Step one, get married. Step two, deliver on track.
Maybe that wasn’t originally how 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne drew things up of late, but that’s how they have transpired.
Bayne’s been mired in a bit of a career slump since that shock win in only his second ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. This year, back in a full-time Nationwide Series ride, Bayne took over the No. 6 Ford that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has driven to back-to-back series championships.
Last Tuesday, he tied the knot with longtime girlfriend Ashton, ahead of the Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway. That was a good thing for the 22-year-old on the personal front.
But it had been a tough slog racing-wise until Sunday in Iowa, which had been rain-delayed by a day. Bayne’s car was set up for long runs and in the final stretch of the race, it absolutely came alive.
Bayne caught in erstwhile dominant race leader Austin Dillon despite being more than two seconds behind him. After a side-by-side battle for a couple laps, Bayne emerged ahead on lap 239 in the 250-lap DuPont Pioneer 250.
“I knew we’d catch (Austin), but once I got to him, you could really see that he was frustrated,” Bayne told NASCAR.com after his first win of the season, and second in his Nationwide career.
“I just stayed behind him for a couple of laps to let him cool off. If he was frustrated, I didn’t want to take a chance on anything. There was a time where I cleared him and I was able to drive away enough to where he couldn’t get back to my bumper and try to cross us over, so that’s where I made the pass.”
Bayne’s win is only the third in 12 starts by a NASCAR Nationwide Series regular this year, with Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr., 1-2 in the points standings, scoring the other two. The Nationwide race at Iowa was also the first standalone event of the year for the second-tier series, which often shares Sprint Cup weekends.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.