Trevor Bayne wins in both ARCA and Pocono debuts

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There’s something about first-time events that seems to bring out the best in NASCAR driver Trevor Bayne.

In his first Daytona 500 in 2011, Bayne came out of the proverbial nowhere to shock the world by taking the checkered flag one day after celebrating his 20th birthday.

Earlier this week, Bayne and wife Ashton announced that they were expecting their first child in December.

And to top things off, Bayne made his first career start in the ARCA Series on Saturday at Pocono Raceway. Not only did he start the Pocono ARCA 200 from the pole, less than two hours after taking the green flag, Bayne emerged with yet another first: the checkered flag.

He dominated, leading 42 of the race’s 80 laps, including the final 11 laps en route to the victory.

Bayne competed in the race because he wanted to gain more track time at the Tricky Triangle, particularly for Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 Sprint Cup race.

Ironically, even though he’s made 71 career Sprint Cup starts to date, Bayne – in his first full season in the Cup series – has never raced before on Pocono’s 2.5-mile tri-oval.

And if Saturday’s performance, driving for Cunningham Motorsports, is any indication of what happens Sunday for the Tennessee native, it could cap off arguably one of the best weeks of his life.

Bayne has had a difficult go of it in his first full-time Sprint Cup season. He enters Sunday’s race 31st in the standings, with his best finish thus far this season being back-to-back 18th-place finishes at Martinsville and Texas.

Grant Enfinger finished second, followed by Mason Mitchell, Will Kimmel and Matt Kurzejewski.

 

2015 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Event #8
Pocono Raceway, Long Pond Pennsylvania, 6-6-15
Pocono ARCA 200
FIN STR NO DRIVER/HOMETOWN TEAM & CAR LAPS STATUS
1 1 22 Trevor Bayne/Knoxville TN Advocare-Cunningham Motorsports Ford 80 Running
2 4 23 Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL GMS Racing Chevrolet 80 Running
3 2 78 Mason Mitchell/W. Des Moines IA AM Technical Solutions-MMM Chevrolet 80 Running
4 7 69 Will Kimmel/Sellersburg IN 1-800 Auto Parts-Accel Ford 80 Running
5 5 54 Matt Kurzejewski/Mansfield PA Costy’s Energy Services Chevrolet 80 Running
6 9 77 Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ Barbera’s Autoland Dodge 80 Running
7 12 6 Josh Williams/Port Charlotte FL Musselman’s-Anya Cale Chevrolet 80 Running
8 15 59 David Levine/Highland Park IL Ford Performance-TraqGear Ford 80 Running
9 8 5 Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA Lucas Oil-MAV TV Chevrolet 80 Running
10 30 52 Matt Tifft/Hinckley OH Federated Auto Parts Toyota 80 Running
11 3 25 Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN Ansell Hyflex INTERCEPT-Menards Toyota 79 Running
12 6 55 Cody Coughlin/Delaware OH JEGS Toyota 79 Running
13 19 42 Bo LeMastus/Louisville KY Crosley Brands-T&T Constr-Glad Precision Dodge 78 Running
14 25 10 Ed Pompa/Ballston Spa NY Double H Ranch-Milwaukee Crusher Chevrolet 78 Running
15 14 98 Austin Wayne Self/Austin TX AM Technical Solutions-Pirate Energy Ford 77 Accident
16 17 9 Thomas Praytor/Mobile AL DK-LOK Ford 75 Running
17 21 3 Steve Fox/Hawley PA NormHuttonRacing.com Dodge 74 Running
18 11 12 Tyler Audie/Orlando FL Audie Expo-NP Properties Dodge 73 Running
19 31 97 Bobby Hamilton Jr./Greenbrier TN Nitroforce Industries Titan 1000 Dodge 60 Running
20 13 2 Sarah Cornett-Ching/Summerland BC Race101.net Chevrolet 57 Oil Leak
21 20 20 Tom Berte/New Berlin WI CGS Premier Chevrolet 31 Brakes
22 26 0 Dale Matchett/Cherry Hill NJ Wayne Peterson Racing Ford 23 Brakes
23 27 06 Don Thompson/Carlisle PA Wayne Peterson Racing Ford 23 Suspnsn
24 10 00 Cole Custer/Ladera Ranch CA Haas Automation Chevrolet 18 Axle
25 18 48 James Swanson/Clarksboro NJ Kan Do-Radon.com Dodge 16 Engine
26 16 58 Michael Lira/Port Orange FL Ford Performance-TraqGear Ford 16 Overhtng
27 23 40 Eric Caudell/Piedmont OK Carter 2 Motorsports Dodge 15 Electrical
28 33 15 Kyle Benjamin/Easley SC Greenworks-Cometic Gasket Toyota 12 Electrical
29 29 95 Scott Edwards/London England Carter 2 Motorsports Dodge 11 Transmssn
30 28 49 Rick Clifton/Circleville OH Radon.com Ford 10 Rear End
31 34 08 Tim Viens/Daytona Beach FL Wayne Peterson Racing Chevrolet 9 Engine
32 32 68 Ray Ciccarelli/Ellicott City MD Kimmel Racing Ford 5 Transmssn
33 24 8 Josh White/Charleston WV Hixson Construction Chevrolet 1 Electrical
34 22 07 Brian Kaltreider/Hanover PA Independent Graphics Ford 0 Accident
Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell:  Trevor Bayne 52.842 (170.319 mph)
Margin of Victory:  4.579 seconds Cautions:  4 for 22 laps
Time of Race:  1:35:57 Average Speed:  125.065 mph
Lap Leaders:  Mitchell 1-8, 64-68 (13); Bayne 9-17, 36-49, 57-63, 69-80 (42); Enfinger 18, 50-51 (3);
Kurzejewski 19-20, 22-35 (16); Williams 21 (1); Tifft 52-56 (5)

