No need for Bayne to apologize

October, 24, 2011

Trevor Bayne beat himself up on Twitter following Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway for abandoning Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon in favor of fellow Ford driver Matt Kenseth in the final two laps.

The reigning Daytona 500 champion went so far as to write he was "strong-armed" into hooking up with Kenseth once Kenseth lost dancing partner David Ragan, adding, "I won't race restrictor plate races next year before I'm put in that situation."

Roush Fenway Racing executives told me no team orders came from them for Bayne -- in the No. 21 Wood Brothers car that gets its engines and chassis from RFR -- to leave his childhood hero after promising to push him before the final restart.

Kenseth wrote on Twitter afterward, "For the record I had no verbal contact with [Bayne] today, or for that matter weeks. Not sure who 'strong armed' him but I assure you it wasn't me."

Kenseth wrote strong-armed in response to Bayne writing on Twitter, "I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell [Jeff Gordon] I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing."

Jamie Allison, the director of Ford Racing, said the only mention of Ford drivers helping other Ford drivers if the opportunity arose came before the Chase during conversations "to thank them for their relationship with Ford Motorsports."

"I can tell you unequivocally that we did not issue any team orders before, during or in this race," Allison said. "I wasn't even there. … None of this team orders or mandates.

"At the end of the day, when you look at it, it's very cut and dry. Trevor did what he needed to help a teammate."

Even if Bayne was given orders or strong-armed, even if this scenario was discussed at some point prior to the race or Chase, what's the big deal? Richard Childress, the owner of the winning car driven by Clint Bowyer, said "We were going to help Chevy try to win it."

He didn't mind Paul Menard pushing Chevy driver Tony Stewart, but you can bet your bottom dollar he wouldn't have wanted Menard pushing Kenseth.

Do people really believe team orders don't exist on some levels?

Had Gordon been in the same position with a fellow Hendrick Motorsports or Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, he surely would have done the same thing Bayne did. As the four-time champion said on Twitter, "Shud have known what wud happen with #21. My bad 4 thinking different."

Bayne, whose contract is owned by RFR even though he drives a limited Cup schedule for the Wood Brothers, obviously felt bad about what happened. He went to Gordon's car immediately after the race and said, according to Gordon, "Hey, it wasn't me; it wasn't me. That's what I'm being told to do."

Bayne shouldn't feel guilty for trying to further Kenseth's run at a championship any more than he should feel guilty for furthering his own career that hinges on sponsorship for 2012. Allison actually called Bayne and told him he was "proud of what he did."

But knowing Bayne is a 20-year-old with strong Christian beliefs, you can understand his dilemma about going back on what many would consider a promise.

Gordon's only real complaint was it wasn't "handled better."

"If somebody is going to screw you, you'd like them to say it to your face, you know? Or, at least on the radio," Gordon told reporters with a laugh after the race. "I would have been totally fine with that and understood."

That's a bit unrealistic when you're making a split-second decision with two laps left and trying to reach speeds of 200 mph.

Gordon didn't help with Bayne's guilt when he added, "I don't think he really ever had any intentions [of] pushing me, and I think, you know, the Ford folks said if he did, um, told him that he was gonna do something different."

This simply is a product of tandem racing, which makes for a lot of strange bedfellows. Kenseth lost Ragan as a partner because the No. 6 RFR driver had engine problems. Gordon was dealing with Bayne, his partner for much of Daytona Speedweeks, because he lost partner Mark Martin.

As Bayne wrote on Twitter, "At that time Matt and David were supposed to be working together … I had no idea what was coming. I'm sorry."

I believe him.

I also believe there's no need for Bayne to apologize or beat himself up about it. He did what any good teammate would do.

And should do.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?