Trevor Bayne basks in the glory of being ‘in the game’ again at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – As NASCAR officials scurried between cars checking every wheel for five lug nuts, dozens of team members, reporters and driver’s family members waited on the pit wall at Talladega Superspeedway.

The delay took several moments after Sunday’s Geico 500, and it allowed for an unusual scene as the top finishers moved unencumbered between their cars to swap post-race tales of their good fortune over the course of a wild 500 miles on the 2.66-mile oval.

No one seemed to be having a better time than Trevor Bayne.

He debriefed at length about the closing laps with Ryan Blaney. He shared a laugh with Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon. He entered a long conversation with past NASCAR champions Kurt Busch and Bobby Labonte, who offered an encouraging pat on the shoulder.

After finishing 10th and leading a career-best 22 laps – seven fewer than he led over 93 starts from 2011-15 – Bayne looked like he belonged Sunday.

More importantly, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner felt as if he did, too.

“We’re in the game,” Bayne said. “We’re not just out here taking up a spot. I feel like we’re in the race. We pushed Kurt to the lead there. It’s just fun to be in the game here.”

PODCAST: Hear Trevor Bayne candidly discussing his career and the 2016 season on the NASCAR on NBC podcast

His No. 6 Ford was in the game at Talladega until the final restart with three laps to go. Bayne was third and on the inside line, delivering a massive push that briefly shot Kurt Busch into the lead past winner Brad Keselowski.

But as the action moved up the banking, Bayne was left on the bottom without any help. Blaney, his reliable drafting partner all day, had a badly damaged rear bumper that precluded him from riding shotgun.

“I NEED HELP!” Bayne screamed with two to go on the team radio as he nearly slipped from the lead draft. He recovered to salvage 10th with nary a drafting partner – a testament to the strength of his car.

“We probably had the fastest car here,” crew chief Matt Puccia said. “We knew we did on Friday in practice. We just played it safe and were just riding there. Got shuffled out at the end but great effort by this team, they’ve done a great job all year long.

“We came up short, but that’s Talladega. You have to be in the right lane at the right time. Really proud of these guys. They’re working hard week in and week out. We got one coming.”

It’s easy to shoulder the disappointment when everything seems to be trending in the correct direction.

Bayne’s second top 10 in 10 races of 2016 – tying his season-best total in Cup – moved him up two spots to 16th in points. The Roush Fenway Racing driver won’t need a miracle win to make the NASCAR playoffs for the first time at this rate.

But he will head to the July 2 race at Daytona International Speedway with the knowledge that he will bring a proven Ford that was among the only cars to emerge unscathed in a Talladega wreckfest.

“These races are gut wrenching from Lap 1 on, so I felt like that was the most calm race I’ve ever had,” he said. “I don’t have any damage on the Adovcare Ford. We’ll take it.”

Bayne took the lead for the last time on Lap 156 – six laps before the 21-car crash that wiped out much of his competition. He wisely had heeded the advice on his team radio to restrain himself – as difficult as it was for a 25-year-old who is 102 races removed from his last win (which came in only his second start).

“The car was really strong, but this place is all about patience,” Puccia said. “Even though you have a fast car, you can’t do it by yourself. You step out of line and get yourself in trouble real fast. He did a really good job staying patient, staying in line. It just didn’t work out for us

“But people have been talking about us all year long. We’ve had speed everywhere we’ve gone. That’s what we’ve got to carry on. We’ve got to keep progressing and moving the needle. That’s what we’re doing every week, and it’s starting to show. It’s a morale booster seeing how we ran today.”

And no one’s confidence seemed higher than Bayne, who seemed one of the guys inside and outside the car.

“It is so refreshing to come to the race track and have a chance,” he said. “I feel really good about the pieces they are giving me. It is all about the race cars. I’m surely proud of this team.”

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three


A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”


Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals


Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.



Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension


Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.