By admin | February 21, 2011
By Richard Allen
After almost every other Daytona 500 the runs turned in by drivers David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte would have garnered a fair share of attention. However, every other Daytona 500 has not been won by a 20 year old making only his second career Sprint Cup Series start.
So, unfortunately for these two veteran campaigners there was little talk of their efforts despite having finished in the top-5 of the biggest race of the year.
Gilliland, driving for Front Row Motorsports, ran a relatively quiet race. For the most part he kept his car out of trouble and lurking in contention as he logged laps toward the finish.
After the race’s second and final attempt at a green/white/checkered restart, Gilliland locked his #34 machine to the rear bumper of Carl Edwards’ car and the two Fords roared to the front of the pack. Eventually, the Riverside, California native sailed across the finish line in 3rd place just behind Trevor Bayne and Edwards.
Gilliland competed in 32 Sprint Cup events last year without posting a single top-10 finish. Needless to say, this is a welcome start for this driver and team whose best finish in 2010 was a pair of 19th place efforts.
Had it not been for Bayne’s victory, Gilliland would no doubt have been the surprise story of the race.
Labonte came into the Daytona 500 making his first start for JTG-Daugherty Racing. The 2000 Sprint Cup champion survived a less than stellar 2010 campaign in which he drove for multiple teams and failed to place in the top-10 even once.
Over the course of a career that has seen him compile 21 Sprint Cup victories, this proved to be only his second top-5 in this most prestigious of NASCAR races.
Like Gilliland, Labonte went largely unnoticed throughout a day that saw several top contenders eliminated by crashes or mechanical failures. However, with the checkered lag in sight the Texas native placed his Toyota just behind Bayne and pushed the rookie toward his eventual victory. As the cars approached the finish line, both Edwards and Gilliland were able to get around Labonte’s #47 and just beat him to the line.
These are two drivers did exactly what needed to be done to give themselves an opportunity at a good finish. But with the way the race played out, they will have to settle for internal satisfaction.
For my story on east Tennessean Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win please visit TennesseeRacer.com http://tennesseeracer.com/?p=1415
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