One of the most notable NASCAR showdowns in the last decade, the 2011 Daytona 500 had many on the edge of their seat. The 1-on-1 drafting technique on the freshly paved surface (at a cost of $20M) made for a very action-packed racing Sunday.
This was the ten-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death at this very race. The crowd observed a lap of silence during lap 3 in remembrance of the tragedy. After a relatively quiet first few laps, the action didn’t stop. Fans and experts alike had favorited the usual suspects in taking the checkered flag in the February 20, 2011 duel: ’04 winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr.; ’06 winner, Jimmie Johnson; even 3-time winner, Jeff Gordon were all names that everyone was looking to be sitting in the winner’s circle after the checkered flag. That’s not how it turned out, as the veterans dropped out one by one, culminating with Dale Earnhardt Jr’s crash with 4 laps to go.
The lead changed hands a record 74 times, and after all those laps, it came down to .118 seconds between winner and second place. That winner was newcomer Trevor Bayne, who’s now suddenly a star. In addition to taking the checkered flag, Bayne set a couple other records. He’s the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500, just 20 years old. Not including the inaugural race in 1959, Bayne is also the first driver to win his first attempt at the race.
Not a bad birthday weekend for Trevor Bayne, who turned 20 the day before the race.
If the Daytona 500 is any indication, the 2011 chase for the cup will certainly be exciting; but most of all, anyone’s for the taking.