IndyCar’s Hinchcliffe, Daly, Newgarden invade NBA all-star game

Associated Press

While NASCAR ran an all-star event to kickoff Daytona 500 festivities, IndyCar drivers James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly, and Josef Newgarden headed to Canada to attend the NBA all-star game in Toronto, Ontario. And they took to social media to share their excitement.

This was the first time an NBA all-star game was held outside of the United States, which was of particular interest to Canada’s Hinchcliffe.

As the skills contest began, Hinchliffe wondered if IndyCar should have their own all-star competition.

The responses were mixed with nearly as many fans replying to his tweet affirmatively. As those tweets rolled in, Hinchcliffe turned his attention back to basketball when the dunking competition began. It did not take long for him to recognize the skills of the NBA players. Hinchcliffe tweeted, “This dunk contest is actually insane!! I am out of words to describe this!!”

Newgarden was just as excited about attending the all-star event and added his IndyCar perspective.

First thing I thought, catching an Uber to Air Canada Centre for NBA All-Star Saturday night, is that I’m driving through downtown Toronto near our race track. Except it’s a lot colder here today (70 degrees colder) than when the Verizon IndyCar Series races here in the Honda Indy Toronto in July, and we’re moving a lot slower on the city streets than I’m used to — about 110 mph slower since we could only go about 20 through a traffic jam,” Newgarden reported in his blog for USA Today.

The NBA all-star game was a contest between the Western conference versus the East, but Hinchliffe and Daly managed to turn the weekend into a border war by focusing on the Celebrity Game Presented by Mountain Dew. American driver Daly was behind Team USA with Hinchcliffe supporting his home team.

Hinchcliffe provided his reasons why Canada would win. Daly disagreed.

Hinchliffe was correct.

After Canada won the celebrity game on Friday night, the attention turned serious with both the West and East putting up amazing numbers. The Western conference recorded the victory with a score of 196 over 173.

As the NBA settles back into regulation play, Hinchliffe, Daly, and Newgarden await the start of the IndyCar season, which begins with the March 13th running of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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.