Wood You Believe It? Bayne, No. 21 Win The 500
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
NASCAR’s past and future came together and gave race fans something to smile about on Sunday afternoon.
Youngster Trevor Bayne, in just his second Sprint Cup start, won the 2011 Daytona 500.
And the victory gave the iconic Wood Brothers Racing team its first Sprint Cup win since 2001 and its first Daytona 500 victory since David Pearson won in 1976.
“Our first 500, are you kidding me?” Bayne, who needed directions to Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway, yelled. “Wow. This is unbelievable.”
To get the victory – which came after the second of two green/white/checkered restarts – Bayne made the winning decision to hug the yellow line at the bottom of the track coming out of the final turn.
In doing so, he and the historic No. 21 Wood Brothers car held off a hard charging Carl Edwards.
But not even Edwards could be angry after what had to be one of the most unexpected and warmest 500 finishes in years.
“Trevor Bayne is a good guy,” Edwards said. “A cool guy. It’s neat to hear how excited he is.”
Bayne became the seventh driver to get his first Cup victory at the 500. He joins Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994) and Michael Waltrip (2001). Andretti’s 500 win was his only in NASCAR.
Prior to the race, Bayne got some advice from Pearson, the winner of 105 Cup races.
I’m proud of them,” Pearson said after the race. “I figured they had a chance after seeing that boy race in the 150s (Gatorade Duel). I talked to him (Bayne) this morning. I told him to keep his head straight and not to do anything crazy. I told him to stay relaxed. That’s the thing; stay relaxed. I knew he would because he was relaxed in the qualifier. I’m proud of him. I don’t understand what has taken them so long to return to Victory Lane. The car has always been capable.”
Edwards finished second, right on his fellow Ford driver’s rear bumper.
“There at the end it all worked out almost perfectly,” Edwards said. “Trevor, he did a good job of blocking the bottom. Then that car was a rocket. Took off to the finish line. We didn’t have a chance to be able to mount up a real charge on him.”
David Gilliland was third Sunday, Bobby Labonte was fourth.
Kurt Busch was fifth.
“What a race,” Busch, who won his Gatorade qualifying race and the Bud Shootout during Speedweeks, said. “On that last lap, I just needed to stay on the bottom of the track and it just didn’t seem like (Juan Pablo) Montoya could stay together and get enough steam built up on the run. I was in perfect position to win the race, running third and just made a mistake.
“It’s tough. We came all this way and came up a little shy. All in all, it was a great point’s day for us. We’ll take it. To have a run at history was something special. I tried to block it out all day. We fought through adversity when we knocked a hole in the grille. For Shell/Pennzoil and Dodge, AAA, Coca-Cola…this was a great day. Now we can move on to Phoenix and get the season started. I’m real happy with this fifth-place finish. To make a mistake on the last lap, I’m going to be the one that has the sour feeling in my stomach.”
But where were the other big names who were the biggest favorites to win at the newly paved Daytona International Speedway?
Many were in the garages.
The chances for victory for a large contingent of pre-race favorites were ruined in the first 30 laps.
First, Kevin Harvick, a former winner of the race and the driver in Speedweeks of a very fast Richard Childress Racing Chevorlet, blew an engine.
Then, on lap 29, a huge wreck – caused when Michael Waltrip spun teammate David Reutimann – severely damaged the cars of defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Reutimann and Waltrip.
Ambrose described what he saw and enountered.
“Not a lot. I saw the 00 (Reutimann) spun out and I just checked out,” Ambrose, driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, said. “I was going pretty straight and they all started running over the top of me. I thought I had it saved and then I got spun down on the bottom, and then Jeff Gordon finished me off. We’re gonna get backbout with the Stanley Ford Fusion. We’re excited to be at Daytona, it’s just a shame it ended this way.”
Just short of half way, Jeff Burton – who had led five laps and won one of the 150-mile qualifying events last Thursday – glided to the garages to join RCR teammate Harvick with a blown engine.
“We had just a 10 – 15 more degree oil temp than what we had been (running),” Harvick said. “I
pulled out from behind the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth) when I felt like I got to the point where I needed to pull out, and the bottom fell out of it. So, I hate it for everybody on this Budweiser Chevrolet and everybody from Jimmy Johns and Budweiser. A tough way to start the year but man, like you said, we never blow motors.”
Asked if he thought the engine temperatures were a result of the bumper-to-bumper racing, Harvick said, “I don’t think so. Like I said, overheating would be getting it to the point where it blows off and you see the water start to come out. We had a touch more oil temp, but nothing out of the ordinary. And I had just pulled out. And that early in the race, even if you do get it hot, it’s usually not a catastrophic failure like we just had.”
At the half way point of the race, only 24 cars remained on the lead lap.
And then things got worse.
Contender Matt Kenseth, a past winner of the 500, became a victim of push-racing as he was spun hard into the wall with just over 70 laps to go by Biffle. Twelve laps later, Biffle crashed out of the race in another wreck. Also involved was Juan Pablo Montoya.
Brad Keselowski’s day ended with 33 laps to go when he was spun by Robby Gordon.
Two final heartbreaking wrecks – for competitors and fans – occurred in the last four laps. It involved four of the eight cars who were in position to win.
The first started when Kurt Busch was hit from behind by the two-car pack of Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Busch shot forward to hit Regan Smith. The incident also claimed Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. Earnhardt suffered a cut tire and had to pit. He did, however remain in contention for the victory – momentarily, at least.
The second late wreck occurred on the back stretch on the first restart. That wreck ended Earnhardt’s day and his fans’ hopes for a big party.
“Had as much fun as we could under the circumstances; it just got crazy at the end,” Earnhardt said. “That restart where I wrecked that was some funny stuff on the bottom down there. We just got hit in the quarter panel trying to get by a wreck. We may have caused a few today, I don’t know. It was wild. I want to thank all my guys on my team, Hendrick engines, the body men and everybody who worked real hard to get us down here and make us run as good as we did. It was a shame we couldn’t get a good finish for them.”
Instead, it was fans of a kid who turned 20 years old on Saturday and a team which has long stood for class, who did the most celebrating Sunday night.
(This story will be updated shortly)8 Comments