Trevor Bayne Wins Daytona 500: NASCAR Power Rankings Coming Out of Daytona
It's undoubtedly one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history.
Driving the legendary No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, 20-year-old Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 Sunday in just his second career start. He's essentially the first driver in the history of the Great American Race to win it in his first start (Lee Petty did it in 1959, but that was the inaugural race), and he became the second driver to win in his second career start (Jamie McMurray did it in 2002).
Unfortunately for those hoping for a full-season run by Bayne, the full-time Nationwide Series driver is ineligible for Sprint Cup points. As a result, runner-up Carl Edwards leads third-place David Gilliland and fourth-place Bobby Labonte in the Sprint Cup standings.
Who are the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup series after the Daytona 500?
Here's a look at the power rankings.
20. David Gilliland
The most unlikely third-place finisher in the Great American Race since Geoff Bodine did it with Phoenix Racing in 2002, Gilliland pushed Carl Edwards in the closing laps and ended up with his first top-five finish since a second-place finish at Infineon Raceway on June 22, 2008.
Driving for underfunded Front Row Motorsports, Gilliland's ranking will probably plummet after next week's race at Phoenix. For now, he deserves credit where it is due.
19. Paul Menard
In his debut as driver of the No. 27 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing, few would have pegged Paul Menard as the highest-finishing driver at Daytona for the four-car operation.
Menard managed to do that, however, finishing ninth and mostly staying clear of the 16 cautions that plagued the event. He finished 29th in both Phoenix races last season, so his stay on this list will be short-lived.
18. Regan Smith
If the Sprint Cup Series gave out an award for the most impressive non-victorious performance, Regan Smith would certainly earn the honor.
After pushing Kurt Busch to a victory in the first Gatorade Duel race on Thursday, Smith stayed toward the front of the field on Sunday, pushing Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at various moments of the event. Despite being caught up in two crashes, including one that caused a green-white-checkered finish attempt, Smith survived for a seventh-place finish, the best-ever performance by Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing.
Known for his ability to finish races on a consistent basis, Smith may be able to build on his Daytona performance with another great race next week.
17. Jeff Burton
After winning the second Gatorade Duel race with help from Clint Bowyer on Thursday, Burton was failed by his normally-reliable ECR Engine, as it blew after 92 laps.
Even though he finished 12th in the Chase last season, he failed to start the 2011 season off on the right foot.
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. failed to win the Daytona 500 10 years after the death of his father, there's still plenty to gleam from a great run cut short by a pile-up on lap 198.
After crashing his primary car in an incident with Martin Truex Jr. during practice on Wednesday, Junior had to start from the back on Sunday, regardless of his finish in the Gatorade Duel.
Earnhardt found his way up front towards the end of the race and he was in prime contention to win his second Great American Race, until he was caught up in a wreck, ending his day with a 24th-place finish.
There's still plenty to be optimistic about for Junior Nation as the season goes on.
15. Bobby Labonte
Having stability and great equipment for the first time since leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2006 season, Bobby Labonte appears to be showing shades of being a driver who was once competitive in the No. 18 Pontiac, finishing fourth in the No. 47 Toyota for JTG Daugherty Racing.
Labonte will also have a notable place in NASCAR lore as the man who helped facilitate arguably the biggest upset in the history of the sport, pushing Bayne to victory in the final green-white-checkered attempt.
14. Greg Biffle
Much like most of the Chasers did on Sunday, Biffle failed to get off to an ideal start to the 2011 season. After being caught up in the Big One on lap 30, the Pit Bulls made repairs to the No. 16 Ford.
Unfortunately, Biffle unintentionally made contact with Matt Kenseth on Lap 136, turning his teammate into the wall and ending his day. Seven laps later, Biffle was involved in a crash with Juan Pablo Montoya and took a ride through the Daytona infield.
13. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth's day had a similar trajectory to Biffle's. After being collected in the Big One, Kenseth returned to the race after making repairs.
The incident with Biffle ended his day, however, leaving David Ragan and Carl Edwards as the last Roush Fenway Racing drivers left standing.
