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NASCAR’s Youth Is Served. The Future is Now
From Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 To Nationwide, and Truck Series Titles
If it seems top performers in NASCAR are getting younger and younger – you’re right.
Consider this: A 20-year-old, Trevor Bayne, won the Daytona 500; A 21-year-old, Austin Dillon, became the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ youngest champion. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series boasted an 18-year-old champion, Max Gresham, and a 15-yearold race and pole winner, Dylan Kwasniewski.
Youth being served didn’t comprise the season’s only break-out performances, however – think champion Tony Stewart winning a record five of 10 races during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – but it was a headline from
start to finish in 2011.
Bayne Tops List of Five First-Time Winners
A day after his 20th birthday – and in only his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start – Trevor Bayne raced the Wood Brothers’ fabled No. 21 Ford to victory in the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. He wasn’t the only first-timer to win a NASCAR “major.”
Regan Smith triumphed in the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and Paul Menard became the only driver to score his initial victory in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Marcos Ambrose and David Ragan visited Victory Lane for the first time at Watkins Glen International and Daytona International Speedway, respectively.
Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Change Rookie Status In a Hurry
Dillon was a season removed from winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, as was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 24, champion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The “double play” by Dillon and Stenhouse was a first. Both won twice in their respective series. Under current age rules, a NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year will have a difficult time getting any younger than Timmy Hill, who turned a national series-eligible 18 years of age on the day practice began for the season’s second race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Tony Stewart Took Up Space – In Victory Lane
Frustrated by a lack of victories during the 2011 season’s first 26 races, Stewart proclaimed he was just taking up space in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. That might have been trash talking, but Stewart suddenly was the driver to beat with victories at Chicagoland Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. By the time the checkered flag fell on Stewart’s winning No. 14 Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion had five victories in pocket, the most during the Chase in its eight-year tenure. Stewart, by the way, has at least one victory in 13 consecutive seasons (1999-2011) – the series’ longest continuing streak
Brad Keselowski Became Genuine Star in 2011
Keselowski, the 27-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series champion from 2010, proved he must be included among the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ brightest stars. He won three times – twice racing with leg injuries suffered in a testing accident. Keselowski went from 21st in the points standing to a “wild card” entry into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ and finished the season fifth in the championship.
Multiple Milestones Reached Among Three NASCAR National Series
Kyle Busch erased Mark Martin’s long-standing NASCAR Nationwide Series victory mark (49) at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, ultimately raising his career win total to 51. Busch earlier became the third competitor to win 100 NASCAR national series races with his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Kentucky Speedway in July and reached 104 wins by season’s end.
Jeff Gordon won his 85th NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September to rank third all-time behind Richard Petty and David Pearson.
Mark Martin became the eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor to win 50 or more Coors Light Poles in July at Daytona International Speedway. Martin added No. 51 at Talladega Superspeedway in October.
Ron Hornaday Jr. extended his all-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory record to 51. His milestone 50th win came in October at Kentucky Speedway.
Sixteen of those wins have come after the 53-year-old Californian’s 50th birthday.