Daytona 500 champ declines switch to Cup points; 500 ratings up 13 percent
By Sporting News Wire Service
February 22, 2011 4:36 PM, EST
Even though NASCAR would have allowed Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne to change his eligibility for the championship from the Nationwide Series to the Sprint Cup Series, Bayne announced Tuesday he is sticking with his plans to run for the Nationwide title.
As tempting as switching to Sprint Cup would have been -- with NASCAR saying he would become eligible to run for rookie of the year and that his win at Daytona would count toward a possible wild-card entry into the Chase -- Bayne showed he either is mature beyond his 20 years or has gotten some excellent advice -- or both.
Weighted most heavily in his decision is the plan to run a partial schedule on the Cup side -- even with the Daytona 500 win. At this point, barring additional sponsorship, Bayne plans to run 18 races in the Cup Series for Wood Brothers Racing and a full Nationwide schedule for Roush Fenway Racing.
"The only thing that changed is that we get to be the Daytona 500 champions, which is really, really incredible," Bayne said on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. "But I think that we're still going to have an awesome year at Roush Fenway, running for that Nationwide championship.
"Obviously, they [Roush] have still got a blank car, and I'd love to get some partners on it, but as for now, we're still running full time, and the Wood Brothers only have 18 races. ... I don't regret any of our decisions there. We're off to a good start in both series with a 10th [in Saturday's Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide event] and a first."
Front Row picks up a spot in Phoenix Cup race
Front Row Motorsports likely will have all three of its cars locked in for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway this week as the No. 77 Rusty Wallace Racing car is not entered for the second Cup event.
The RWR team wasn't expected to enter, and with that team's top-35 owners points (from Penske Racing) not being used, the 35th guaranteed spot will go to the next team in owners points -- the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports car driven by Travis Kvapil.
All 45 of the entries for Phoenix were entered in the Daytona 500 last week. Three drivers that went to Daytona are not on the entry list: Steve Wallace, Kevin Conway and Michael Waltrip.
Several teams have changed drivers from Daytona. Tony Raines is in the No. 37 Front Row Motorsports car instead of Robert Richardson Jr., Landon Cassill is in the No. 60 Germain Racing car instead of Todd Bodine and Mike Bliss is in the No. 64 Max Q Motorsports car instead of Derrike Cope. All the changes were expected.
Bill Elliott (Phoenix Racing) will be guaranteed a spot as he has a past champions provisional if needed, leaving nine drivers vying for the final seven spots.
Overnight TV ratings up 13 percent for Daytona 500
The 2011 Daytona 500 posted an 8.7 overnight rating, a 13-percent increase over the 2010 event that was interrupted for more than two hours because of a pothole.
The live broadcast on Fox reached 30.1 million viewers, 1 percent higher than the 2010 audience and 15 percent better than 2009, Fox said.
The 2010 audience got a boost from the pothole because the delay lengthened the event. But the rating, which takes into account an average of viewers over the entire telecast, was affected last year by the pothole and possibly the Olympics.
This year's race averaged 15.6 million viewers throughout the broadcast, a 17 percent increase over last year's 13.3 million.
The number of fans tuning in for the start of the race was 7 percent higher than last year, and the ratings peaked at 10.9, with 19.8 million viewers for the 30 final minutes.
Dayton (Ohio) was the country's No. 1 market with a rating of 20.4, followed by Greensboro, N.C., at 20.1.