DAYTONA BEACH, Fla._ The last time the Wood Brothers went to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 was the epic finish between David Pearson and Richard Petty in 1976. Trevor Bayne would not be born for another 15 years. Yet on Sunday, the 20-year-old driver piloted one of the most famous cars in NASCAR history to one of the biggest wins in recent history.

Becoming the youngest driver to ever win the Daytona 500, Bayne was able to hold off a hard-charging Carl Edwards and David Gilliland on the final lap of the 208-lap race. In only his second Sprint Cup Series start, Bayne became the first driver to score a win in his first career Daytona 500 start since Lee Petty won the inaugural race in 1959.

“Our first 500, are you kidding me?” Bayne said in Victory Lane. “To win our first one? Our second ever Cup race? I can’t thank the guys that worked with me enough. There were 10-15 different drivers that helped us get across that line.”

Not only is Bayne, who celebrated a birthday on Saturday, the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500, he is also the youngest driver to pilot the famed No. 21.

The win puts him in an elite class of drivers to pilot a Wood Brothers car to victory, joining names such as Speedy Thompson, Marvin Panch, Tiny Lund, Glen Wood, Dan Gurney, Curtis Turner, A.J. Foyt, Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett, Buddy Baker, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd and Elliott Sadler.

“I really had study the history of the Wood Brothers,” Bayne admitted. “They took me through the shop on one of the first days showed me the pictures on the wall. I haven’t been to the museum yet. [They] showed me the Indianapolis win with Glen and Leonard pitting…They have cool [pictures] from the convertibles all the way through. I got a little history lesson.”

Meeting Hall of Fame inductee and legendary Wood Brothers driver David Pearson for the first time this weekend, the young rookie soaked up his time with the veteran prior to the race.

“The first thing he said is, ‘Be careful.’ That was the mindset that I had to have at the beginning,” Bayne said. “I didn’t forget that or take it lightly. We had to survive that whole race. All the crashing going on, we had to be there at the end to have a chance at that.

“The next thing he said, ‘I hope you can do what we did in the 21.’  We did that, too. Hopefully he can give us more advice and we can keep following it up.

“David Pearson, he’s the man. It’s so cool to be following in his footsteps in this car.”

Listening to the race in his car, Pearson was proud of his young protégé and the team he helped to so many wins.

“I’m proud of them,” he said following Sunday’s race. “I figured they had a chance after seeing that boy race in the 150s (Gatorade Duel). I talked to him (Bayne) this morning. I told him to keep his head straight and not to do anything crazy. I told him to stay relaxed. That’s the thing; stay relaxed. I knew he would because he was relaxed in the qualifier. I’m proud of him. I don’t understand what has taken them so long to return to Victory Lane. The car has always been capable.”

Falling on hard times over the past few seasons, the Wood Brothers have not celebrated a victory since Elliott Sadler took them to Victory Lane at Bristol in 2001. With sponsorship woes and the lack of funding required to compete at the top level, the team suffered a setback that saw them missing the 2008 Daytona 500 and eventually cutting back to a limited schedule.

“Probably the lowest thing that happened to us, the lowest point, was missing this race in ’08,” co-owner Eddie Wood explained. “You know, our family had been coming down here since the ’50s. They never missed one until we missed it. I think that’s probably the lowest point for me, was that day. We came back to the racetrack and hung out because we had a lot of guests coming, things like that.  It’s almost like when you miss a race, especially the Daytona 500, it’s like somebody died.”

Now, three years later, the team is celebrating their fifth win in the Great American Race and first in 35 years.

“It’s just bringing back the red and white car with the gold numbers that Pearson drove, that just seemed like it put things back to normal,” Eddie Wood said. “I told Richard Petty earlier in the week he needed to paint his car back to blue with orange stripes at the top and the world would be correct. I believe that. Our car is supposed to be red and white with the gold number, his is supposed to be Petty blue with an orange stripe across the top of it with a big 43. Whenever that happens, I’ll be happy.”

New on the Sprint Cup scene, Bayne did not back into Sunday’s win by any means. He had a strong car all week and was one of the best ‘pushers’ in the two-car tandem since the cars hit the track last week. Working with veteran Jeff Gordon during Thursday’s Gatorade Duel qualifying race, the rookie perfected the art of the tandem, impressed many in the garage and used it like a pro during Sunday’s Daytona 500.

“I can’t thank Jeff and those guys enough to put the trust in me,” Bayne said. “Even though I’m 20, I’ve been [racing] since I was 5. Really none of us had any experience doing this. I had a bit of an advantage not having to relearn it all. All those guys that helped me along the way today, their trust in me showed other people could trust me. Jeff Gordon taking that first step showed everybody that, hey, they could work with me and we’re here.”

Throughout the garage, Bayne has developed a reputation as one of the best young drivers with the potential to be the next big thing.

“He’s got a tremendous awareness in the car,” Eddie Wood said of his young driver. “The great ones are like that. I’ve listened to a lot of drivers on the radio. He reminds me of the great ones. He will be a great one.  told somebody the other day that I felt like he just might be the next big deal, and I think he is.”

“I don’t know if I’m the next big thing,” Bayne said. “I hope so. I hope we can prove that. I definitely don’t want it to be handed to us easy. I want to earn it. I think we’re doing it. Winning a race, running up front, it’s not something fake, it’s real. These guys have given me the equipment to shine and hopefully we can keep going with it.”

For decades, the Wood Brothers were one the most formidable teams NASCAR. Their drivers include 20 of the NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, they celebrated their 60th anniversary last season and have won races in each of the last six decades.

After years of struggles and disappointment, the Wood Brothers have now extended that to seven decades thanks to the youngest driver to ever pilot one of their rides, Trevor Bayne.

The struggles may not be over and the road to championships maybe still be years down the road, but on Sunday the first steps towards a new chapter in the Wood Brothers history were set in stone.

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