Bell Racing USA makes two motorsports staff enhancements

Photo: Tony DiZinno
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One of the more interesting earlier stories this season in the Verizon IndyCar Series was that Juan Pablo Montoya switched helmets to Bell starting at Barber Motorsports Park.

The Bell company itself has a bit of news to share with Chris Wheeler and Jeff Troyer being named to new managerial roles.

Bell’s release is below:

Bell Racing USA has hired two highly experienced new employees to serve as the director of motorsports and custom service manager.

Chris Wheeler has been named the new director of motorsports for Bell Racing USA. In his new role, Wheeler will work closely with Bell’s trackside support programs, manage sponsorship and contingency programs for both professional and amateur series, assist with research and development and oversee Bell’s social media programs. Wheeler will be joining the trackside support team and traveling across the country to provide onsite service to Bell athletes.

Wheeler, who will be based in Indianapolis, Ind., has over a decade of motorsports experience. He has worked as a spotter and driver coach in the Verizon Indycar Series and Global Rallycross. Wheeler has also worked as a team manager, a brand manager and a mechanic in the world of national-level karting.

“I’m excited to join the Bell Racing USA team,” Wheeler said. “I am really looking forward to working with our athletes in all forms of North American motorsports. We have some big projects in the works, and I’m confident that we will continue to be leaders in safety and customer service.”

Joining Wheeler at Bell Racing USA is the company’s new custom service manager, Jeff Troyer. Troyer brings almost two decades of racing experience to Bell Racing USA’s headquarters in Champaign, Ill. Troyer has vast experience in the motorsports safety industry, and a key part of his new position will be oversight of the custom building of helmets for many of the top professional drivers in the world.

“We’re very excited to have Chris and Jeff join the Bell family,” said Bell Helmets CEO Kyle Kietzmann. “They bring with them a wealth of experience and many connections in professional and amateur motorsports, and I’m confident that they will help keep Bell Helmets the leader in motorsports safety.”

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.