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Monday, February 21, 2011

Bayne’s Daytona 500 win sets him on path to stardom, makes Wood Brothers relevant again

Michael Waltrip really screwed up in 2010.

Last year, he had an incredible young talent named Trevor Bayne in his Nationwide stable, and the team was running well and the future was bright. Then, sponsorship issues arose (meaning the team couldn’t guarantee sponsorship for the whole year in 2011) and Bayne was able to get out of his contract and defect to the Roush stable and the Ford camp.

Sorry Mikey, but you should’ve fought harder to keep young Trevor, because you lost a great one, and the whole world saw that Sunday after Bayne shocked the world and won the Daytona 500 – a race longtime veterans with major talent like Tony Stewart and Mark Martin have yet to win -- in only his second career Cup start.

As that guy in “The Princess Bride” once said ….. “Inconceivable”

When asked about the possibility of winning the 500 on Feb. 16, four days before the 500, Bayne said the idea was hard to even imagine.

“First, that means we would be winning the race, which is great. And then to get Ford’s 600th win, I would kind of feel bad coming in after all these guys have been working on it for 599, and I come in and it’s like ‘Here’s 600.’ But that would be incredible and to do it with the Wood Brothers and how everything has happened, that would be insane. I don’t even know how to fathom that.”

Well, now is the time to fathom it, because the kid pulled it off. You could see it coming all race. You could tell he was fast, and worked great with the other guys on track so well you would think he had been doing this for years. In Yogi Bear fashion, this kid is smarter than the average driver … including some many years his senior.

After the race, 20-year-old (plus one day) Bayne said he couldn’t believe what he had just done.

“I keep thinking I am dreaming, I really do. We said a prayer before the race and we prayed a lot and this shows you how powerful God is. I am so thankful for the job that these guys did on this car. It is unbelievable. Our first 500, are you kidding me? To win our first one? Our second ever Cup race? This is unbelievable.”

Bayne, who has been racing since age 5, got a little advice this week from an expert at Daytona – David Pearson.

“The first thing he said was to be careful. That was the mindset that I had to have at the beginning. I didn’t forget that or take it lightly. We had to survive that whole race. All the crashes, we had to be there at the end to have a chance at that. The next thing he said was that he hoped we could do what he did in the 21. We did that too, so hopefully he will give us more advice and we can keep following it up. David Pearson is the man and it is so cool to be following in his footsteps in this car.”

Don’t let the age fool you. Some guys are just good out of the gate. You could tell it when Trevor starting battling veterans like Ron Hornaday and Kyle Busch neck-and-neck in the Nationwide series in 2009 and 2010, when he was still a teenager.

You could even tell during his first Cup start last fall for the Wood Brothers, when he came home a respectable 17th and did all the right things on track despite his inexperience.

Now that he’s won Daytona, the whole world changes for this kid. He’s already declared the title he’s running for (Nationwide), so that’s probably not going to change, but even if he can’t earn points I bet the Wood Brothers – whose founder Glen Wood raced in the first Daytona 500 in 1959 and raced on the beach before that -- will pull together the sponsorship they need to run Bayne all year in the Cup series. He’s fast, and can still rack up wins and top-5s even if they don’t earn him driver points.

And perhaps most importantly, Bayne’s win is huge for the Wood Brothers team, which many people had forgotten about after years of bad runs in the past decade. People forgot that this team is a part of the sport’s foundation and had won races going back to the 1950s. They forgot about the glory years with David Pearson (whose 1976 retro paint scheme was recreated on Bayne’s winning car this year). To most modern fans, the Wood Brothers were nothing more than a backmarker team, with its history long forgotten.

That is no longer, thanks to one Trevor Bayne. And the ironic thing is it almost couldn’t have happened. Bayne said prior to the 500 that before he ran his first Cup race at Texas last fall, he hadn’t even been approved by NASCAR to run at Daytona in the Cup series.

“The reason I went there to run Texas was to get approved for Daytona and this race we’re gonna run now. At the time, I thought it might be a fifth Roush car or something, but it ended up going really well at
Texas and the Wood Brothers were like, ‘Hey, we’ll keep moving forward

And the good news for the Wood Brothers is that Bayne likes where he’s at and hopes to stick around a while.

“It’s a really awesome opportunity and I love the Wood Brothers team. If I could just drive there forever I would be happy because they’re just racers. Eddie and Len Wood, they like to hang out at the shop and be a part of it. Leonard is always there working on projects. I always tell Leonard, ‘It’s no wonder you guys won so many races.’ This guy is smart. He’s in there building carbon fiber R/C cars and all kinds of stuff, so it’s just a racer’s dream to drive for the Wood Brothers. It’s a famous car and to make my debut here at Daytona with them, I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

After that win, Trevor, I’m sure they love you too, as do millions of new fans who didn’t know who you were on Saturday.

Ford Racing facts
-- Bayne’s win in the Daytona 500 was the 600th NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series win for Ford Racing and its 12th overall in “The Great American
-- Trevor Bayne became the 10th different Ford driver to win the Daytona 500.
-- Trevor Bayne registered the first win of his NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series career with today’s win in only his second series start.
-- He becomes the seventh driver in NASCAR history to make the Daytona
500 his first NSCS victory.
-- Bayne is the 75th different driver to win a Cup race with Ford
Racing, and the first since Jamie McMurray won for the first time with
the manufacturer in 2007.
-- The win by Wood Brothers Racing is the first by a Ford team other
than Roush Fenway Racing since Dale Jarrett won for Robert Yates
Racing at Talladega in October 2005.
-- It also marks the first win for a non-RFR team in the Ford Fusion
since it became the manufacturer’s flagship model in the NASCAR Sprint
Cup Series in 2006.
-- The last NSCS win for the Wood Brothers was with Elliott Sadler at
Bristol on March 25, 2001 – which happened to be all-time win No. 512
for Ford Racing.

Ford Daytona 500 Race Winners (Owner):
1963 – Tiny Lund (Wood Brothers)
1965 – Fred Lorenzen (Holman-Moody)
1967 – Mario Andretti (Holman-Moody)
1969 – LeeRoy Yarbrough (Junior Johnson)
1978 – Bobby Allison (Bud Moore)
1985 – Bill Elliott (Harry Melling)
1987 – Bill Elliott (Harry Melling)
1992 – Davey Allison (Robert Yates)
1996 – Dale Jarrett (Robert Yates)
2000 – Dale Jarrett (Robert Yates)
2009 – Matt Kenseth (Jack Roush)
2011 – Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers)

Wood Brothers notes
-- This was the fifth Daytona 500 win for the Wood Brothers.
1963 – Tiny Lund (This was the first Daytona 500 win for Ford Racing)
1968 – Cale Yarborough
1972 – A.J. Foyt
1976 – David Pearson
2011 – Trevor Bayne

-- Founder Glen Wood competed in the Inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22,
1959 and finished 34th in a field of 59 competitors.

-- The Wood Brothers have 98 all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins
with 16 different drivers. David Pearson ranks first on the team list
with 43 wins followed by Cale Yarborough, 13; Neil Bonnett, 9; Marvin
Panch, 8; A.J. Foyt, 5; Glen Wood and Dan Gurney, 4; Speedy Thompson
and Kyle Petty, 2; Donnie Allison, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Buddy
Baker, Dale Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd, Elliott Sadler and Trevor Bayne,

Here are some other blog posts I've written about Trevor Bayne:
Whoever picks up Trevor Bayne will get a future star -- 9/27/10
Bayne should compete for Nationwide title -- 1/2/11

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