On surface, it's great weekend

Kid's victory, new track at Daytona create quite a buzz

February 23, 2011

A year ago, people from all over the world were looking at Daytona International Speedway and laughing.

It wasn't a chuckle that resonated warmly in the corporate offices. A pothole made a mockery of the track and the signature NASCAR event of the season, the Daytona 500.

Fast-forward to this week: NASCAR is all abuzz because a 20-year-old kid rumbled into Victory Lane, driving fast and hard on a new asphalt surface that cost $20 million. It was money well spent.

The new surface — with much more sticking power that allowed for faster speeds — was a big hit, though it was overshadowed by Trevor Bayne's improbable victory.

"In sports in general there are always underdog stories at some point," Speedway President Joie Chitwood said. "People who can energize or electrify sports because of how special the story is.

"But what's unique about this win is that it wasn't a new team with a new driver. It was a new young driver with that old established team that has history in the sport. That's the best of both worlds."

Edwards so close: The buzz about NASCAR would be a mild hum if Carl Edwards had passed Bayne on that final lap. Edwards, a Ford man like Bayne, called him hours after the victory, still kicking himself for not making the right move to chase down Bayne.

"What could I have done differently to win this thing?" he asked.

Edwards shouldn't beat himself up. Bayne's victory has energized the fan base and brought in a bunch of other folks who are thrilled about the cool story of an underdog, just a day after he turned 20, winning the Great American Race.

Ratings go up: NASCAR got another jolt of good news from everybody who stayed home to watch Sunday.

A total audience of a little more than 30 million watched the race, according to Nielsen Media Research. That makes Sunday's 500 the most-watched NASCAR race since 2008.

Sweet deal: Feeling the need to binge on ice cream? How about a "Trevor Bayne Sundae, Sundae, Sundae?" The item now has a permanent spot on the Ghirardelli Square Ice Cream Parlor menu.

Be careful: It seems the Trevor Bayne buzz can also lead to brain freeze.

George Diaz

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