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Driven by FaithThe Trevor Bayne Story
By Godwin Kelly
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2011 Godwin Kelly
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwo Laps to Glory
With two laps to go at the 2011 Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne found himself on the edge of victory. And it wasn't just because the turns at Daytona International Speedway are banked at an outrageous thirty-one degrees. The twenty-year-old rookie driver was actually in the lead!
Called the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing," the Daytona 500 kicks off the NASCAR season each February. A first-time driver winning Daytona is sort of like a college football team pulling off an upset in the National Football League's Super Bowl. It's unimaginable.
But the 2011 Daytona 500 had already proven to be full of surprises. The track had recently been repaved, which slowed down speeds. During practice races leading up to Sunday, drivers discovered a new style of racing known as "tandem racing," which put two cars bumper-to-bumper, traveling at nearly 200 miles per hour.
"Looks pretty easy doesn't it?" one of the TV announcers joked early in the race. "Think you could drive a car, folks at home, at 200 miles an hour with somebody pushing you?"
The close confines had already gotten the best of extremely experienced drivers. A major crash less than thirty laps into the race had eliminated many of racing's top names from contention, including Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Michael Waltrip.
Early in the week at Daytona, Bayne found he was best suited as the "push car." So on race day, he felt very comfortable in the role of assisting more well-known drivers to the front of the pack.
By the time Bayne found himself in front, the two hundred lap competition had already seen seventy-four lead changes—a record! Twenty-two different drivers had led in the race, which had also seen a record number of caution flags with sixteen.
With accidents and blown engines happening all around him, Bayne had remained calm behind the wheel of the number 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford and stuck to the game plan. That plan was to "push" his teammate David Ragan in the number 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to victory.
The pair had formulated that plan while following the pace car during a yellow caution flag (see "Flag Formula") in overtime of the race. The Daytona 500 is always scheduled for two hundred laps around the 2.5 mile course. But a caution flag in the final miles of the race forced extra laps. When a late-race caution keeps an event from ending under a green flag, NASCAR allows for up to three restarts so drivers can finish trying to pass each other all the way to the checkered flag. As the field rounded turn four behind the pace car, they were completing lap 202. There would be at least two or more laps to decide the champion in "The Great American Race."
Everything was on the line. Not only would the winner be added to an elite group of Daytona 500 champions, but he would also receive a large chunk of nearly $1.5 million in prize money. Neither Bayne nor Ragan was thinking about the paycheck. Both were focused on winning the race. When the green flag was shown to tell drivers to resume racing, Ragan planned to slip in front of Bayne, who had agreed to push Ragan's stock car ahead of the competition. Once the drivers had separated themselves from the pack, they would decide the race between themselves.
As the green flag waved on lap 203, Ragan made a critical error. The twenty-five-year-old driver with more than 145 NASCAR races under his belt got a little overanxious. Eager to join forces with Bayne, Ragan pulled in front of Bayne's car before reaching the start-finish line. NASCAR's officials, watching from a tower above, waved the black flag at Ragan for "jumping the start."
According to NASCAR rules, Ragan had to give up his prime position, pull into the pit area, and return to the track at the back of the field. With Ragan gone, Bayne was now the leader of the Daytona 500 in only his second start in NASCAR's marquee Sprint Cup Series. The driver, who was a mere teenager two days before, now realized he was in control of the race with 182,000 spectators packed into Daytona and millions more watching on live television.
"That was the first time during the whole race that I really felt panicked," Bayne told the media the next morning. "I was like (over the two-way radio system), 'Guys, do I let Tony Stewart get in front of me and just push him? Do I back up? What's going to happen?' So I'm coming to the green, and I'm still on the mic saying, 'What should I do?'"
Without advice from his team, Bayne's natural racing instincts took control of the number 21 Ford. Bayne may have been new to the Sprint Cup Series, but he wasn't new to racing. He'd been driving racecars since he was five. He had led and won hundreds of races. This was a big stage, but it only required a basic racing strategy—go fast, stay in front.
Of course, with NASCAR's best drivers on your bumper, that's easier said than done.
When the green flag came down, NASCAR veteran Bobby Labonte in number 47 got a great restart. He was on Bayne's tail in no time as the pair rocketed to the front. Just as quickly as Bayne and Labonte created the gap, it was closed by Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya—who were just inches behind Labonte as the white flag waved to signal that just one lap remained.
Many great races at Daytona have been decided in the final lap, and this was gearing up to be a spectacular finish.
Heading into the last turn, Carl Edwards and David Gilliland looked like they were shot out of a cannon as they went low on the track to pass Busch and Montoya. Edwards had all the momentum coming out of turn 4. But just when it appeared that Edwards would blow by Bayne, the young driver made a veteran move. Bayne steered low onto the track to cut off Edwards and keep himself in the lead.