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Graham Rahal tries to get up to speed in IndyCar iRacing Challenge

Graham Rahal Photo
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Although he’s just 31 years old, Graham Rahal has been driving an Indy car since the 2007 Champ Car Series season when he still a teenager.

When it comes to the virtual world, however, Rahal is an admitted “newbie.”

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver hopes to get up to speed in time to be competitive in Saturday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama virtual race. It’s part of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge and will be televised live by NBCSN at 2:30 p.m.

The six-time NTT IndyCar Series race winner got his virtual racing rig before last week’s American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International but was still learning the nuances of the iRacing platform. He started 12th and finished 14th out of 25 cars in the contest. The first 12 finishers were on the lead lap. Rahal was one lap down.

“I had never done it before,” Rahal said Friday. “At least it probably had been 10 years since I had driven any sort of sim. It’s addicting…rather addicting. Second of all, it’s bad for your marriage, but it’s a great way to kill a day of quarantine.

“But I think it’s been a big challenge just to get used to the way that you feel a car, the way that you drive a car in the sim, it’s all completely different than real life. To get used to that sensation, to get everything set up right is a huge part of it.”

Inside the cockpit of his No. 15 Honda at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Rahal feels at comfortable in his own element. It has taken him time to find that comfort level in the virtual world.

“For me it has been a challenge to just figure out the right settings, what to do from afar, too,” Rahal said. “Obviously you don’t have anybody here (at his home) that plays iRacing or anything to help you firsthand. It’s been a bit of a challenge; but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Next up is Barber Motorsports Park, which in the real world is a very challenging course but it puts on some of the best road course racing on the real IndyCar schedule. Rahal believes it will also be quite a challenge on iRacing.

“I think Barber is going to be actually more difficult than Watkins Glen,” Rahal said. “The track has a little bit less grip than Watkins Glen did last week. Although everybody was still crashing at Watkins Glen, I think you can get away with more than what you can at Barber. In real life it’s that way, too.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun.”

Rahal is married to former drag racing star Courtney Force. Both are playing it safe by staying home by statewide order from Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. But Rahal still has to find the balance between husband and virtual race driver.

By contrast, some of the other IndyCar drivers are spending 10-12 hours a day practicing on iRacing.

“That’s the challenge,” Rahal said, responding to a question posed by NBCSports.com. “I could definitely spend way more time on it. My line to Courtney is, ‘Just give me two laps.’ Then, one hour and 45 minutes later I’m still sitting there. It’s frustrating.

“As Robbie Wickens said, the frustrating part is you go out, you put in a good lap, then it’s, ‘I need to go beat that.’ You spin and you spin, and you spin. Then you get mad. The competitiveness in you, two more laps, two more laps. You try to go and go and go.

“You sit there for hours and hours and hours.”

Rahal admits he can’t stay away from iRacing for long. He is genuinely curious and interested in seeing what the competition is doing.

“I go on pretty frequently to see what’s going on,” Rahal said. “A lot of guys are on all the time. Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais has been on a load, Tony Kanaan, Willie P (Will Power). I think everyone is enjoying it. But it’s a huge challenge.

“There are a couple of guys that are clearly quicker than everybody else, Will being one of those. I’m trying to figure out where and how to find the lap time. I’m telling you, it’s so different than reality in that way.

“But it’s been fun, man. I’ve enjoyed the challenge. It’s good for the exposure, good because people are paying attention. You can see it on our Instagram. If you look at the clicks or page views in the last seven days, they’ve been doubled since we started to do this stuff. While it’s great for that, it also does help kill a ton of time.”

These are unique times as the world has essential shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more and more humans are testing positive of the potentially deadly virus, the threat becomes more real.

It has also created a tremendous void as people try to find something to do to pass the long times of isolation.

By giving race fans a few hours of entertainment, even if it is virtual instead of real, then Rahal believes it’s worth it.

“I think a lot of people are just dying for something to do, something to watch,” Rahal said. “The competitiveness in all of us wants to see some sort of sport.

“I know there are other buddies like hockey players that are watching it because they just want to watch something. They need something to do. So, I think that’s a big part of it.

“I think it’s great that NBC Sports is covering it this weekend other than just being online. I think it will be tremendous to see how that turns out.

“This is very realistic. When you see the cars on track, you watch a replay, see the photos, it’s eerily real looking. I did a race at St. Louis last weekend. It was extremely entertaining I think for the drivers that were participating. Other than 400 yellow flags, which happened early in the race, it was really, really entertaining to be a part of. People who watched that race would have loved the show that they had been seeing. I think there’s a lot of realism to it.

“I think it’s also people just want something right now. The desire and the demand is there to log in or tune in and see something competitive on TV.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500