12. David Ragan
At one point, it appeared as though David Ragan would love Daytona as much as UPS loves logistics.
Despite a 14th-place finish, the driver of the No. 6 Ford arguably had the best run of his career. Partnered up in the draft with eventual winner Bayne, Ragan was in the lead when the second Big One occurred on Lap 198. However, NASCAR ruled that he had jumped the prior restart, and he was sent to the end of the lead lap, ending his chances of winning his first career race.
Ragan fans should be hopeful that this is the year when the Georgian finally breaks out for Roush Fenway Racing.
11. Tony Stewart
Coming off his fourth consecutive win in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, "Smoke" ran well for most of the Great American Race.
In fact, he lined up second for the final restart before falling back into a 13th-place finish. Another year, another season without a Daytona 500 victory for one of the series' most popular drivers.
10. Kevin Harvick
After a third-place finish in the Sprint Cup standings last season and a seventh-place starting position for Sunday's race, Harvick blew an engine just 22 laps into the event, relegating him to a 42nd-place finish.
Under the new points system, "Happy" tallied just two points. Not the way to start a new season.
9. Juan Pablo Montoya
More so than any other driver in the 43-car field Sunday, Juan Pablo Montoya had one of those races that wins championships.
After steadily rising through the field throughout the day, Montoya was sent spinning into the infield grass on Lap 143, heading down pit road to avoid further damage.
Montoya and his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team battled back and finished sixth, a possible harbinger of things to come for the No. 42 Chevy.
8. Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon's day was spoiled before it ever really got going. On Lap 24, Harvick's blown engine caused a caution and the No. 24 Chevy ran into the No. 7 Dodge of Robby Gordon.
Just six laps later, Gordon was involved in the Big One, leading to a 28th-place finish, 35 laps behind the leader.
7. Jimmie Johnson
Defending five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson struggled on Sunday. After getting caught up in the Big One, Johnson salvaged a 27th-place finish, 19 laps off the pace.
6. Ryan Newman
Even though Ryan Newman's day ended after participating in the final two cautions of the afternoon, "Flyin' Ryan's" No. 39 Chevrolet was impressive. The 2008 Daytona 500 champion led the most laps of the 22 leaders in the field, leading 37 of 208 laps.
Unfortunately, a four-car incident on Lap 204 took him out of the race, awarding the team a 22nd-place finish.
5. Denny Hamlin
The No. 11 Toyota ran well for most of the day, staying in contention until Hamlin was involved in a crash on Lap 198. He returned to the track for a 21st-place finish, the first car off the lead lap.
Compared to last season's Chasers, however, he still had a great afternoon.
4. Clint Bowyer
In another day that had an end result that didn't represent an overall performance, 17th-place finisher Clint Bowyer showed throughout Speedweeks that he may be the best restrictor-plate driver in the sport right now.
Bowyer pushed Jeff Burton to victory in the No. 33 Chevy during the second Gatorade Duel race, and ended just short of a Nationwide Series victory on Saturday. The Kansas native led 31 laps and was consistently being pushed or pushing others to the front.
3. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch was another driver who had a quiet day on Sunday, ironic given his "Rowdy" nickname. He stayed out of trouble for most of the afternoon and swapped the lead with Martin Truex Jr. on four different occasions.
The Las Vegas native ended the day with an eighth-place finish.
2. Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch led the Great American Race a mind-boggling 10 times for 19 laps, ending a Speedweeks in which he won the Budweiser Shootout and a Gatorade Duel race with a fifth-place finish.
For the No. 22 Dodge, a great season could be on the way for the Penske Racing team.
1. Carl Edwards
Edwards won the last two races of the 2010 season and followed that up by staying out of trouble on Sunday and finishing right behind Trevor Bayne. Not only that, he becomes the Sprint Cup points leader due to Bayne being ineligible to receive points.
For now it appears as if the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford may be the hottest team on the circuit heading into Phoenix.
Thoughts? Comment below.
Ryan Papaserge is a junior journalism/mass communication student at St. Bonaventure University and a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.