For Trevor Bayne, fresh off his 20th birthday and in only his second race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, dreams really do come true. Bayne became the youngest winner of “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500.
[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”281″][/media-credit]”I keep thinking I’m dreaming, I really do,” Bayne said in Victory Lane. “We said a prayer before the race and this just shows how powerful God is and the good job these guys did on this race car. This is just incredible.”
“I drove down here in my F150 and I was planning to drive back, but I think someone else will have to drive it back for me,” Bayne said, acknowledging that he must now do his Daytona 500 duties in New York City as the race winner. “I guess I will have to call someone to get some clothes down here.”
“This is so crazy,” Bayne continued. “I felt a little undeserving, but I’m just glad that I got to be the guy behind the wheel to get the win.”
Bayne’s team owners Eddie and Len Wood were beside themselves after the win. It was so emotional that they both, particularly Eddie Wood, had to stop talking several times to get their tears in check.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” owner Eddie Wood said, with a hitch in his voice. “We’ve struggled just to make the Daytona 500.”
“It’s unbelievable we are sitting here,” Wood continued. “Trevor Bayne did such a good job. Now he is a Daytona 500 winner.”
Donnie Wingo, Bayne’s crew chief, was also elated at his driver and team’s success.
“I couldn’t be happier and the job the kid done today, you couldn’t ask for anything else,” Donnie Wingo, crew chief, said. “At the end, he did what he needed to do.”
“He just might be the next big deal.”
The race not only left Trevor Bayne and his car owners and crew chief shaking in disbelief, but many of the other drivers as well. There were a record 74 lead changes, a record 22 different race leaders, and a record 16 cautions in the event.
“I’ve never run one like that,” veteran Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 32 U.S. Chrome Ford Fusion, said. “It’s a good thing the race wasn’t much longer because we were about done.” Labonte finished the race in the 15th position.
Just as in the Bud Shootout and the Gatorade Duels, this running of the Daytona 500 necessitated a dance partner, with all cars running in the now familiar duo pack. The tandem racing put even more pressure on the spotters, who were not only having to guide their drivers around the track but strategize on the spotter stand as to who to partner up with next.
“It was a pretty crazy day overall,” Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota, said. “Everything was just all over the place and pretty nuts.”
Busch had his own set of challenges, spinning early in the race on lap 4 after getting tagged by his pusher, who was at the time Michael Waltrip. Busch managed to recover and snag a top-ten finish, scoring in the eighth spot.
Another major factor in the race was engine failure, especially given the hotter ambient temperature at Daytona. Both Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton lost their engines, an anomaly for sure for ECR engines.
Harvick denied any forewarning of his engine failure, saying “No, it just let loose.”
“I just blew water out of the bottom of the thing,” Harvick continued. “I hadn’t done anything different.”
Burton echoed his teammate’s sentiments about the engine failure.
“We are asking a lot out of the engines here for sure,” Burton said. “These are tough situations. I thought we were well within our limits but maybe not.”
It would not be a Daytona 500 without the “big one” and this was delivered at lap 29 of the race. Fourteen cars were involved, including three of the Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin, taking them for the most part out of race contention.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in the spotlight due to the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of his father’s death at Daytona, also had a good run, at least until the final laps of the race when a crash took him out of contention. Earnhardt came in 24th, after claiming the pole, wrecking in practice, and starting from the rear of the field.
“We run good,” Earnhardt, Jr. said. “I had as much fun as I could under the circumstances. It was wild.”
Carl Edwards took the runner up spot to Bayne’s fairy tale ending.
“Trevor, he did a good job of blocking the bottom,” Edwards said. “All day we waited and waited, trying not to tear up the race car.”
“There at the end, it almost worked out perfectly,” Edwards continued. “We didn’t have a chance to be able to mount up a real charge on him.”
“I think that I can tell you that second place in the Daytona 500 feels way worse than any other position I’ve ever finished in the Daytona 500,” Edwards said. “But that is made better by listening to Trevor and how excited he is. He is really a nice young man, a great guy to represent this sport with this win.”
David Gilliland, veteran Bobby Labonte, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five in “The Great American Race.” The rest of the top ten included Juan Pablo Montoya in sixth, Regan Smith in seventh, Kyle Busch in eighth, Paul Menard in ninth, and Mark Martin, who rebounded from the big one to finish tenth.
Unofficial Race Results
Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway
February 20, 2011 – Race 1 of 36
|19||29||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||26||1||208||Running|
|24||13||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||21||1||202||Running|
|26||21||36||Dave Blaney||Chevrolet||19||1||198||In Pit|
|32||7||38||Travis Kvapil||Ford||0||0||153||In Pit|
|33||33||71||Andy Lally *||Chevrolet||11||0||149||Running|
|38||40||37||Robert Richardson Jr.||Ford||0||0||45||Running|
|39||22||87||Joe Nemechek||Toyota||0||0||29||In Pit|
|40||9||115||Michael Waltrip||Toyota||4||0||28||In Pit|