x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Rookie Trevor Bayne is youngest winner of Daytona 500

A day after his 20th birthday, Trevor Bayne dodges an incident-filled Nascar series opener to win the 520-mile race.

Trevor Bayne, the Sprint Cup series driver , stands next to the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the Daytona 500.
Trevor Bayne, the Sprint Cup series driver , stands next to the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the Daytona 500.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA // Rookie Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday by capturing Nascar's season opening race a day after his 20th birthday.

Bayne, racing in his first Daytona 500 and second Sprint Cup start, held off Carl Edwards by 0.118 seconds for the win. David Gilliland placed third.

"I keep thinking I'm dreaming I really do," Bayne said after the race while surrounded by his team. "I am so thankful for the job that these guys did on this race car. It's unbelievable. Our first (Daytona) 500, are you kidding me?"

The Daytona 500 was decided in the second overtime after a an incident-filled race that included a track record 74 lead changes with 22 different leaders and 16 cautions.

"It was 520 miles of sheer terror out there," said Edwards. "It was wild. If that was a lesser group of drivers out there it would have been really, really bad."

So unexpected was victory for Bayne that he almost missed the entrance to Victory Lane, where the winning driver heads for his celebration, that he said on his team radio he did not know what to do.

"I didn't know how to get to Victory Lane but we will hopefully find our way back there," said the Wood Brothers driver who has no victories on the second tier Nationwide Series.

Bayne was not even racing for Sprint Cup points as he does not have a full-time ride in the competition due to the lack of a sponsor — a situation that could change quickly.

The crowd of over 150,000 people held three fingers in the air during a moment of silence for the entire third lap as a tribute to Dale Earnhardt, who died when he crashed his famous No 3 Chevy Goodwrench on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

There was no fairy tale finish for his son, Dale Jr, whose car was towed off the track after suffering damage in a collision during the first overtime.

Jimmie Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup champion, was one of a number of leading drivers effectively out of contention after a 14 car pile-up on turn three of the 19th lap.

David Ragan looked well positioned for a shot at victory when he led the pack at the start of the first overtime but he was black-flagged for changing lanes too soon at the restart.