2011-02-24 / Sports

Bayne Brings Wood Brothers Back

By Gerald Hodges
THE RACING REPORTER

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Unbelievable!

Trevor Bayne, the 20- year-old driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford won the 53rd Daytona 500 in a double green/white/checkered finish.

“ I keep thinking I’m dreaming,” Bayne said in victory lane. “We expected a lot of things, but this is incredible. Wow, it’s unbelievable.”

It was the first Daytona 500 win for the Wood Bros. since David Pearson drove a white/gold and red Mercury to victory in 1976. Their last regular season win came at Bristol in 2001 with Elliott Sadler.

“I guess this is what you pray for,” said Glen Wood, who founded the team 59 years ago. “It also goes to show that hard work and persistence pays off. The Lord knows we’ve put in an awful amount of hard work. Not only for this race, but for years. You just have to keep on believing in what you do.”

A wreck on lap 196 of the 200-lap race involved, Regan Smith, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

The first green/ white checkered restart came on Lap 200. Roush driver David Ragan was on the outside, with Bayne on the inside. Ragan, who chose the outside position for the restart, cut down in front of Bayne before he reached the starting line. This is a no-no with NASCAR, and after another wreck involving Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex, Ragan was black-flagged and had to drive through the pits.

On the second and final restart, Bayne jumped out front with a push from Bobby Labonte. The pair completed the next lap in that order. As the field headed down the backstretch on the final lap, Carl Edwards was able to squeeze under Labonte, but Bayne stayed in front of Edwards all the way to the checkered flag.

Bayne became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 in only his second Cup start.

David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch, Juan Montoya, Regan Smith, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Mark Martin were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 24th.

During Lap 29, Michael Waltrip, who was pushing David Reutimann, got misaligned and spun Reutimann, triggering a wreck that took out literally onethird of the field. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, and Brian Keselowski were among those collected in the wreck.

Two of the Richard Childress cars driven by Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick had blown engines.

Roush Racing’s Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth had DNF’s because of wrecks.

Jimmie Johnson, the 2010 Cup champion, wound up 27th.

There were a record 64 driver-lead changes and 16 cautions.

Stewart claims Nationwide opener

With drafting help from Landon Cassill, Tony Stewart blew past Clint Bowyer at the finish line to win Saturday’s Nationwide opener at Daytona International by about a foot.

“It was close,” said Stewart. “I don’t know how far we won it by. I know what the margin of victory was, but I don’t know what that equates to in inches. It was enough that I felt like, when we got to the line, I called on the radio, and I told them I thought we won it just off where the positions of the car were. I thought we were ahead. If not, I was going to look really stupid saying, ‘I won, I won.’”

Bowyer ran second behind Stewart.

“I looked in the mirror, I saw Junior, the only Chevrolet up there, I knew that he was going to work with me. He shoved me all the way to the last lap,” said Bowyer.

“Coming off of four, what do you do? They had a good run. I tried to block the 4’s (Stewart’s car) momentum. About that time Junior ducked under me, I had to block him. All hell broke loose.”

“Awesome ending. That’s what’s so much fun about this place. No matter what the race is, the ending’s always great.”

Cassill finished third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Michael Waltrip, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top 10

Danica Patrick finished 14th, one lap down. It was her best finish in 14 Nationwide starts.

Waltrip gets emotional truck win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ten years to the day from his first victory in the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip made a slingshot pass of Elliott Sadler at the end of a green-white-checkered-flag finish Friday night to win the Camping World Truck Series race.

It also was the 10th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr., who owned the car Waltrip drove to his 2001 Daytona 500 victory. Waltrip is racing in all three of NASCAR’s top three touring series this weekend, and he decaled his truck and cars to honor Earnhardt.

“I came here to celebrate his life with my black truck and my No. 15 car,” an emotional Waltrip said after the race. “I didn’t come here to celebrate a win.”

Eliott Sadler came in second, followed by Clay Rogers, Miguel Paludo and Kyle Busch.

Jennifer Jo Cob, who finished sixth, became the first woman to finish in the top 10 in any of the top three divisions at Daytona.

Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ricky Carmichael, James Buescher and Matt Crafton were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Commentary

Much has been said about how NASCAR’s popularity has slipped in the past few years. While the gigantic crowds might not be the same, Daytona Beach was packed the past week. Hotels were sold out and campers and motor homes were being parked as far as 30 miles from the track.

Despite NASCAR’s movement toward youth, in almost every restaurant, bar and gathering, the name that I heard the most was Dale Earnhardt.

Ten years ago, NASCAR lost Dale Earnhardt, a man who practically owned Daytona International Speedway’s high banks.

“Dale helped build this sport and make it what it is today and his legacy lives on,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman of the board and chief executive officer.

Earnhardt, who posted a track record 34 victories over 21 seasons, was without question Daytona’s dominant driver of the 1980s and 1990s.

He won at least once a season for 10 consecutive years from 1990 and 1999, including the 1998 Daytona 500, and spent nearly as much time in Victory Lane as behind the wheel of his Richard Childress- owned black No. 3 Chevrolet.

Earnhardt, who died at age 49 following a final lap accident in the Feb. 18, 2001, Daytona 500, was seemingly luckless in the “Great American Race,” finishing second four times before finally winning the 500. Sure victories slipped away due to bizarre circumstances, ranging from a seagull- damaged front fender to a last-lap flat tire.

Still, the seven- time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was hands-down the favorite every time the green flag waved in Daytona.

Weekend racing: Phoenix International Raceway is the second stop of the season for all three of NASCAR’s major touring series.

Friday, February 25, Camping World Truck series race, 2 of 25: Starting time: 8 p.m.; TV: Speed.

Saturday, February 26, Nationwide series race, 2 of 34: starting time: 5:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN2.

Sunday, February 27, Sprint Cup series race, 2 of 36: starting time: 7 p.m.; TV: Fox.

All times are Eastern.

Racing trivia question: Who is Kurt Busch’s teammate in the Cup series?

Last week’s question: Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500. How many times did he win the series driving championship? Answer. Three: 1954, ’58, ’59.

Contact the Racing Reporter at: hodges@race500.com.

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