The 2011 Daytona 500 ended with a Cinderella finish as 20-year old rookie Trevor Bayne took advantage of a final restart to win this year’s running of the Daytona 500. In a race marred by numerous accidents, the race finished with a green-white-checkered restart after the 16th yellow flag of the race. Sixteen yellow flags easily exceeded the previous Daytona 500 record of 11 yellow flags. In a day of perfect weather, the cars were packed in so tight that accidents were virtually inevitable.
There were a mix of individual accidents and multi-car wrecks, with the biggest coming on Lap 29. That accident knocked the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to the back of the pack. While they were able to return to the race, they were double digit laps behind and were just racing for any points at that point.
Bay Area and Central Valley racers struggled throughout the race. Bakersfield-native and race favorite Kevin Harvick was knocked out early on with a blown engine. Harvick was an 8 to 1 favorite to win the race but lap 24 was his undoing. Vallejo-native Jeff Gordon was sitting at 12 to 1 odds to win the race, but a Lap 29 accident involving Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann sent Gordon to the garage. He eventually made his way back onto the track, but by that point he was 30+ laps down.
The high finished for the Bay Area was A.J. Allmendinger. The fifth-year driver actually benefited from all the accidents in today’s race as he finished 11th. He seemed settled in around 20th to 25th place for a vast majority of the race, occasionally popping up above the top 20. But every time he’d gain some ground, a poor pit stop or generally weak driving would drop him back down to the high 20s. However, as each accident knocked out a driver or two (or five or six) Allmendinger took advantage and climbed up the leaderboard as drivers feel by the wayside. By the end of the day he had finished with a respectable 11th place showing.