DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The most famous trophy in stock car racing sits on a dresser in Knoxville, Tenn., right next to some smaller go-kart trophies. It still has graffiti on it, along with sticky Gatorade residue.
Trevor Bayne still lives with his parents. His childhood bedroom is a testament to a young career that started small and struck a surprising, make that stunning, pinnacle a year ago when he won the Daytona 500.
Other trophies and blue ribbons identify race wins. The Daytona 500 trophy makes a career. As Benny Parsons once said, “You are a Daytona 500 champion forever.”
Bayne has another fast car for today’s race (1 p.m., Fox-Ch. 54). So do a lot of other drivers. Like so many other Daytona 500s, the winner probably will be the driver who picks the best racing line, the best drafting partner and avoids all the carnage short of the finish line.
A year ago it was Bayne who was at the right place at the right time at Daytona International Speedway.
There are 42 drivers in today’s race who hope it’s their turn to be up front when it counts most at the end of the biggest race of the season – many with far greater credentials than Bayne, but no victories in the Daytona 500.
Like front-row starters Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. Or defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya or Danica Patrick.
“There’s no way to predict it,” Kyle Busch said.
“There are so many circumstances out of the driver’s control,” Jimmie Johnson said.
Edwards won the pole a week ago with a fast lap of 194.738 mph in qualifying. Biffle ran 194.087.
The rest of the starting lineup was based off the results from two 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday. Stewart will start third, followed by Matt Kenseth in fourth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth, Regan Smith in sixth, Marcos Ambrose in seventh, Johnson in eighth, Burton in ninth and Elliott Sadler in 10th.
Bayne will be 40th.
Bayne had a fast car a year ago, but he was making his second career Sprint Cup start. It was easy to discount his chances then; now it’s impossible for him to sneak up on anyone.
“We’re not exactly flying under the radar,” Bayne said.