If you were the head of NASCAR, I'd say your best-case scenario Sunday would have been a win by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Daytona 500 on the 10th anniversary of his father's death in the second race.
That didn't happen Sunday -- Dale Jr. finished 24th, although he ran up front most of the day. (He crashed late).
But your second-best scenario would be an unlikely winner -- a "Hoosiers" or "Rocky" sort of story. And that NASCAR got, with a win by 20-year-old Trevor Bayne, who is easily the youngest winner in the 53-year history of NASCAR's biggest race. (Here's my column about him).
Bayne drove with the poise of a veteran to hold off Carl Edwards at the end, and he won a lot of people over with his post-race humility. His victory wasn't that fluky -- he had been running in the front pack in every pre-race event there was.
Still... Trevor Bayne?! He's a 20-year-old kid who mainly runs in the Nationwide Series, where he has never won in 51 attempts. This was his second Sprint Cup race.
As I write in my column for Monday's Charlotte Observer:
Bayne is a God-fearing, apple-cheeked, personable 20-year-old. He likes to play the guitar, wear T-shirts, snowboard and Twitter (although not all at the same time).
In other words, Bayne hits an ideal demographic for NASCAR, whose television ratings and attendance dropped dramatically in 2010. But the sport’s next major star might have been born on Sunday.
Bayne is obviously a lot of fun to write about, because he's an unknown, and an underdog, and apparently a good guy who is still too young to buy alcohol. He missed the turn to Victory Lane Sunday; that's how raw this guy is. But what a talent, and what a place to display it.
10 months ago