DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In what will go down as one of the most exciting races in the history of the Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne brought the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford to Gatorade Victory Lane after two green-white-checkered attempts in the 53rd annual Daytona 500 at historic Daytona International Speedway.
Bayne, who turned 20 years old yesterday, is the youngest driver to win “The Great American Race” and returned the storied Wood Brothers to victory lane for the first time in 10 years in a paint scheme similar to the one David Pearson drove to victory in the 1976 Daytona 500.
Bayne’s name will be engraved on the coveted Harley J. Earl trophy alongside the esteemed company of Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, AJ Foyt and Pearson - the other four drivers who have won the Daytona 500 with the legendary team.
“I keep thinking I am dreaming; I really do,” said Bayne, who was a popular drafting partner throughout Speedweeks despite having only run in one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race prior to today. “It is unbelievable. Our first 500 – are you kidding me? To win our first one? Our second-ever Cup race?
“I can’t thank the (drivers) that worked with me enough,” Bayne continued. “There were 10-15 different drivers that helped us get across that line. Wow. This is unbelievable.”
The win marks Ford’s 600th victory in the Sprint Cup Series and made Bayne the seventh driver to get his first victory in the richest and most prestigious race in NASCAR. It’s not Bayne’s first trip to Gatorade Victory Lane though.
Bayne, who is contractually a Roush Fenway Racing driver in the Nationwide Series and only running a limited schedule with the Wood Brothers, beat Carl Edwards to the line by .118 seconds.
“Trevor did a good job of blocking the bottom and that car was a rocket to the finish line. We didn’t have a chance to mount a real charge on him,” said Edwards who has six top-10 finishes in 13 Sprint Cup races at the “World Center of Racing”. “A second-place (finish) in the Daytona 500 feels way worse than any other position I’ve come in at the Daytona 500. That is made better by listening to Trevor and how excited he is, though. He is a really nice young man and a great guy to represent the sport with this win.”
Rounding out the top five were 2007 Daytona 500 pole winner David Gilliland, 2000 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte and 2011 Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duel winner Kurt Busch, respectively.
An incident with two laps to go took out many of the front runners and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Race-leader David Ragan moved into the bottom lane before crossing the start/finish line as they were coming to the green flag and was black-flagged. An incident entering Turn 3 on that first lap set up a second green-white-checkered restart. Ragan’s penalty gave Bayne the lead which he would never relinquish.
The new racing surface produced several records in the 2011 Daytona 500 including number of leaders (22) and lead changes (74), besting the previous records of 21 and 60, respectively. Ryan Newman, the 2008 Daytona 500 champion, led the most laps today - nine times for 37 of the 208 laps. Of the 43-car field, 20 drivers finished on the lead lap.
Another star-studded day at DIS included some of the top names in country music. Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley performed a pre-race show and drove the Chevrolet Camaro SS pace car. Dierks Bentley performed in the Sprint FANZONE and Martina McBride sang the National Anthem as the world-renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed the flyover. “TRANSFORMERS: Dark of the Moon” stars Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Director Michael Bay served as Grand Marshals.
With his win in the Daytona 500, Bayne will join crew chief Donnie Wingo and the Wood Brothers tomorrow morning for the Champion’s Breakfast car induction.
Tickets to the Champion’s Breakfast are $40 and available at the Daytona International Speedway ticket office. Tickets for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.