Instants later when the checkered flag waved, Bayne crossed the line first to win the Daytona 500 by .118 seconds!
Bayne had won by a blink of an eye. Well, actually it takes the human eye three times longer to complete a blink than the time that separated Bayne and Edwards at Daytona ... so Bayne won by less than a blink of an eye!
"This is unbelievable," shouted the TV announcer. "This is fairy tale stuff."
Even Bayne had a hard time believing it. "I keep thinking I'm dreaming," he said in Victory Lane. "Our first 500—are you kidding me? To win our first one in our second-ever Cup race, I mean, this is just incredible."
Gilliland took third in the race with Labonte and Busch right behind.
The stunned fans went wild cheering for Bayne when he spun out his tires on the track, creating a huge cloud of black smoke. Then he drove into the grass infield to turn a couple donuts.
Almost immediately, Bayne's car was surrounded by his Wood Brothers Racing pit crew. They pulled him out of the car and carried him around on their shoulders. It had been thirty-five years since this fabled racing team had won at Daytona.
Bayne jumped back in the car and rolled back onto the track, and that's where he made his first mistake of the day—he missed the turn to Victory Lane and had to backup.
"I didn't know how to get to Victory Lane," Bayne admitted to reporters with a boyish laugh.
And among the first people to greet him in Victory Lane were his parents, Rocky and Stephanie. The pair had watched the race from the grandstands instead of pit row because Rocky tends to get a bit loud in cheering for his son. But as soon as the race was finished, Rocky and Stephanie rushed to the track where a security guard stopped them. After Rocky showed his identification, the security guard not only let them onto the track but also gave Rocky the checkered flag to take down to his son.
Instantly reporters, fans, and even competitors were drawn to Trevor's genuine excitement, humbleness, and character.
"Second place in the Daytona 500 feels way worse than any other position I've ever finished in the Daytona 500," Edwards said after the race. "But that is made better by listening to Trevor and how excited he is. He is really a nice young man, a great guy to represent this sport with this win."
Bayne doesn't just want to represent NASCAR well; he has higher goals in mind. Since praying to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior as a teenager, Bayne has strived to stay focused on his faith in all he does.
Even before slipping into his fireproof driver's suit and donning his helmet at the start of the Daytona, Bayne had given over the results to God. He attended a chapel service early in the morning inside the Daytona garage and prayed with his team on pit road.
"We prayed right before the race started," Bayne said. "I just wanted everybody to be a part of it. I want to model myself after Jesus and follow in His footsteps. It was so cool to have a team that supported that."
Bayne credited God with allowing him to maintain balance and focus during the Daytona 500 and helping him keep a level head during those heart-pounding last laps.
But there was no way Bayne could prepare himself for the media blitz and fame that was about to come.
For more than five hundred years, flags have been used to communicate during war. And for over sixty years, flags have been important communication tools to drivers as they do battle on NASCAR racetracks.
Eight main flags are used in NASCAR races:
A green flag signals the start of a race. It's also used to let the drivers know the track is clear following a caution flag, and they can start driving fast and passing each other again.
Drivers better slow down when they see a yellow caution flag. This flag signals that there's an accident or debris on the track, or that the track is no longer raceable due to bad weather. During a caution flag, the drivers can't pass each other and often bunch up behind a pace car. (Racetracks provide a pace car to keep the speeds under control at the beginning of a race and during cautions.)
A red flag demands immediate attention. It means the track is unsafe and drivers must exit the raceway and stop. A red flag is waved when an accident blocks the track or if a driver is injured and needs quick medical attention. Heavy rains may also bring out a red flag.
The white flag is used once during a race—it means one lap to go!
Drivers don't like to see the black flag. Normally, this flag is waved at one particular car because it has broken a rule or has a mechanical problem. When a driver gets a black flag, he must make an immediate pit stop.
If a driver doesn't stop right away after seeing a black flag, he is shown a black with white cross flag. This means he's been disqualified and won't score any NASCAR points for the race until he comes into the pits.
The blue with yellow stripe flag is also called the "courtesy" flag. If a driver sees this flag, it's saying, "Move over. There are faster cars coming from behind." The slower car does not have to move over, but after receiving the courtesy flag, it's the nice thing to do.
NASCAR drivers love being the first one to cross the line when a black-and-white checkered flag is waving. It signals the race is over. The first one to cross the line during a checked flag is the winner.
Excerpted from Driven by Faith by Godwin Kelly Copyright © 2011 by Godwin Kelly . Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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