DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Trevor Bayne's victory in Sunday's Daytona 500 is a reward for his sacrifice and humility that he displayed throughout SpeedWeeks. That he won NASCAR's biggest race in his second Cup start is one of the biggest upsets in auto racing history.
Bayne, who turned 20 on Saturday, became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, holding off Carl Edwards at the checkered flag to win a wild and controversial race. Bayne's victory gave the Wood Brothers their fifth Daytona 500 win, but the first since David Pearson in 1976. Bayne, who served as the second driver in a two-car tandem with Jeff Gordon in Thursday's qualifying race before crashing on the last lap, earned his win by being pushed across the finish line by Carl Edwards.
"That's definitely not how we planned it," Bayne admitted. "I planned on winning the whole time, don't get me wrong. But I planned on pushing somebody until that last lap."
Bayne became the youngest ever -- at 20 years and one day -- to win NASCAR's biggest race. Jeff Gordon was the previous youngest winner -- 25 when he won the 1997 Daytona 500.
His selfless sacrifice and humility by offering to push NASCAR's more famous and successful drivers played out with the biggest reward of his career in a sport where pride and ego are rewarded.
"I definitely think that humility is something to hang onto for everybody, all the young kids that are doing their sport, just stay grounded," Bayne said. "Remember, if it wasn't for somebody else helping you, you wouldn't be sitting where you are."
Bayne had plenty of people helping him get his career started, including Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Michael Waltrip Racing, Gary Bechtel, Jack Roush and now the Wood Brothers.
"Somebody has helped you get there," Bayne said. "You didn't do it on your own. When you think about it that way, it will keep you humble. I think those kind of people will always be rewarded for it."
Ironically, Bayne's first points-paying victory won't earn him any points for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. He declared himself as a NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor and is ineligible to collect points in any Sprint Cup race this season. But, at least he gets his cut of a $1,462,563 check for winning.
Carl Edwards finished second, followed by David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch in a race that went 208 laps because of two attempts at overtime.
While many fans were confused by the new form of "Ark Racing" as drivers had to team up in groups of "Two-by-two-by-two", it was one of the strangest Daytona 500s in history. At times, the racing was outstanding but, to a sport that has focused so much attention on the old-style of restrictor plate racing, the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway, combined with the new shapes of the front end of the racecars, made the racing hard to fathom at times.
It did produce some incredible records.
There were 74 lead changes among 22 drivers -- both records. There were also a Daytona 500-record 16 cautions for 60 laps.
Bayne is also the seventh driver to earn his first points win in the Daytona 500. The others are Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994) and Michael Waltrip (2001).
"Fan Favorite" Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who started last in the 43-car field but took the lead on Lap 78, was in the mix for the battle to the end before he was involved in a multicar crash on the backstretch of Lap 198. He finished 24th.
One of the most controversial aspects of the race came when race leader David Ragan was black flagged on the first restart of overtime for switching lanes before taking the green flag.
"It will take us a long time to get over this," Ragan said. "We fired in the box and I guess NASCAR in their judgment said I was at the bottom lane too early. I need to have a talk with (NASCAR President) Mike Helton and those guys to get their interpretation."
Ragan finished 14th.
The race was frantic and at times, quite confusing.
Many of the big names of NASCAR were involved in a 14-car crash on lap 30 as Michael Waltrip ran into the back of his full-time driver, David Reutimann. By the time it was over, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Joe Nemechek, five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Marcos Ambrose, Andy Lally, Travis Kvapil, Brian Keselowski, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and A.J. Allmendinger were involved in that crash.
Many of them would return to the race, but were out of contention.
Robby Gordon's car started to get loose and the other cars started taking evasive action.
Another car ran into the back of Earnhardt's Chevrolet, causing a four-car crash involving Ryan Newman, A.J. Allmendinger and Martin Truex, Jr.
Prior to that, Newman led the most laps of any driver in the race -- nine times for 37 laps. Clint Bowyer led 11 times for 31 laps and Kurt Busch three times for 19.
NASCAR made two attempts at a green-, white- and checkered-flag finish and Bayne found himself the leader on the restart of the second overtime.
So here was a 20-year-old, leading the Daytona 500, and the likes of Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch and Mark Martin -- all veterans who have never won the Daytona 500 behind him -- in his rear-view mirror.
"It was kind of cool to say when we were leading at the start of the green-, white-checkered," Bayne admitted. "I got to the white flag and I'm like, `At least we can say I led at the white flag.' We get to Turn 4 and we were still leading the band. `Man, somebody is going to pass us, what's going to happen here?'
"Then, nobody ever did.
"You know, wow, really."
The youthful words from a kid just a few years removed from his high school prom.
Trevor Bayne, you've just won the Daytona 500. What does it all mean?
"If I tried to put it into words, I wouldn't be doing it any justice that's for sure," Bayne said. "I tell you what; I couldn't ask to be sitting up there with any better guys than three that are up here and then Glen and Leonard who laid the foundation for this whole thing. If it wasn't for these guys, there is no way I'd be sitting up here. They gave me a rocket ship that definitely did me a lot of justice today. Anybody I hooked up with, it was headed to the front.
"To get this win, it's my first win in NASCAR period, in any of the top three series. My first Sprint Cup win in our second-ever race, that's setting a standard, I'd say that for sure."
Bayne is running a 17-race schedule for the Wood Brothers this season. Now, the big question is, how is young Trevor Bayne going to top this?