It seems just like yesterday the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season had just begun and we were wondering what exactly was going to happen in the “Great American Race”. This one particular race is one of the more prized jewels in all of motorsports, not just NASCAR. So, wouldn’t you think we would be in for a treat?
No one gave the eventual race winner a shot at winning, heck, most probably didn’t know who this 20 year old driver was, but all of this quickly changed as the racing landscape would forever change. Trevor Bayne, born in Knoxville, TN., worked out a contract deal with Wood Brothers Racing allowing him to contend for a starting spot in the “Great American Race.” Being in a Ford really helped the young driver, the FR9′s seemed really tough as they were able to push other cars for a longer period of time (this showed more horse power, as well as durability).
Bayne was able to push his way to the front by the end of the race (17 laps to go), with help coming from another young driver David Ragan. Ragan got burned as he “advanced his position” crossing the line at the restart with just under ten laps left and NASCAR caught him, penalized him, which was exactly what Bayne did not want to see.
I have called this new style of racing at these Superspeedway tracks “Noah’s Ark” style for a reason, drivers must find a drafting partner that can either push or be pushed in an effective way. Unlike what we have seen in previous years at Daytona or Talladega, drivers only pair up in groups of two, which was only fitting for Ragan and Bayne.
Bayne who was already lined up on the front row at the start of the Green-White-Checker finish and knew he had to do everything he could to stay where he was at. Veteran driver Bobby Labonte, pushed Bayne all the way around Daytona going into the final turn of the last lap, separating Bayne from the rest of the field. Carl Edwards and David Gilliland did give Bayne a scare, but Bayne was able to “block” Edwards coming to the line to win the Daytona 500. In only his first start in this big race, Bayne became the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500.
Five months later, things have drastically changed. Wood Brother’s Racing now sits 36th in owner points, just one spot out from guaranteeing Bayne a starting spot at a track he has learned to love. Bayne will have to qualify on time to participate Saturday night, something he feels really confident in.
We all know Wood Brothers Racing will have a tough car to beat, of course teaming up with Jack Roush doesn’t hurt either. If for some reason Bayne is unable to qualify on time, do you think NASCAR should make a rule change? I’m not suggesting it, but if the Daytona 500 winner can’t race this Saturday, what hope do the smaller teams have if they were to somehow win this most treasured race?