By admin | February 6, 2014
I have been a NASCAR fan for as long as I can remember, and a significant number of my racing memories have come from the Daytona 500. There have been 55 Daytona 500’s to this point and every one of them has been historic in its own right. In this series that will run in the days leading up to this year’s running of ‘The Great American Race’, I will list the twelve versions of the sport’s most important event that I consider to be the most noteworthy.
By Richard Allen
Sometimes the right person meets up with the right circumstances and history is made in the process. That’s exactly what happened during the running of the 2011 Daytona 500. After NASCAR made a series of rule changes for the restrictor plate tracks, drivers came to realize that the fastest way around the 2.5 mile facility was to work together in tight, two-car tandems. The Knoxville, Tenn. native was among the first to get the knack for the new style of paired racing, and thus, became a favorite among other drivers as a drafting partner.
Bayne, who turned 20 years old just prior to the 500, very nearly experienced disaster during the Thursday qualifying race when his car was damaged in an incident as drivers raced to the checkered flag. However, the legendary Wood Brothers team was able to repair the famed #21 Ford in time for Sunday’s main event.
There were multiple crashes throughout the running of this Daytona 500 as drivers struggled to get a feel for the 2×2 tandem racing that was going on out on the track. Several top contenders were eliminated via these wrecks and mechanical issues leaving Bayne and pseudo Ford teammate David Ragan to battle for the victory.
On a late race restart, Ragan was black-flagged for changing lanes before he crossed the start/finish line to take the green flag. After a final green/white/checkered restart, Bayne received a push from Bobby Labonte then held off Carl Edwards to take the most unexpected win.
“I keep thinking I’m dreaming, I really do,” Bayne said after the finish. “It’s unbelievable. Our first 500, are you kidding me? To win our first one? Our second-ever Cup race?
”How cool is it to have the Wood Brothers back in victory lane,” the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 asked of his Hall of Fame laden team.
Later, Bayne said that the full impact of what he had accomplished came to light when he talked with the Wood brothers. “They said it was as cool as Pearson’s win and that’s when it sinks in because I don’t put myself on that kind of a stage with those guys. I don’t think of myself doing the same thing that David Pearson did or A.J. Foyt or Tiny Lund or Cale Yarborough.
“When they made that comment, that this was one of the coolest 500 wins, that’s when I thought, ‘Wow! This is real’. This is something that a lot of people strive for their whole career. This is one of the biggest races in motorsports and we’re the ones in Victory Lane.”
The race featured an all-time high of 74 lead changes due to the new type of tandem racing. It also featured an all-time high of 16 cautions flags, perhaps because of the new type of racing as well.
The 2011 version of ‘The Great American Race’ was certainly one of the most historic of the 55 Daytona 500’s to have been contested.
*On a personal note, my son and I met with Trevor at a local Knoxville restaurant for an interview just months prior to his victory. After we talked, Trevor was kind enough to pose with my son for the picture below. When the photo first ran, I labeled it ‘Two Future Winners of the Daytona 500′. After the 2011 race ended I jokingly reminded my son of that and said, “The pressure’s on you now.”
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