Podcast: Trevor Bayne needs to ‘rebuild his reputation’ as a driver

1 Comment

In the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that Matt Kenseth would be returning to Roush Fenway Racing in a part-time capacity for the rest of the season, the odd man out was Trevor Bayne.

Kenseth and Bayne will share the No. 6 Ford with Kenseth making his 2018 debut May 12 at Kansas Speedway. What’s in store for them both beyond this season is unknown.

When Kenseth talked with NASCAR America’s Marty Snider after the announcement, he had yet to talk with Bayne about their new situation.

“I’ve known Trevor for a long time,” Kenseth said. “Trevor is a great, great guy. Nobody likes being in the spot he’s in necessarily right now. But I think after he thinks about it for a few days and what he really desires and what he wants out of it, knowing Trevor, I think he’s going to come in and work even harder and try to be better. So I’m looking forward to having that conversation.”

Bayne’s prospects going forward were discussed on the latest NASCAR America Debrief podcast episode with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte.

Both agreed the 2011 Daytona 500 winner will need to work to “rebuild his reputation” as a driver, with Letarte comparing Bayne’s potential future to the career of JR Motorsports’ Elliott Sadler and Earnhardt likening it to Justin Allgaier‘s.

“Trevor Bayne’s in a position much like Justin Allgaier was in years ago where he’s got a partner that believes in him in AdvoCare,” Earnhardt said. “If I’m him, I’m on the phone with them right now and talking to them, ‘Do you want to work with me in the future, we can go over here and look at this opportunity or look at this opportunity in Xfinity or the Truck Series,’ wherever it is. I would be trying to make sure I have a very strong relationship with them because that’s going to be the key to making any move to continue his driving career.

“He’s unlikely to get an opportunity that’s rewarding without some financial support.”

Earnhardt added: “He has to rebuild his reputation as a race car driver and that’s the only way to do it, is to go win races and run well.”

Letarte said he believes the situation between Kenseth, Bayne and Roush Fenway is “past awkward” given Bayne’s results. He has run in the top 15 in 10.5 percent of the laps run this season. Bayne’s average finish is 23.9 — compared to 19.5 last year — and he ranks 25th in the series in average running position (23.0).

“I think if anybody finds this awkward, then shame on them,” Letarte said. “Let’s just be honest. Stats tell a pretty accurate story. Comparing your teammates, comparing the field, there’s a hundred different ways you can do this. If at any point Trevor Bayne is shocked or anything like that, then shame on his own management team and Roush Fenway for leading him down this path of disbelief that everything was going to be OK.

“Should he be upset? Sure. Emotion comes into it. Is it going to be awkward the first time they meet? Yes. But I think Trevor Bayne should be and I will say is smart enough to realize, ‘the more awkward this is, the worse it probably is for me.’ ”

Letarte also assessed how he viewed Kenseth’s return for the future health of Roush Fenway despite the lack of detail about how long the deal is with the 2003 series champion.

“I love the fact that they didn’t try to put structure around everything,” Letarte said. “Not every road trip can be planned, A -to-B, every stop. Sometimes you have to say, ‘Hey man, it’s cold here, we’re heading south, we’re going to get on 85 and see where we go.’ And that’s what I heard from Roush Fenway. ‘Where we’re at is no good. We’ve been to the right and it’s no good, so we’re going to go to the left and that involves Matt Kenseth.”

Earnhardt believes Kenseth will return to Roush next season as the full-time driver of the No. 6.

“That’s my hope if I’m an owner of the car, that this change brings performance,” he said. “I think that’s what Matt wants. And Matt said that he doesn’t think he’s a long-term solution for the 6 car. He sees an opportunity to try to improve the team and help the team on all fronts.

“He comes in there and does really well in the car, fires up some partners, sparks some interest from Corporate America to get involved in the team, and then they can move on to the next season with Matt as the full-time driver. I don’t believe you keep Matt and Bayne together as a part-time deal. That doesn’t happen.”

To listen to this week’s NASCAR America Debrief, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Stitcher, here for Google Play, or play the Art19 embed below.

 and on Facebook

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the lessons learned from hashing it out with Kyle Busch

Leave a comment

During the 2011 Speedweeks, Kyle Busch stopped by Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bus at Daytona International Speedway to offer a present even though their long-running feud was still simmering.

The gift? A box of M&Ms.

“Out of nowhere,” Earnhardt recalled during the NASCAR America Debrief podcast Wednesday. “Couple of days later, I text him and was like, ‘You gave me these M&Ms, were you going around to everybody’s bus and giving them away?’ ‘Nope. Just you and one other guy.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I don’t know, thought you might want some M&Ms.’

“(Busch) would do things that were so out of character, but that’s not it. That was his character. That’s also who Kyle is. He’s a guy who hates to lose. He’s a guy who is a jerk sometimes. He’s a guy who reacts the wrong way in certain situations.

“But he’s also a guy who loves his family and puts a lot of effort into his race team. As an owner, he takes a lot of pride in that. He’s thoughtful about people who are part of his life. There’s just a lot of layers to the guy.”

