Twenty-year-old Wood Brothers Racing rookie Trevor Bayne became the youngest Daytona 500 winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history by guiding his No. 21 car across the finish line 0.118 of a second ahead of Carl Edwards in the No. 99.
Bayne took over the race lead from David Ragan and his No. 6 on Lap 203 and went under caution from on Lap 204 following a four-car incident in the backstretch.
Following a Lap 207 restart, Bayne received backside drafting help from veteran Bobby Labonte in the No. 47 through Turn 4 and then from Edwards' 99 approaching the checkered flag.
"I had planned on pushing David Ragan and trying to make that last-lap pass if we got away. I knew the second pass was going to be coming quick. I really didn't think David did much wrong on the restart, but NASCAR said he needed to pit.
"When we were out front, I was wondering whether I should let (Tony) Stewart get in front me, but Stewart had planned on working with somebody else. The No. 47 tagged right to us and I can't thank Bobby Labonte enough for the push through Turn 4. I was thinking 'How in the world am I leading coming out of Turn 4 at the 500?' Then, I just dropped down to Carl and let him give me the shove across (the finish line). The No. 21 was just fast," Bayne said after delivering Wood Brothers Racing's fifth Daytona 500 win and first since David Pearson's in 1976.
He joins Michael Waltrip (2001), Sterling Marlin (1994), Derricke Cope (1990), Pete Hamilton (1970), Mario Andretti (1967) and Tiny Lund (1963) as the only drivers to earn their first NASCAR points victory in the Great American Race.
"I keep thinking I'm dreaming. I really do. I'm so thankful for the job these guys did on this racecar. To win our first 500 in our second ever Cup race, this is just incredible. I can't thank the guys that worked with me all day enough. There were 10, 15 drivers that pushed us and Carl helped us to get us across the line. I've never been to a racetrack with this many people. To win on this platform is just incredible," Bayne said.
Edwards earned his fourth consecutive top-10 and second top-five Daytona finish in his past five starts.
"The last laps were great compliments of David Gilliland. He did a really good job of pushing me. We worked our way up there and got by a bunch of guys on the bottom. I thought it might be meant to be here and we might win this thing. Bobby Labonte left me almost enough room to go under him and Trevor shut the door. I thought Gilliland and I maybe would have enough to get back around Trevor, but we didn't. Trevor's car took off.
"Second place at the Daytona 500 is not that much fun, honestly, but to hear Trevor's interview, see his excitement and to know he's a fine young man, it's cool for him to get his first win," Edwards said.
Former Kentucky Speedway NASCAR Nationwide Series race winner David Gilliland took third, Labonte finished fourth while Bud Shootout and Gatorade Duel race winner Kurt Busch completed the top five.
Bayne made the preseason designation to race for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship and will not receive Sprint Cup points for the Daytona 500 victory. Edwards will start the series next race at Phoenix International Raceway with a one-point lead in the standings over Gilliland. Race coverage is set for a 3:00 p.m., start on FOX, Motor Racing Network radio and Sirius XM Radio 128.
The series makes its historic 400-mile Kentucky Speedway debut July 9 as part of a NASCAR tripleheader that addtionally spotlights a 225-mile July 7 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series battle and 300-mile July 8 NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
Story by Mike Schmaltz