Red Bull GRC: Arpin riding high after his, CGR first win in Daytona

Photo: Ford Performance

As both Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan have been close to banging the door down to try to get the first win in Red Bull Global Rallycross for Chip Ganassi Rallycross, it seemed a question of “when” not “if” it would happen.

Yet the circumstances that led to Arpin’s first win and the team’s in the fourth round of the Red Bull GRC season, Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, were fascinating because it was more luck than outright pace which delivered the triumph.

Arpin was running fourth before a domino effect of incidents took the top three in front of him out in the final laps.

Tanner Foust (Volkswagen Beetle) and Patrik Sandell (Ford Fiesta ST) collided when running 1-2, then Scott Speed’s Volkswagen Beetle was set ablaze with just two laps to go. Speed pulled off the road and was able to get out under his own power.

It left the door open for Arpin, in the No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford for CGR, to get the win in the first of two races during the weekend.

“It was definitely a wild end to the race, but I’ll take it either way!” Arpin told NBC Sports. “I wouldn’t say we earned it… we had a fast car leading up to it, but on the first lap of the main, I felt like a ping-pong ball. It took us a couple laps to get our feet under us but we had such a good car.

“It was one of those deals, where it was an incredibly tough race. But I guess he who makes the least mistakes ends up on top at the end.

“I was looking forward to racing Speed at the end. It was flashbacks to X Games last year. I needed an extra half lap. I seriously wish he didn’t fall out. It would have been an awesome last race.

“To get my first win at Daytona International Speedway is remarkable, being such an iconic track. To couple that with being a small part of what went on in Le Mans this weekend, CGR and Ford over there. That was a piece of motorsports history that was made this weekend.”

The win was huge for Arpin, for Ganassi – who by way of the domino effect got a 1-2 with Deegan in second – and for Jacob, which is a construction, development, management and technology company in a handful of different states. ENEOS and Loenbro primarily are on Arpin’s No. 00 car.

“Jacob Companies on board was huge. They took a leap,” Arpin said. “It was one of those deals where when you put a bunch of good people in the room, they’re just genuine people. Like I said, good people make good things happen. Having them on board plus success the first weekend was huge.

“ENEOS is on for more races this year. The guys upstairs at Ganassi sales department are working to make everything work. We have a lot of demand right now.”

Gracious and humble in triumph, Arpin did note that this has been brewing for quite a long time. Incidentally, weather delays Saturday at Daytona made this race feel a bit like Las Vegas – the 2015 season finale where Arpin and CGR were quick but unlucky not to secure their first wins there.

“We spent a lot of time to study Vegas notes. What did I learn from those standpoints? Unfortunately we didn’t get to race in the wet semifinal. I took a lot of things we learned from Vegas, and it was one of those deals where it was a welcome delay in a sense to finish out what direction to go.”

Arpin told NBC Sports preseason that one of the areas he and the team hoped to improve upon in 2016 was their launches. So far, they’ve delivered on that improvement.

“By far that’s been our biggest improvement,” Arpin said. “It’s short, high-intensity races, and if you’re not getting off the line, you take ourself out of contention. The fact is, we are in the mix right off the bat.

“For example in Sunday’s main we had a really good first launch out of the first corner, and we checked out with Deegan, Foust and I. Then a red flag came out and we had to do it again, and I made a small mistake, almost stalled it, and it killed us. We ran fifth or sixth. The races aren’t long enough, so there’s no room for mistakes.”

Arpin was the first winner for Ganassi this weekend before its huge triumph across the pond with the Ford GT in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The CGR GRC crew watched when, where and how they could.

“We were able to catch it little spurts at a time. It was frantic to get the cars going on Sunday morning! But we were watching on our cellphones, on Twitter, and everyone was keeping us updated.

“It kind of helped take a bit of tension off Sunday morning, because we blew up some driveshafts off the bat. So it kept everyone in a lighter mood.”

Arpin sits second in points, 32 behind Foust, heading into MCAS New River July 2-3 (both races air both dates, 5 p.m. ET, NBC).

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.