Earnhardt is much more aware of those layers after hosting Busch as a guest on his weekly “Dale Jr. Download” podcast this week. The pair spent 90 minutes reminiscing about the night of their infamous wreck while battling for the lead at Richmond Raceway 10 years ago and about the reasons they harbored ill will in many years since then.

Today’s NASCAR America (6 p.m. on NBCSN) will be fully devoted to the discussion in which Busch and Earnhardt buried the hatchet, and the process was therapeutic in many ways.

“I’d say that the whole thing I took away from it was it made me think about things that I’m doing today, relationships that aren’t great today, and I wonder how many bad assumptions are in that that are causing those relationships to stay bad,” Earnhardt said on the third episode of NASCAR America Debrief. “How many people do I need to go up to and say, ‘Man, I need to talk to you. Is this really how you’re feeling?’ Because I bet you 100 percent of the time, I’ll find out I was completely wrong, and it would have been an easy situation to resolve had I broke the ice.

“When people say things, what you hear is not exactly how they feel. A guy reacts and is lashing out, he’s really looking for you to say, ‘Hey man, it’s OK, it’s fine.’ What you hear makes you angry, and you make an assumption.”

NASCAR America Debrief guest Steve Letarte said he appreciates the ways that Busch expresses his feelings bare. “It’s easier to cheer for people,” Letarte said. “Drivers are people. I like drivers to not be robots. Kyle Busch, like it or don’t like it, it’s straightforward what you’re going to get. I think he’s wonderful for the sport. I don’t care if you’re booing or cheering.”

But it was difficult for Earnhardt to be involved in the drama for years.

“It sucked,” he said. “All those years we were angry with each other, mad and hated each other’s guts, were not fun. I didn’t like it. It bothered me.

“It was like going to work and having to sit next to somebody you could not stand to be in the same room with. I knew if we talked and hashed it out, I would be able to be in the same room with him and be OK. But neither one of us were smart enough to do that for the longest time.”

That was partly the result of “we made so many wrong assumptions about each other through that whole process,” Earnhardt said. “There’s no denying that he didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him.

“And I thought he was a bad person, and he thought I was a bad person, but there were assumptions made about what the other was thinking. He even said at one point, ‘Man I was waiting on you to break the ice. The whole time.’ I’m thinking me, ‘You spun me out. I was waiting on you to come apologize to me.’ He’s like, ‘You were older, your stature in the sport, I’m thinking you would be the guy to say let’s sit down and sort this out.’”

To listen to the Dale Jr. Download, click on the links below.

To listen to this week’s NASCAR America Debrief, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Stitcher, here for Google Play, or play the Art19 embed above.

Tune in to NASCAR America on NBCSN at 6 p.m. today for the special Dale Jr. Download episode.

Podcast: Front Row Motorsports explains how it improves with smaller budget, unique sponsor deals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Running a Cup Series team is not a cheap endeavor.

One person who knows this is Jerry Freeze, the general manager of Front Row Motorsports.

Owned by Bob Jenkins, the two-car Ford team runs the No. 34 of Michael McDowell and No. 38 of David Ragan and has a technical partnership with Roush Fenway Racing.

Freeze sat down with Nate Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss how FRM works with smaller budgets and its unique business-to-business sponsorship deals through Jenkins’ trucking company, MDS Transport, and restaurant business, Charter Foods.

Freeze calls Love’s Travel Shops, which sponsors half the races on McDowell’s car, a “textbook example” of such a deal. Their partnership began in 2013.

“Bob owns a trucking company with about 300 over the road truck on the road,” Freeze said. “They’ve got to get fuel somewhere. That’s kind of how the Love’s Travel Shop deal started for us.”

Freeze describes it as a “slightly smaller scale” version of the relationship between Team Penske and Shell.

Unlike larger teams, Front Row doesn’t yet have an optical scanning station at its shop to mimic this season’s new system for inspecting cars at the track. There is one available to teams at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina,

“We went into it thinking, ‘We’ll never need to have one of those, NASCAR’s got one, we can go over there whenever we want,’ ” Freeze said.

The team also relies on the scanner located at Roush Fenway Racing. But it’s a challenge to take cars to Roush, with its shop also in Concord, nearly an hour away from Front Row’s base in Statesville.

Buying its own scanner is beginning to look like a “necessary evil” for Freeze, who said he’s heard it might cost at least $300,000 but would be worth the investment because teams need to check the cars many times through the building process.

“I think if you’re really going to try to optimize the car through each step of what you do, that might be the way to go,” Freeze said.

When it comes to becoming more competitive, Freeze and Jenkins have been encouraged to invest more resources and money into the team by moves NASCAR has made to lower costs, including requiring teams to use engines in multiple races, spec radiators and the controversial common pit guns.

“It put it in a place where, yeah, it’s still pretty tough for Front Row to get to, but it’s not as high as it use to be,” Freeze said of the engine rule. “With spec radiators, we were spending $9,000 for radiator in the past. Now a spec radiator is, I don’t know, a third of that.”

