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So how did Trevor Bayne and the Woods celebrate? with burgers and basketball


  (Updated with TV ratings)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Cheers and tears, cheers and tears and victory champagne, made for the perfect cap to one of the greatest Daytona SpeedWeeks in years.
   Great racing, great Bill France weather, a nice spice of controversies, intrigues, this one had it all.
   And a stunning finish – 20-year-old Trevor Bayne, in the Wood brothers Ford, outrunning the best in the sport….and in just his second Sprint Cup race.

   Stunning, simply stunning.
   Of course now Bayne, the little-known racer from Tennessee, has a whirlwind week of PR ahead, coast to coast.
   By the time he gets to Phoenix Thursday night, he will be exhausted.
   And Len and Eddie Wood, who run this team, the oldest operation in the sport, with roots back to the post-war 1940s, may well be exhausted too. They hope to be fielding some new sponsorship offers, enough to turn this part-time operation, scheduled for just 17 tour events this season, into a full-time operation again.
    So how did the brothers celebrate Sunday night?
   With their traditional run to Steak & Shake.
   "We eat breakfast at Steak & Shake every time we come down….that's where we live," Eddie said. 
   "Back in the day, in the '70s, we would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at Steak & Shake.  How many hamburgers did we eat in a row?"
    "Something like 38," Len Wood responded.
    And then it was on to the cell phones, to answer all those congratulations texts, on extending their family's streak of NASCAR wins to an amazing seven decades.
    "I didn't know I knew that many people," Eddie went on. 
    "Now we've got to figure out how to find some more money to maybe finish off the season. This limited schedule is good, and it enables us to continue racing, but you need to be at all of them, and that's our goal  -- to get back full-time. 
    "And let 'Ricochet-rabbit' here get a shot at the rookie deal."

    The win, the Woods' fifth Daytona 500, ended a long, too long drought. Their last tour victory was back in 2001 at Bristol, with Elliott Sadler.
    Now will this help jump-start a comeback?
    For the Woods, perhaps.
    For the sport of NASCAR, almost certainly.
    This was just the shot in the arm this sport needed, after two so-so years and increasing questions about its relativity.
    Bayne will now be a front line player in the sport, and he's got his whole career ahead of him.
    His Sunday night celebration? Some basketball and some skateboarding. "And tried not to break any legs for today.
    "Normally I would have stayed up all night and hung out, but about 1 o'clock I figured it was bed time."
     Good move: Next, New York City, then San Francisco, then Los Angeles, then to Phoenix for next weekend's race.

   NASCAR executives themselves may now face an interesting issue – how to okay Bayne for the NASCAR Cup playoff chase. Under the new rules this season Bayne, though he just won the sport's biggest race, didn't get any points for it, as strange as that might seem.
   "I'd love to run for a championship in either series, so whatever they say I'm good with it," Bayne says. "I think we'll have a really good shot in the Nationwide (he ran fourth here Saturday), and obviously we've got a good shot here.
    "We knew this was a possibility…I don't think we knew it was as strong a possibility.
    "And we still have to get sponsorship too. That's a big part.  If we get full-time sponsorship, then I'll really be kicking myself in the butt (for signing for Nationwide points, rather than Cup."

   The Woods have been around long enough to be realists about it all. "We're still the same guys that missed this race in 2008," Len said.
   "We've tried to turn it around, and hopefully we gained a little credibility.
    "We've got a good group of guys.  We buy cars from Jack Roush and use Roush engineering, and that's been a big plus. I talked to Doug Yates last night and said 'Hey, I need an engine for Martinsville,' and he said 'No problem.'
    "We can add races and run right on with no problem."

   Bayne, a bubbly guy, with an effervescent personality, and uncanny cool on the track, may be the big question here. Yes, he's good. But he's still so new to this. Every race will be a new adventure.
   He realizes this is not just another win for the Woods….but when it comes to NASCAR history, hey, his world only began in 1991.
   "I'm not a big enough sponge to soak all this up, because there is so much that this means to everybody," Bayne says.
   "It's cool because it keeps hitting me over and over again. We got out of the motorhome this morning (in the Daytona infield) and saw the pole still had our number at the top of it…and it's insane.
    "I look at all their faces and I'm like 'Wow!  We won this Daytona 500.'
    "To have Jack Roush come over to the car and rub my head and say 'Good job' while I was driving to  victory lane….
    "And to see Richard Petty come in with these guys, and Leonard and Glen and their whole families in Victory Lane, and Donnie (Wingo).
    "I don't know how I'm the one that got to be this lucky to be in this situation, but I'm really fortunate."

   Bayne's career path has taken a few detours, and General Motors executives may be kicking themselves today for letting this one get away.  Bayne was a Chevy guy at Dale Earnhardt Inc. three years ago, running Hooters Pro Cup at 15. But GM couldn't find a place to put Bayne when that operation began shaking out.
   "It's been an incredible journey…and it's happened so fast, it really is crazy how fast that all happened,"  Bayne says in amazement.
   And it's really only just begun.


Fox TV reports good ratings for the broadcast:

   -- A total audience of just over 30 million Americans watched Sunday’s race, according to fast national ratings issued today by Nielsen Media Research, making 2011 Daytona 500 the most-watched NASCAR race since 2008. The 30.1 million total viewers, a measure of the audience that saw at least a portion of the race, is +1% higher than last year's total audience of 29.8 million and +15% better than 2009's 26.2 million.

   -- Sunday’s race, which featured a record-setting 74 lead changes and 16 caution flags, earned an 8.7/20 rating/share and averaged 15.6 million viewers, marking a +13% ratings gain over last year (7.7/16) and a +17% rise in average viewership, which represents the average audience across the entire race, over last year's (13.3 million).

   -- Initial tune-in for yesterday’s green flag was up +7% over last year’s start (7.6/19 vs. 7.1/17) and ratings grew throughout. Race ratings peaked at 10.9/23 and 19.8 million viewers from 5:00-5:30 PM ET as the exciting green-white-checkered finish was in progress.

   -- As 20-year-old Trevor Bayne celebrated his against-all-odds win, yesterday’s ratings improved +46% year-over-year in the Men 18-34 demographic (3.8 vs. 2.6). Male teen viewing posted a 3.1 rating, nearly doubling last year's 1.6 and matching the best Daytona 500 rating in six years among Males 12-17. Other key demographics gains include Men 18-49, up +16% (6.4 vs. 5.5) and Men 25-54 up +14% (8.2 vs. 7.2).

    --- Nine of the top 10 metered markets saw double-digit increases from last year including Chicago (+61%, 5.8 vs. 3.6), New York (+32%, 4.1 vs. 3.1), Los Angeles (+46%, 4.1 vs. 2.8), Philadelphia (+19%, 7.0 vs. 5.9), Dallas (+18%, 7.2 vs. 6.1), San Francisco (+21%, 4.7 vs. 3.9), and Boston (+20%, 4.8 vs. 4.0). Dayton was the country's No. 1 market for the Daytona 500 at a 20.4/33, up +61% (vs. 12.7), followed by NASCAR hotbed Greensboro, NC (20.1/35). Minneapolis also saw significant year-to-year gains posting a 10.2, up +50% vs. 6.8.

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