2011 Daytona 500 Wrap-Up: Where Does Trevor Bayne Go from Here?

Steven PriceContributor IFebruary 21, 2011

Young Trevor Bayne has accomplished in one try what others have been unable to accomplish in a quarter-century worth of efforts. The question now is, how far can the twenty-year old upstart go in the Sprint Cup Series?
Young Trevor Bayne has accomplished in one try what others have been unable to accomplish in a quarter-century worth of efforts. The question now is, how far can the twenty-year old upstart go in the Sprint Cup Series?Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Racing fans certainly can't complain about repetitive winners after Sunday.

For long-time fans, seeing the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford in Victory Lane at Daytona must have felt like taking a trip in a time machine.

The last time it had been there, a man named David Pearson had just won one of the most exciting Daytona 500 events in history.

Sunday's running of the Great American Race was definitely one to remember—whether you were left enthralled or desiring more from NASCAR's season opener is another question entirely.

Yet what the Wood Brothers managed to accomplish with rookie Trevor Bayne behind the wheel at Daytona will stand out more than anything else from the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener years from now.

It was an interesting race, for sure, with a little bit of the modern-era "hold onto your seats" pack racing with some of the pairs racing that we'd heard so much about over the last 10 days.

Daytona's newly paved surface provided drivers with a new type of racing at the world's most famous speedway (with all due respect to Indianapolis). The novelty of the new style bred a very sloppy 500.

And it was young Trevor Bayne who was left standing at the end.

In an event that set the record for most cautions (16) and most lead changes (74), the Sprint Cup Series rookie who was making only his second Cup start managed to survive two Green/White/Checker finishes to claim his first win in the Sprint Cup Series.

Bayne outlasted some of NASCAR's best towards the end, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In doing so, he became the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500.

Though it's far too early to speculate, a win at the 500 in Daytona would serve well as most drivers' defining moment.

That Bayne is only 20 years old speaks volumes about the talent, mental fortitude and sheer luck that Bayne has on his side.

For the fans, we're left to wonder: how high can he go?

Trevor Bayne, in riding the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion to victory on Sunday, joined a very elite company of drivers to have driven that ride in the past.

Along with the aforementioned Pearson, the No. 21 Wood Brothers car has been raced by the likes of Tiny Lund, Dale Jarrett, Buddy Baker, Ricky Rudd and the late Neil Bonnett.

Before we go too overboard, it's worth noting that the career victories list is a wee bit skewed in David Pearson's favor compared to young Trevor Bayne. Trevor needs to pick up a scant 104 more wins to tie Pearson's career mark of 105.

What's more reasonable to consider is whether the Daytona 500 will prove to be the launching pad for Bayne as a competitive force in the Sprint Cup Series. Daytona has a rather sordid history when it comes to drivers getting their first win at the track.

In some instances, you wind up with a case like that of Michael Waltrip, who demonstrated he was proficient at winning at restrictor plate tracks without being able to get it done anywhere else.

Then you have drivers like Derrike Cope, who simply were in the right place at the right time, getting lucky once and then never finding their way back to Victory Lane.

The book's still out on young Trevor Bayne, and time will tell whether he was lucky, or if he's got the chops to make out big in the sport's top level.

If anything, Jeff Gordon may be able to answer the question for us ahead of time. In preparing for the 53rd Daytona 500, Gordon did something that most veteran drivers are reluctant to do: work with a rookie.

Inexperienced drivers have a difficult time acclimating to the nature of the draft at big tracks like Daytona.

Yet Gordon and Bayne were hooking up whenever they could early on in Sunday's race, before the "Big One" took the No. 24 car out of action on Lap 29. After that, Trevor proved that he could handle himself without his professed role model leading him around.

So many questions linger after Sunday's Daytona 500. Can one honestly predict how far a young driver can go? Perhaps the question we should be asking is a bit more presumptuous in nature, but a lot more interesting to discuss:

If the kid could win the Daytona 500 before he was legally able to drink...What will he be able to do behind the wheel in five years?

Will he be a one-and-done like so many others? Will he be the next generation's Jeff Gordon? Will we remember him at all?

None of that matters for young Trevor Bayne on this night. Winning the Daytona 500 does that to you.


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