DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – This year’s Preseason Thunder testing sessions in preparation for the 54th annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 26 has a different feel for Trevor Bayne.
The driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion for Wood Brothers Racing returns to Daytona International Speedway as the defending Daytona 500 champion.
In last year’s Daytona 500, Bayne stunned the racing world at the age of 20 by becoming the youngest champion of the “Great American Race” driving for the legendary Wood Brothers.
“I never would have expected, coming into this last year, that we would be the winner, and it’s really humbling, “Bayne said at the conclusion of the second of three days of testing at Daytona. “I’m kind of in the same mindset that I was in last year. Last year I came in thinking there’s no way we can win this and now I’m coming back thinking there’s no way we can win two in a row, but then the Wood Brothers keep showing up with a great race car and they keep showing up with the guys that can do it and can win.
“And so coming back here now, it’s a crazy feeling because I would never expect to have one of these trophies (Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy) sitting in my room, much less to be going for two of them and I have that opportunity again with the Wood Brothers.”
After a solid two days of testing on the 31-degree high banks, Bayne is looking forward to more track time at the speedway that will always hold the memory of winning NASCAR’s signature event.
“This place is just a really cool place to come to and it’s always exciting to drive, whether it’s testing or being here for the race.”
Edwards dreams of winning the 500: Based on a tiebreaker, Carl Edwards was runner-up to Tony Stewart for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and finished second to Bayne in last year’s Daytona 500. Preparing for his eighth Daytona 500 start, the driver of the No. 99 Ford is still searching for his first Daytona 500 win.
“Well, it would be huge. That would be an understatement,” Edwards said about the prospect of winning the Daytona 500. “Last year we were so close following Trevor across the start-finish line. I learned a lot. I mean, it’s the Daytona 500, and I’m very, very excited about it.”
Quotable: “It’s such a special race, and I feel very fortunate to have won that race. At that point I didn’t have a championship, and it’s one of two races that you get a title when you win this race, this one and the Brickyard. It can make a career, and it was a huge, huge thing for myself when I won it in 2006.” – 2006 Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson
Stenhouse ready for first Daytona 500 start: Ricky Stenhouse, who captured the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, is testing in advance of his first career Daytona 500 start. Scheduled to drive the famed No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, Stenhouse is ready for his first attempt at winning the Daytona 500.
“That is going to be exciting,” Stenhouse said. “I think obviously being in the race is going to be fun but I think the pre race stuff before it and just being a part of it, looking around and seeing all the people here, and just knowing what you are a part of is going to be really special.”
Fastest of the day: On Thursday, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was the fastest of the day with a speed of 202.402 mph turned in the afternoon session. Jeff Gordon posted the fastest time in the morning session with a lap of 46:687 (192.773 mph) in the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 TAG Heuer Eyewear Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing was the fastest on Friday with a speed of 206.058 mph turned in the afternoon session. In the morning session, Martin Truex Jr. made the best time with a lap of 43:962 (204.722 mph) in his No. 56 Napa Auto Parts Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Next up: Preseason Thunder wraps up on Saturday. The test session begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., weather permitting.
Tickets are available at the gate, online at http://wwwdaytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fans can also watch testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.