Unlikely Daytona 500 Champ
On the 10-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s untimely passing, arguably the most popular driver in NASCAR history, one of NASCAR’s least known drivers, Trevor Bayne, joins names like Earnhardt, Gordon, Petty, Pearson and other NASCAR royalty as a Daytona 500 Champion.
The story certainly wasn’t a likely one. A barely 20-year-old driver takes the seat of the famous Wood Brother’s #21 car, painted exactly like the 1976 Daytona 500 winning Wood Brother’s entry, piloted by recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, David Pearson. There are major differences between this victory and Pearson’s 35 years earlier. This time, the driver had only one previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and had yet to grace victory lane in the Nationwide Series, for which he is focusing his 2011 efforts. Furthermore, the Wood Brother’s, NASCAR’s oldest team, is a one car operation that has been largely passed by in today’s era of four car “mega-teams.” Yet, the team looked strong during the 2011 Speedweeks and Bayne had turned to childhood idol and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon for advice. Little did Gordon know, his tips would later be used to dethrone him as the 500’s youngest winner, a title claimed in 1997 when Gordon won “The Great American Race” at age 25.
Bayne, a graduate of the former Hooters Pro Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World East Series is entering his second year of full-time Nationwide competition driving for Roush-Fenway Racing. The Tennessean will not receive any points for his improbable Daytona 500 victory as a result of NASCAR’s new point system that forces drivers to declare which series they wish to receive championship points. Bayne leaves the memorable Daytona Speedweeks fifth in Nationwide Series points after posting a 10th-place finish in the DRIVE4COPD 300.
In addition to his Nationwide schedule, Bayne has agreed to drive the Wood Brother’s Ford in 16 additional Sprint Cup Series races this year, including the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, October 9th. NASCAR’s newest superstar can also be seen chasing a championship on Saturday, October 8th, 2011, during the Kansas Lottery 300 Nationwide Series event. Fans can catch all the action by visiting www.kansasspeedway.com or calling 866-460-RACE (7223) for tickets.
As always, parking is free and fans may bring a 14x14x14-inch soft-sided cooler into the grandstands to enjoy their favorite foods and beverages.