Derrike Cope and Sterling Marlin to mark the Daytona 500 as their first NASCAR victory.
Michael Waltrip was the last driver to accomplish the feat in the 2001 Daytona 500, a race that claimed the life of Dale Earnhardt in a last-lap crash.
Ironically, Waltrip himself played a major role in the outcome of Sunday’s race, although not the outcome he wanted.
Driving a racecar commemorating the 10th anniversary of 2001 Daytona 500 victory and the tragic death of his winner car owner, the late Dale Earnhardt, Waltrip hoped to build on the momentum from his win in Friday night’s truck series event.
Instead, Waltrip caused the biggest wreck of the day after spinning out David Reutimann – driving a car owned by Waltrip – and triggering a 14-car pileup that eliminated several of the top contenders, including Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Brian Keselowski and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.
The newly-resurfaced 2.5-mile speedway led to some of the most competitive racing in recent years at the track, but most the racing involved two-car packs drafting nose to tail with the top ten constantly being shuffled, leading to a record 74 lead changes among 22 drivers.
Bayne then hooked up with David Ragan and stayed in him bumped for the rest of the race, helping push his Roush Racing teammate to lead with three laps to go before a five-lap crash brought out the yellow flag for the 15th time and set up the first green-white-checker attempt.
On the first restart, Ragan dived to the inside to pair up with Bayne and the two held the lead with Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch moving in until Robby Gordon got out of shape coming off turn two, touching off a crash involving Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr., set up another three-lap dash.
Ragan, however, was penalized by NASCAR for moving to the inside before crossing the start/finish line and was sent to the back of the pack, putting Bayne in the top spot ahead of Labonte, followed by the tandems of Kurt Busch/Juan Pablo Montoya and Edwards/Gilliland.
On the final restart, Bayne and Labonte pulled down low as Busch and Montoya tried to reel them in. With a lap to go, Edwards and Gilliland roared up from the outside to pass Busch and Montoya, setting up for the final turn.
Coming out of turn four on the final lap, Edwards flashed to the outside and shuffled Labonte out from behind Bayne looking for the lead but didn’t have the momentum to pass Bayne.
“Trevor (Bayne) did a good job of blocking the bottom and then that car was a rocket and took off to the finish line and we didn’t have a chance to be able to mount up a real charge on him,” said Edwards. “I think I can tell you guys that second-place in the Daytona 500 feels way worse than any other position I’ve ever finished in the Daytona 500, but that is made better by listening to Trevor and how excited he is. He is a really nice young man and a great guy to represent this sport with this win.”
Strangely, since Bayne is running the full Nationwide Series this season, he is not eligible to receive any points for his Daytona 500 victory due to a new rule imposed by NASCAR this season where drivers can only earn points in one of NASCAR’s three touring series, putting Edwards in the points lead going into next weekend’s race at Phoenix.
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