Realistically… None of it matters. Yes, close quarter 2×2 racing took its toll and some of the most experienced and fastest drivers were sent to the cap and out of contention. Yes, a record number of cautions and restarts kept the deck shuffled.
This is Daytona! The new surface and the racing style set in motion for the Daytona 500 created a touch and go and hook and push race that created the final scenario of a Wood Brothers Motorcraft #21 Ford victory.
Rookie Trevor Bayne, in his second Sprint Cup start and his first run at Daytona, hooked with some of the best drivers throughout the day, watched as many fell by the wayside in damaged cars, and managed to keep the historic #21 mostly clean and clear to the green-white-checker.
Was this sheer beginner’s luck? No… Not here. Not at Daytona. The 20 year old (birthday the day before the 500) kept his nose and the car clean, backing out of tight spots and driving safe. Beginner’s luck…? Driving nose to tail approaching 200mph for most of 200 laps…? No… Not here. This racing style set up by a new, smooth surface was a new deal for most of the drivers. Drafting isn’t new by any means but requiring it to run at speed lap after lap set tension and fatigue at high levels while magnifying the slightest mistake.
Keeping out of the mess took some driving. Trevor Bayne earned this win. The Wood Brothers needed this win. A team that has been running a short season for the past couple of years and has had to endure hushed whispers in the garage has won the 2011 Daytona 500.
Now we have something new to cheer for in NASCAR. “Go Dale Jr.” has a nice ring to it. Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick…. Johnson… Gordon… Whatever hat you have on your head to show your allegiance on race day doesn’t matter when a 20 year old rookie puts some shine back onto an iconic name of NASCAR racing.
The Wood Brothers have Daytona this season and that is something every fan should be able to cheer for.