Rookie Trevor Bayne wins 2011 Daytona 500 in 2nd NASCAR start

Trevor Bayne gave himself one spectacular birthday present. Starting from the 16th row in only his second NASCAR Sprint Cup race, at 20 years and 1 day, Bayne became the youngest Daytona 500 winner.

Young Bayne was asked to hold out his hand prior to the race. “Are you nervous?” he was asked. Trevor held his hand steady and said, “No, sir.” During the coverage, Fox broadcaster and former Daytona 500 winner Darrell Waltrip, a lay preacher, had nothing but praise for the polite young man, mentioning more than once that Bayne had led his team in private prayer after the public invocation which preceded the race.

His driving skill was acknowledged by many veteran drivers during the race when they paired up with his #21 Motorcraft Quicklane Ford Fusion in drafting tandems. Because of the new spoiler and repaving of the Daytona track, teams found they ran significantly faster in pairs for a few laps, followed by a do-si-do in order to cool the radiator of the second car.

The day began on a somber note as the stadium went quiet for Lap 3, in tribute to Dale Earnhardt, driver of the #3, who died on the final turn of the 2001 Daytona 500 blocking for Michael Waltrip and his son, Dale Jr. The P.A., broadcasters, and spotters clicked off their mics as everyone held their right hands aloft displaying three fingers in salute to “The Intimidator.”

❝Rookie Bayne planned to run
less than half the
2011 Sprint Cup schedule.❞

Following his death, NASCAR incorporated numerous safety measures including moving the driver seat nearly a foot towards the center of the car, the Head And Neck Safety device (HANS) including the helmet tether, and installation of Steel And Foam Energy Reduction (“SAFER”) barriers at many of the tracks.

These safety measures paid off. In a race marred by a record 16 cautions, including at least half a dozen which appeared as serious as the one which killed Earnhardt, all 43 drivers walked away without needing a Band-Aid. In a crash eerily similar to the one which killed his father in the 2001 race, Dale Junior slammed into the wall on the 205th lap.

After winning the Pole, Junior was forced to start the race at the back of the pack when his qualifying car crashed in practice on Wednesday and he was forced to drive his back-up. He quickly gained back the lost positions, contending after just twenty laps. Junior led nine laps and remained within a handful of car-lengths from the lead on the restart at lap 202, but his chances evaporated after he was forced to pit during the 15th caution due to a flat left rear tire.

In the restart after the wreckage of Junior’s 88 National Guard Chevy was cleaned up, 2000 Daytona 500 winner Bobby Labonte lined up behind Bayne for a Green-White-Checker three-lap finish. High atop the grandstand, their spotters agreed to the partnership during the caution, but once the White flag came out, all bets were off.

Taking the outside line, Labonte’s #47 Toyota and Bayne’s #21 Ford hooked up like a tractor-trailer and its load. Labonte’s bumper kissed the yellow rookie stripe on Bayne’s rear bumper for the final lap and a half until Carl Edwards, driving the #99 Ford, was able to draw even with Labonte, who was forced to drop back as he'd lost his draft on the final turn. Labonte finished fourth behind David Gilliland, who was Edwards’ drafting partner, driving another Toyota.

With only partial funding, Bayne expected to run less than half the schedule for NASCAR legends, the Wood Brothers, a team which had fallen on hard times. This win will certainly bring new sponsorship for a full season.


Related: Spindoctor500 blogger Michael Knight was interviewing Trevor Bayne when the Daytona 500 winner offered him a hot lap around Phoenix International Raceway before the Subway 500 Sprint Cup race.

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