2011 Daytona 500: Trevor Bayne, 20, gives Wood Brothers Racing a long-awaited victory
Monday, February 21, 2011; 12:14 AM
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. - A day after celebrating his 20th birthday, Trevor Bayne delivered a special present to one of NASCAR's oldest teams.
Bayne, making only his second Sprint Cup start and ineligible to earn points on stock-car racing's top circuit, became the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history Sunday, holding off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to cap a wild race that set records for lead changes and cautions and ended in NASCAR's version of double overtime.
"If I tried to put it into words, I wouldn't be doing it any justice," the fresh-faced rookie said, grinning from ear to ear. "They gave me a rocket ship that definitely did me a lot of justice today. Anybody I hooked up with, it was headed to the front. To get this win . . . in our second-ever race, that's setting the standard."
Bayne's victory also put the once legendary Wood Brothers Racing back in Victory Lane. A team that fielded cars for David Pearson and Cale Yarborough scored its fifth victory in the Daytona 500 but first since 1976, when Pearson was behind the wheel. The red and white paint scheme on Bayne's No. 21 Ford, in fact, paid homage to Pearson's famous car.
"We've struggled so much the past couple of years just to make the Daytona 500, much less win it," co-owner Eddie Wood said. "To be fender-to-fender with all these guys, [Bayne] has got the composure and savvy of a veteran. And now he's a Daytona 500 winner."
It was Wood Brothers' first win anywhere in 10 years.
But before Bayne secured his spot in history and helped Wood Brothers recapture some of its past glory, the Knoxville, Tenn., native had to hold off Edwards exiting Turn 4 on the second "green-white-checker" restart after multiple wrecks in the closing laps. Edwards attempted to slingshot past the rookie with the help of a push from David Gilliland, but he was unable to catch Bayne.
"The last straightaway I raced defensively," Bayne said. "I saw Carl Edwards coming up. I pulled down to get a push from him and it worked out perfect."
Edwards added: "Trevor did a great job blocking the bottom. That car was a rocket."
At the end of a thrilling afternoon dominated by two-car "tandem drafts," it was less about racing than it was about surviving. There were 74 lead changes among 22 drivers and 16 cautions, all track records.
Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon ended up in the garage for repairs after a 14-car wreck on Lap 29 that confirmed everyone's fears about the tandem draft. It's the fastest way around the glass-smooth, repaved, 2.5 mile superspeedway. But the potential for disaster remained ever present.
David Reutimann triggered the chain reaction after he was spun by Michael Waltrip as the two drafted nose-to-tail.