Reflections from a 'strange' Daytona 500
Updated 11:18 am, Saturday, February 26, 2011
I can honestly say I was shocked the way the Sprint Cup races played out during Speed Week in Daytona.
Who would have ever thought 20-year-old Trevor Bayne would win the Daytona 500 on his first try? Not me.
He is the youngest Daytona 500 winner, taking the honor from Jeff Gordon, who won his first at age 25.
It was nice to see the Wood Brothers, owners of the winning car, back in Victory Lane at Daytona.
Bayne drove the famous number 21, and his car had the same paint scheme as had David Pearson's in 1976.
I've been at the Daytona 500 for the past 23 years and, I have to say, this one was one of the strangest races I have ever seen.
Normally drivers race in large packs but, with the new pavement on the track and changes made to the race cars, they couldn't race like that.
A two-car hookup was the fastest way around the track. It somehow kept the race interesting in a different kind of way.
In the past, when there would be 10 laps to go, fans would start leaving the track to beat the crowds.
This year, almost no one left the track before the race was over. You really had no idea who was going to win or survive the race.
When Bayne took the checkered flag, I was listening to him on my headset. To hear the excitement in his voice was awesome.
The young, rookie driver was yelling to his pit crew "Am I dreaming?" and "Are you kidding me?"
He capped that off with, "What do I do now?"
Bayne's pit crew told him to do a burnout and tear up some grass. It was fun to watch.
Hendrick Motor Sports drivers didn't perform as expected. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were involved in "The Big One," a 17-car collision on Lap 29 and were never a factor. The Richard Childress teams didn't have much luck either. Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton blew motors early.
So, a lot of drivers you would expect to see up front were not there.
Several records were broken in the race. In addition to Bayne as the youngest champion, there were 16 caution flags and 22 lead changes.
I have to say I really enjoyed the race.
Also, the military flyover was one of the best I've ever seen. It doesn't matter how many times I've seen fly overs, they still give me goose bumps.
Fans were asked before the race to stand during Lap 3 and hold three fingers in the air in tribute to Dale Earnhardt, who lost his life 10 years ago at Daytona Speedway.
Did you hear the Daytona 500 will be drop-kicked to the last Sunday in February?
The NFL is extending its season next year and the FOX Network says thewe would be a scheduling conflict.
So circle your calendar right now for next year so you don't miss the race.
The Sprint Cup Race will be in Phoenix Sunday.