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Full Throttle – Daytona 500 number overload

Full Throttle – Daytona 500 number overload

Now that the 2011 Daytona 500 is in the record books, they have increased in thickness on various fronts, and the fans of the sport are gradually absorbing all of the different information that they were bombarded with over the last two weeks. Trevor Bayne becoming the youngest driver to win the 500 was just the icing on the cake for several days of racing that a majority of the fans are still trying to decide if they actually liked or not. One thing is for sure, whether you’re a casual fan, hard core race nut, or nuclear physicist, there were more numbers to crunch from Daytona 2011 than there have been for years.

Bayne not only is the youngest driver in the history of the Daytona 500 to win, he’s the second youngest driver in the history of the Cup series to win a race. To put Bayne’s youth into a little bit of perspective, he was born when the first George Bush was president of the United States. Richard Petty retired from racing the year after Bayne was born and Jeff Gordon ran his first Cup race the year after Bayne was brought into this world. The first Brickyard 400 took place when Bayne was three years old.

The 500 also set several other records on Sunday. The most caution flags for the track (16), the most lead changes for the 500 (74), and the most different leaders of the race (22). 60 caution flag laps tied the record for Daytona International Speedway. The entire Speedweeks set several records as well. The Budweiser Shootout had 28 lead changes while the first Duel had 20 lead changes, a record for the Daytona qualifying races. The second Duel on Thursday trumped the first and actually upped the mark for lead changes to 22 in a single qualifying race.

The records are only the beginning of the statistical soup that was spewed from the revolving head of Daytona. Bayne’s victory was the fifth win for the legendary Wood Brothers organization in the Daytona 500 and the 98th in their organization’s history. He was the seventh driver in history to score his first Cup win in the Daytona 500. He tied the record previously set by Jamie McMurray scoring their first victory in their second Cup start. The win by a Ford is the 600th victory in the history of the company. Carl Edwards is the point leader after Daytona because Bayne is running for the Nationwide Series title in 2011 so he was not credited with any driver points for winning the race.

Bayne is the second driver to win in his first start at Daytona, the first was Lee Petty who, like everyone else in the field that day, was participating in their first Daytona 500. This was the sixth 500 in a row to be won by a first time Daytona 500 winner. Jeff Gordon was the last driver to win the race who had previously taken the checkered flag in the Great American Race. The win for the Wood Brothers was their first win in almost 10 years, Elliott Sadler was the last driver to take a Wood Brothers car to Victory Lane at Bristol in March of 2001.

Jimmie Johnson’s 27th place finish was his fifth consecutive 500 with a finishing spot of 27th or worse. He has not been able to come home better than 27th since he won the race in 2006. Kurt Busch continued the trend of drivers failing to sweep Speedweeks. Busch won the Shootout and his Duel qualifying race, but came home fifth in the 500. There have been 12 instances of drivers winning the Shootout/Clash and their qualifying race, but none of them have been able to take the title in the 500. Ken Schrader and Dale Earnhardt came the closest, both finishing second in the 500 (Earnhardt did it twice). Earnhardt actually had the chance to do it four different times but never succeeded.

Daytona has always provided some incredibly competitive racing and this year was one of the best ever. The margins of victory in seconds, by race during Speedweeks:

Bud Shootout – .058
Duel #1 – .065
Duel #2 – .005
Trucks – .061
Nationwide – .007
Cup – .118

The end result is that the total margin of victory for all six of the races during Speedweeks was .314 seconds.

Baseball is the sport that is very well known as the sport of statistics. The 162 game season can cause rotisserie nerds to go into overload with all of the different facts and figures. RBIs, ERAs, WHIPs and OBPs afford fans the chance to discuss and debate throughout the season and for years about the ability and worth of all of the different players that have participated in the grand old game. Racing can come up with an equal number of statistical information and the start of the season is often one of the best times of the year to crank up the number crunching machine. Here’s hoping the rest of the season gives us just as many great moments as we had over the first two weeks in Florida.

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