Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 Win Down To Mastery, Not Magic

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If you were to read every article on Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 win you'd soon get to the point where you've lost count of the number of times the race has been called 'magical' or a 'fairytale' or that the 20-year-old's win is a 'Cinderella Story'.

If you’re counting start with the TCF race report.

However, the fact he won has nothing to do with magic.

There is nothing fairytale about it and there is no evidence that the no.21 Ford was conjured from a pumpkin, or that the Wood Brothers returned to being mice on the stroke of midnight. Bayne, however, could have done with borrowing from another fairytale and used a trail of crumbs to find his way to Victory Lane.

Bayne's victory was a hard, well deserved win that owed little to the performance leveller of Restrictor Plate racing and much to the fact Bayne was the best on the day at the kind of racing required.

Sure you can ask 'what if'. 'What if' the early wreck hadn't put potential contenders like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon in the garage? 'What if' Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin – the twosome who bossed much of the closing third of the race – hadn't been taken out? 'What if' David Ragan hadn't been a little too anxious to pick up Bayne as a draft partner?

Dwelling too long on such questions is enough to send you insane.

On NASCAR's newly paved Court Bayne was a willing kingmaker. On several occasions he pushed drivers to the lead – Robby Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and Ragan the beneficiaries – not to mention those who he drafted with in the pack, such as Jeff Gordon as they reprised their Gatorade Duel relationship for an all too brief period before the lap 30 crash did for Gordon.

Sadly NASCAR doesn't keep a statistic on the number of laps someone runs in second, or at least pushing the leader – an 'assist' to borrow from another sport's lexicon – but Bayne (along with some others) would likely be the most helpful drivers of the day.

Statistically – using the armoury of facts and figures NASCAR to collect – Bayne's win is an anomaly.

When I began digging for stats I fully expected them to show a dominant performance from Trevor Bayne. Having watched the race, the red and white no.21 was seemingly permanently to fore. If it was pushing the leader it was helping chase them down. As the race went on I got the distinct feeling that, if they were in the lead group in the closing laps Bayne, or Regan Smith, could pick who would win the Daytona 500 simply by laying their front bumper on them.

However, compared to the last three Daytona 500 winners Bayne is the worst off in many stats. His average position during the race – 12th – is the worst of the four, as is the percentage of laps scored in the top-15, a relatively paltry 65% (2010 winner Jamie McMurray by contrast scored 88%).

But, Bayne's win is more than that and the stats can only do so much justice to racing the likes of which we saw on Sunday night.

He had the dominant car, and in many ways the dominant driver, of the day. In one last visit to statistics Bayne tops, or is second, in the lists of the fastest cars on longer runs, and has by far the most passes under racing conditions to his name. Stats that tell of a day spent in the pack, forging paths back and forth in tandem with another driver only too ready to be pushed by a man (well, boy) with only one other Sprint Cup start, and that on a track nothing like Daytona.

While other duos found themselves punting each other into a spin, Bayne showed experience beyond his age. His ready acceptance by NASCAR veterans like Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch as a draft buddy – Kyle even turning down other drivers in favour of working with the Wood Brothers driver – speaks volumes. I don't know Kyle or Jeff, but you get the distinct feeling they wouldn't suffer fools on a race track gladly.

When the green flag flew for the final time there was no magic wand, only just reward for the racer who, perhaps, adapted best to the new Daytona.

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