Trevor Bayne Shocks Everybody with Daytona 500 Win

February 21, 2011

When you have only made one career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start, you are not supposed to even contend for the Daytona 500.

However, Trevor Bayne, from Knoxville, Tennessee, did the unthinkable and beat NASCAR’s best in its best event.  Not only that, he did it in the famed Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, which had a retro-paint scheme, honoring 1976 Daytona 500 winner David Pearson.

Bayne matched Jamie McMurray’s mark with the fewest starts (2) before winning his first race.  He became the youngest driver, 20, to win the Daytona 500, beating Jeff Gordon’s record of 25 years old.  On top of all that, he became only the second driver to win the Daytona 500 in his first event.  Lee Petty is the other driver, although this stat is debatable as that was the first Daytona 500.

A non-favorite winning the Daytona 500 brings new life to a sport that was struggling with attendance and television ratings.  Bayne was not known by anyone, except NASCAR enthusiasts, before Sunday afternoon.

However, should we really be that surprised that this kid became a superstar overnight?

Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner talked with Bayne and decided to work with him in Thursday’s Gatorade Duels.  From that point, everyone learned that Bayne was a great pusher in this new two-car draft.

Bayne elected to fix the car that received damage in that same Gatorade Duel, knowing it provided him the best chance to win.  It also meant he could keep his starting spot.

Jack Roush is completely behind this kid.  When he was released from then-Diamond-Waltrip Racing near the end of 2010, Roush let no time pass before putting him in one of his Nationwide Series cars, even without a sponsor.  More amazing, Roush plans on running Bayne full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2011, despite having no full-time sponsor for the car.

Now Bayne, Roush, and the Wood Brothers are faced with a dilemma.  Is this kid the real deal?  Is it worth moving him up to full-time in the Sprint Cup Series after one win?  Will this result in the return of Ford as a front-runner?

First of all, Bayne is the real deal.  He has always run well in the Nationwide Series, and seemingly was always one-step away from getting that first win in NASCAR’s second-tier series.  His first Sprint Cup race was a 17th place-finish at Texas Motor Speedway.  This guy knows how to drive a race car.

No, Bayne should not be moved up to full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.  Several drivers who have had instant success being moved to the Sprint Cup Series has not been good for long-term development (See Reed Sorenson, Jamie McMurray [he got that first win, but it was about 8 years before he got another]).  Bayne is scheduled to drive about 17 races this season in the Sprint Cup Series, while running a full Nationwide Series.  He has declared to receive Nationwide points.  While he can still change, he would not receive the 47 points he got on Sunday.

The final question, it is too early to call for if Ford has returned to prominence.  One race is difficult to make a judgment.  However, the new FR9 engine that Ford will run full-time in all of its cars will make a difference this season.

Trevor Bayne will not be a Derrike Cope repeat.  Bayne will be a star, but let him continue to gain the experience that he still needs before rushing him to stardom.  This way, he can live up to the new standard he has established for himself.

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Clowney, Beamer…Just Another Day for the Gamecocks

February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day 2011 for the South Carolina Gamecocks will be one to remember.  While it was originally thought it would be about the highs, it will also be about the lows.

At appoximately 10:30 a.m., the unanimous number one recruit in the country, DE Jadeveon Clowney committed to the Gamecocks in a long, drawn out recruiting process.

While it was a joyous occasion for the Gamecocks, Clowney and his family, and South Pointe High School, it was embarassing to see how ESPN exploited the moment.

After Clowney stepped to the podium to announce his decision, he was told that he had to wait at least two minutes for ESPN to come out of a commercial break.  It created an awkward moment in the flow of events.

This was once again a demonstration how ESPN dictates the sports’ world, whether sports’ fans love it or not.

It was also announced in a press conference today that Gamecocks’ Special Teams and Recruiting Coordinator Shane Beamer will leave to join his father, Frank, at Virginia Tech.

This is an excellent opportunity for Shane, who will get a chance to inherit the job with the Hokies.  No word on who will replace Beamer.  South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said that they will look for the best for the special teams coordinator role, but will likely name someone in-house to be the new recruiting coordinator.

For the Gamecocks, this is a huge loss.  Many considered Beamer as one of the top candidates to become the head coach at South Carolina when Spurrier retired.  While his special teams group had some bright spots, Beamer will always be remembered for how he changed recruiting for the Gamecocks.

Gone were the David Reaves techniques of just looking for talent.  Beamer started looking for good character guys who had talent as well, hoping to have the Gamecocks appear on the front page for on-the-field-play, rather than always making the front page for the latest arrest.

An even bigger sign of what Beamer has done, just take a look at front pages on newspapers and websites, and see what the story is about this time.


Packers Super Bowl XLV Win Microcosm of Season

February 7, 2011

For the Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV was a sixty-minute recap of how their season went.  However, they are the only ones that can say they are the Super Bowl Champions.

To start off the season, the Packers were favorites.  Despite being the second youngest team in the league, they were a talented group of guys.

They started off the season like everyone expected.  Back-to-back wins to start the season, followed by a loss to eventual NFC North Division champion Chicago Bears.

In the Super Bowl, the Packers put up fourteen unanswered points, with a Jordy Nelson touchdown reception and a Nick Collins pick-six.

However, in the regular season, injuries quickly became a problem.  Key players RB Ryan Grant, TE Jermichael Finley, and LB Nick Barnett were all former Pro Bowlers, that the Packers had to learn to play without.

Fast forward to Sunday night, CB Charles Woodson and WR Donald Driver left the game early with injuries.  For Driver, it was an ankle injury.  For Woodson, it was much more serious, a broken collarbone.  Once again, as the important players went down, someone no one expected shows up.  See WR Jordy Nelson, who had nine receptions, for 140 yards, and one touchdown.

While struggling to adjust to the injuries, the Packers had a rough time.  In the regular season, it was an embarrassing loss to Detroit.  Sunday night, it was letting the Steelers right back into the game.

Remember those unexpected performances from unknown players.   It was a night game against the mighty New England Patriots that backup QB Matt Flynn was forced to play for QB Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a concussion the previous week.  No analyst gave the Packers a chance in that game.

However, Flynn, like he has always done, played better than anyone thought.  While the Packers still lost, it definitely provided some much-needed momentum.  After that game, the Packers never lost.

In Super Bowl XLV, it was CB Jarrett Bush who made key plays, with an interception, and knocking away the ball on the game-sealing play.

It was once again a story of the team with momentum at the end of the season winning it all.  Aaron Rodgers goes from good-to-great, even doing something Brett Favre never could, win a Super Bowl MVP Award.

Aaron Rodgers, through all of this has proven that he is the definition of a team player.  He waited for his opportunity, and GM Ted Thompson does not regret that decision.  Let’s just say, that Rodgers is a polar-opposite of Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler.

And the sad part is, keep this team together, and this won’t be the only Super Bowl for the Green Bay Packers.