Mario Andretti helps create lifetime of memories in Hot Wheels Indy event


One of Mario Andretti’s commitments during the Indianapolis 500 weekend was working with Mattel and Hot Wheels, as Hot Wheels presented the “World’s Best Driver Championship.” Hot Wheels put together a one-mile long slot car track on the front straight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Andretti and nephew John served as a coach for the young kids.

We’ll let the 1969 Indianapolis 500 champion take it from there, in a phone interview he did with MotorSportsTalk Friday morning.

“They always want to do things and in a big, impressive way. Here, they certainly came up with another one,” Mario said. “They wanted to put together the longest slot track in history, a 1-mile oval that was laid out right on the front straightaway at Indianapolis. You had more than a thousand pieces and wheel boosters, and it was an incredible thing.

“So they needed some coaches. My nephew John and I were two of the four coaches. It was fun, great to prepare the kids,” he added. “The best part for them? They were in awe of everything. John and I told them how important it is for them. It was a shot of a lifetime and the kids are all nervous. We got them onto the brink of crying!

“Everything was building up, all the pressure, and the anxiety building up to the start.  The kid I was coaching had had a slight problem with the start. We led for a while and then, oh gosh, but we were second. Everybody was a winner; we were in victory lane with chocolate milk. The winner’s wreath was around their necks. I guarantee these kids will never forget this.”

Andretti, a legend and icon in every sense of the word, felt it was important to help pay it forward to expose the sport of IndyCar racing to them and help pique their interest to become greater fans.

“It’s a great opportunity to be involved and it’s why I love working with Mattel,” he said. “To help create a lasting memory for these kids and, as you say, it helps to build the new generation of fans. We’re there just sharing the excitement. I would love to be part of planting a seed in for a new generation of race fans.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.