Not even NASCAR could have scripted Trevor Bayne
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — At long last, we can now officially bury the conspiracy theories that NASCAR choreographs races.
Because not even Oliver Stone could have come up with a script and a storyline this unbelievable and this inconceivable.
On a day when NASCAR commemorated one of its most downtrodden moments, the Daytona 500 delivered one of the sport's most uplifting winners.
This was the rotary phone and the iPhone teaming up Sunday to win the Daytona 500.
High def and black-and-white formed a nearly perfect union to win the Great American Race.
Put it out via Twitter—and via telegraph: The youngest winner and the oldest team combined to win the biggest race of them all.
"Are you kidding me?" screamed 20-year-old Trevor Bayne as he crossed the finish line, uniting with the iconic Wood Brothers to pull perhaps the most shocking upset in Daytona history.
He then exclaimed on the radio to his teammates: "I don't even know where to go. How do you get to victory lane?"
This is how: You go bumper-to-bumper with the best in the business. You endure 74 lead changes among 22 drivers. You survive a record 16 cautions that ruin the chances of many of the big names like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. You hold off high-profile veterans like Tony Stewart, Kurt Bush and Bobby Labonte on the final lap. And somehow, someway, this young, up-and-coming driver—wins the big race for an old, down-and-out race team.
For all of the NASCAR naysayers who say this sport doesn't have enough good story lines, how can you not love this one? A driver who was 9 years old when Dale Earnhardt died wins his first race on the day NASCAR commemorated the 10-year anniversary of Earnhardt's death.
Earnhardt, of course, was one of NASCAR's last big things, and there are those who believe Bayne may be the sport's next big thing.
He has everything the critics say the sport is missing. He has personality. He has pizzazz. He has loads of humility but no fear. He has the faith, fun and family values that NASCAR fans crave. He is Tim Tebow at 200 mph.
He excitedly referred to Jesus Christ as "THE MAN" after he won the race. And when somebody asked him what would be the first thing he buys with the $1.5 million prize for winning the Daytona 500, he talked about donating some of the money to a number of Christian-based charities.
He spoke giddily about riding around the Speedway infield on Saturday night in a golf cart and watching his buddies win a wheelbarrow race. "That inspired me to win today," he cracked.
He joked about now being bigger than Peyton Manning and Kenny Chesney in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn.
He was incredulous that his number of Twitter followers jumped from 6,000 to 16,000 in just an hour after winning the Daytona 500.
He was worried because he doesn't own a suit to wear when he goes to New York on Monday to do Letterman and Leno. "But I've got two T-shirts," he said with a smile splashed across his face.
This guy's so young, he wasn't even old enough to drink the champagne in victory lane. He just turned 20 on Saturday, which means we were two days from having a teenager win the Daytona 500.
And the coolest part of this whole story is this kid—this ecstatic, charismatic kid—singlehandedly resurrected the Wood Brothers from irrelevance. The oldest, most-storied race team in all of NASCAR was founded by two brothers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. They threw a chain over the lowest limb of a beech tree and pulled the first motor out of their first car in 1950.
They enjoyed tremendous success throughout the 1970s, but when NASCAR became more corporate and computerized, the Wood Brothers lost their way. They didn't have the money or technology to compete. Their shade-tree mechanics couldn't match up with the mechanical engineers that other teams were hiring. Their last Daytona 500 win came when David Pearson drove for them in 1976 — 15 years before Trevor Bayne was even born.
Eddie Wood, whose grandfather was one of the brothers who started the team, remembers the low point in 2008 when the Wood Brothers didn't even have a car in the Daytona 500. He said he felt humiliated and ashamed
"It's almost like somebody had died," Eddie said. "You walk through the garage and people you know are afraid to look at you. It tears you apart inside."
Wood's voice cracked when he tried to describe what Bayne's victory means to team that no longer even has the money to run a full Sprint Cup schedule this year.
New blood meets old school.
This movie script was rated 'E' for Everyone.
Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/.