Trevor Bayne’s victory in the historic Wood Brothers No. 21 car in the Daytona 500 was exactly what our sport needed. The buildup to the race — the December tire test, the three-day January testing at Daytona and then all through Speedweeks — was positive. There wasn’t a lot of negativity. Naturally, FOX did an awesome job of promoting the Daytona 500 during its NFL schedule and then the Super Bowl.
So we have a new, $20 million surface that completely changed the racing across the board at Daytona. There were no tire issues. There were no track issues. There were no weather issues. Everything unfolded about as perfectly as you could hope.
We all know that whoever ends up winning the Daytona 500 makes for a great storyline. We see that year in and year out. This year is no exception, but quite honestly, this is probably one of the most compelling storylines in Daytona 500 history.
Trevor turned 20 years old on Saturday. He had made only one other NASCAR Sprint Cup start in his very young career, last fall at Texas. The thing I liked was the kid and that race team were fast the whole week — he qualified third last Sunday. They sat there and ran with Jeff Gordon throughout the Gatorade Duels on Thursday.
The kid was like a sponge the whole time down here. He watched, learned and listened. He would go seek out the veteran drivers and talk with them. The kid wasn’t down there simply to run the Daytona 500, he was down there to compete in the Daytona 500.
I think Thursday in that Duel race was a pivotal point for him. Not only did he earn the respect of Gordon, but I think he earned the respect of everyone in that garage. The kid is a great story. He comes from Knoxville, Tenn. While he never won a race in the Nationwide series, he was fast and competitive every time he raced.
He ran for Jack Roush in the Nationwide series, and folks may forget about the relationship the Wood Brothers have with Roush. Jack helped them run at Texas last year in the Sprint Cup series. The original plan, which of course went out the window Sunday, was for Trevor and the Wood Brothers to run the first five races of this year and, depending on sponsorship, hopefully run more.
The Wood Brothers are iconic in NASCAR. They have been in our sport over 50 years. David Pearson, who drove their No. 21 car to all those victories, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May. To celebrate that, Trevor’s car had a throwback design to when David won the 1976 Daytona 500. Trevor also has a veteran crew chief in Donnie Wingo.
I went to Victory Lane to congratulate Trevor, Donnie and the Wood Brothers. NASCAR on FOX has covered eight of the 11 Daytona 500s since the new TV package was implemented in 2001. I let all those guys know that while we’ve had some awesome races in that span, I think this one went straight to the top of the charts.
I just think our sport needed a 20-year-old kid to win this race. I think it will create a buzz among our young fans. Some of the big-name teams took some hits in the Daytona 500. Half of the Richard Childress Racing teams had engine failure. Three-quarters of the Hendrick Motorsports teams were involved in wrecks. Two of the four Roush Racing cars were wrecked. Carl Edwards flexed a lot of muscle again, and that was great to see.
There are over 310 million people in our country. Of all those millions of people, only 43 individuals can say they participated in the 2011 Daytona 500. Of that, only one of them can say they won it, and he turned only 20 on Saturday.