Freeze also addressed the future of one of the team’s three charters, which is leased to TriStar Motorsports this season.

“You can’t do that forever with the way the rules are set up,” Freeze said. “We’ll have to make a decision, either we’ve got to operate (it) ourselves or maybe we sell it to TriStar some day, I don’t know. … Even though we weren’t in a position to run three cars and we’re still not today, it’s kind of nice to have in your pocket just in case something came along that was just phenomenal, and we needed one.”

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast. It also is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

Podcast: Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the best (and only) driving advice he got from his dad

Leave a comment

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his late dad gave him only one piece of driving advice, but that small bit of wisdom went a very long way.

“It was such a great lesson, and he did such a great job giving it to me,” Earnhardt said on this week’s NASCAR America Debrief podcast. “I’m really surprised he didn’t give me any more (lessons), because he taught me really well in this particular situation.”

Well enough to sweep the Cup-Xfinity weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in August 2004.

After those dual victories, Earnhardt credited some advice he had gotten from his seven-time champion father about driving the 0.533-mile oval.

During a practice session at Bristol, Earnhardt Jr. made laps while his dad talked him through it on the radio and guided him on when to hit the accelerator and let off.

“He took the whole lap and wound it back counterclockwise,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He basically was teaching me to get in the corner easier and off the corner harder. I was overdriving the car. It made the lap more about momentum and timing and rhythm. This made driving Bristol really easy.

“We never set down and talked about how to draft. ‘You see me doing this, this is why.’ He never would do that, but that one time I guess he saw me struggling pretty bad (at Bristol).”

The anecdote amused fellow podcast and NASCAR America guest Dale Jarrett, who had been stymied in his attempts to draw knowledge from “The Intimidator.”

“I’m glad to hear that, because I had a complex,” Jarrett said with a laugh. “I thought he just wouldn’t talk to me about driving. Every time I tried to pick his brain. He would not talk about driving a race car whatsoever. He would not talk about setups.

“He didn’t care what you had. He knew he was better than you, so he didn’t care how you might be going about it. If you beat him, it was because you had something he didn’t. That was his philosophy. I thought for sure he was talking to (Dale Jr.) about things.

“You can talk to other drivers. You go try to have a conversation (with Dale Earnhardt) about a certain track, he wasn’t going to have it. He’d totally change it. He’d talk T-shirts, hats and diecast cars and him going hunting.”

“What he thought was important,” Earnhardt Jr. said with a laugh.

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast, which appears every week after the “Wednesdays With Dale Jr.” episode of NASCAR America on NBCSN.

It also is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

Podcast: Brad Keselowski: ‘I’m a more complete person’ because of parenthood

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been almost three years since Brad Keselowski and his wife Paige welcomed their first child, Scarlett, into the world in May 2015.

Since then, the 2012 Cup champion believes he’s become “a more complete person.” Even though it’s taken a toll on him physically and mentally, he’s spiritually in a better place than he was before Scarlett’s birth.

The Team Penske driver explained how he believes he’s changed in the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan.

Keselowski drew a graph with three axis to help display the changes in him mentally, physically and spiritually.

“I feel like as a dad, I’m probably weaker,” Keselowski said. “I’m more distracted than ever before. It’s natural for having a kid. So if I was like mentally prepared for driving a race car at like a nine before, I’m probably at like an eight now. Physically, if I was nine or a 10 before, I’m probably like an eight now, just because being a dad and all those things pulls away from it.”

“If I go all the way down and look at the third axis, which is spiritual. If I was like a three or a four before I had Scarlett, I feel like I’m a seven now. So what does that mean? Basically, I’m a more complete person than I’ve ever been before in my life. That’s how being a father has changed me. I’ve grown as a person. In some ways I’ve regressed. Mentally and physically. It’s not just getting older, it’s being a dad.”

Keselowski expressed admiration for how Jimmie Johnson (two daughters) and Matt Kenseth (three daughters with a fourth born after his final season) found a balance with their families and careers.

“I give a lot credit to guys like Jimmie and Matt,  I know Matt’s not competing anymore, but guys who have kids and how they just keep up,” Keselowski said. “It’s more impressive than anything else. I find myself waking up earlier and that’s very regrettable at times.

“But you know what? I’m a more complete person. I’m happier because I’m a more complete person and that comes from growing in a spiritual way. From being a husband and a dad and feeling more connected to who I am and other people and their lives, which is good. Finding the right path for us as a family. I’m very happy for that.”

During the podcast, which is the second half of two-part episode with Keselowski, the 2012 champion also discusses:

–His reasons for speaking out and touching on controversies such as gun control, and why Jimmie Johnson benefits from avoiding such stands and why drivers will gain from sponsors leaving NASCAR (31:30).

–The origins of his last name and the pronunciation of it (38:00).

–Why he is down on autonomous cars and why a predicted backlash to technology could help NASCAR (11:30).

–The progress of his blog (9:00).