– Wood Brothers Racing will not go away.
I suspect many of you felt the same as I from time to time – the NASCAR organization which has been in existence for over six decades was something like a worn-out thoroughbred whose glory was long past and then put out to pasture.
What the thoroughbred had accomplished would never be forgotten, to be sure, but its future would be humble until the end of its days.
It seems that the future for the Woods might well be anything but humble.
In one of the most improbable Daytona 500 finishes ever, if not the most improbable, the Woods won for the fifth time with a kid named Trevor Bayne as their driver. He made only the second Sprint Cup start of his career.
A kid who turned 20 just one day before the race, who wears a retainer and can’t drink victory lane champagne for another year, and who got the ride with the Woods for reasons too many to list here, wins NASCAR’s most prestigious race.
And he did it with a team that, as mentioned, seemed to be a shadow of itself. Because of a lack of sponsorship that forced it to make the most of the dollars it had, it has run only a limited schedule for the past two seasons.
I had a conversation with Len Wood, who, along with brother Eddie, now runs the team formed by their father Glen and his brother Leonard, and he said, among other things, that the goal was to enter 17 races this year with Bayne if sponsorship could be found.
I admit a part of me thought this was, at best, a very lofty goal.
Now, however, given Bayne’s Daytona 500 victory it might well happen – or even more. There’s a fair amount of logic to invest money in a venerated team with an obviously talented young, and personable, driver whose future seems bright.
The victory was no fluke. Bayne had been impressive throughout Speed Weeks. He was Jeff Gordon’s ally of choice in a Gatorade Duel race – and performed admirably – until Bayne was taken out by an accident.
Word quickly spread through the garage area that Bayne had the chops to compete in the 500’s new style of racing.
It evolved that he was the leader on the second of two green-white-flag restarts and, with a push from veteran Bobby Labonte, was able to prove he was just as able as the guy out in front as he was the one who gave the shove.
It was the fifth Daytona 500 victory for the Woods. But it was easily the most unexpected since Tiny Lund’s win in 1963 when he substituted for the injured Marvin Panch. Their other winners are A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough and David Pearson.
They were all superstars. Trevor Bayne isn’t – yet. But then, his victory might prove to be the most rewarding ever, in more ways than one, for the Wood Brothers, who aren’t out to pasture yet.
– Speaking of improbable, accolades are due to drivers whom most of us thought wouldn’t be factors in the Daytona 500.
They include David Ragan, who might have won the race had he not been penalized for moving out of position before he reached the start-finish line during the first green-white-checkered flag restart, and Labonte, who finished fourth in his first start with JTG/Daugherty Racing, a team he feels will put him back into prominence.
David Gilliland, the Cinderella kid of a few years ago when he beat the big guys in a Nationwide Series race that directly led to a Sprint Cup job, would up third after a crackup.
Regan Smith, another driver who turned heads for his ability to negotiate the two-car Daytona draft, finished seventh, again after a mishap. In his debut with Richard Childress Racing, Paul Menard finished ninth after a couple of his teammates were sidelined by engine failure.
Yes, I know several of the top contenders left the race because of incidents not of their making. But, as they say, that’s racing. This sort of thing has happened before and will happen again.
– I admit there was plenty of drama and excitement in the Daytona 500. I think it was good stuff for racing fans and, especially, television.
The new “June bug” style of drafting is appreciated by some and loathed by others. By now you know some of the scenarios it can create.
For example, there’s potential overheating (and thus engine failure), the fact that the driver pushing can’t see a thing and is at the mercy of the one in front of him, and spotters, and that the cars, rubbing front and rear bumpers, are so close that if the one in front checks up for any reason, all hell can break loose.
I have difficulties with a couple of things.
At Daytona, drivers no longer communicated solely with their crew chiefs or spotters, as it used to be. They do so with just about everyone on the track.
It’s done so they can, among other things, create favorable drafting situations. A driver can ask another if they can hook up. If turned down he can ask another.
Even in a two-car draft drivers can tell each other what they should do, such as the time to make the “swap” so the one doing the pushing can pass to gain fresh air.
Maybe I’m wrong but it appears to me that to be able to work with a rival whom you are supposed to beat is out of sorts in a sport where it is every man for himself and to work solely with his team.
Yes, I know teams have communicated for years. But it was done crew chief to crew chief, or spotter to spotter, and then transmitted to the driver.
Drivers simply didn’t talk to each other, much less reveal what each should do.
I can only surmise that this year’s Daytona 500 made it that way.
– There were a record 74 lead changes in the Daytona 500. It will go in the books.
But, I ask you, if a driver who is leading makes the “swap” with the guy behind him and he’s the one who crosses the finish line first, did he really take the lead?
Seems to me he was GIVEN the lead. He didn’t TAKE it. We saw a lot of that in Daytona.
I know it seems trivial. But to me there’s a difference between being given something rather than earning it.
Those are just a few of my thoughts. Yours, by all means, are most certainly welcome.