No matter the decision Trevor Bayne was setup to fail as the laps counted down at Talladega. His boyhood hero Jeff Gordon had radioed the youngster for help on the final restart on Sunday afternoon and after initially declining said he would help the driver of the #24 Chevrolet.
Bayne spent much of the day drafting with the #7 Dodger of Robby Gordon. This despite the early week demands of Jack Roush who wanted to see the Ford cars work together. Gordon and Bayne move to the front with ease until the #7 suffered cosmetic damage to it’s bumper which would end their partnership. Gordon worked with his teammate the #5 of Mark Martin. Martin would later be collected in a wreck.
At Daytona Gordon had been accepting of the rookie driver, Bayne had been fine with being the second car. Gordon and Bayne worked together during Speed-weeks and Bayne went on to win the Daytona 500 with additional help in the form of David Ragan and Bobby Labonte.
When the race restarted Bayne bumped up to the 24 of Gordon and then something changed. Suddenly Gordon was left out to dry and Bayne was teaming with the Ford of Matt Kenseth.
The race ended. Gordon finished 27th, Bayne 15th and Kenseth 18th. Moments later everyone took to twitter. Clint Bowyer had passed his teammate Jeff Burton coming to the tri-oval but all that was on anyones mind was Bayne leaving Gordon out to dry.
Fans of Jeff Gordon were furious. They began to let out phrases such as “traitor Bayne” and “Trevor ‘bailout’ Bayne” to show their displeasure. Gordon himself sent out a message in anger saying he would remember what happened.
A while later Trevor took to twitter to let things off his chest.
@tbayne21: I’m not happy about what this has become… It’s too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around (us)
@tbayne21: I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell @JeffGordonWeb I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing (Twitter, Bayne has since removed the comment about being “strong armed into bailing”)
It was somewhere around here where I think some people realized they didn’t know half the story they thought they knew. Still the tweets continued with general anger at the race.
Matt Kenseth, the driver who Bayne ended up draft with, wanted to be clear he had no part in the matter.
@matt_kenseth17: Wow…..for the record I had no verbal contact with @tbayne21 today, or for that matter weeks. Not sure who “strong armed” him but I assure you it wasn’t me.
@matt_kenseth17: Some of you are wound tight, I am frustrated also and didn’t invent this silly two car tandem shove thing…I would much rather race!
David Ragan the driver who had teamed with Kenseth for much of the day also made a presence on twitter. Ragan’s tweet at-least explained a reason Bayne may have had for the swap of drafting partners from Gordon to Kenseth.
It was somewhere around here that Bayne became a sympathetic figure. He was driving his car, trying to do the right thing for his team or following orders and there was still outrage at him by the side who thought the duo of Gordon and Bayne were a shoe-in for victory. I couldn’t even imagine what would have happened if Bayne had of pulled the ole’ pass on the last lap and won the race. Better or worse reaction?
Gordon has since said on his website that when he radioed Bayne he though the youngster would say “Man, I’m sorry; I can’t.’ And when he said, ‘Yeah, I’m pushing you; we’re good’; I believed him. But I think they had a different plan.” Gordon believes he should have known what was going to happen but he thought “it could have been 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” (JeffGordon.com)
Bayne was doomed to be yelled at by the Jeff Gordon fans for his move. Had he not worked with Kenseth, who drives for Roush Fenway Racing (RFR), he’d be going against the guy who put him in the car he was driving. At that point Bayne would be considered a bad teammate and would have had a negative reaction from the other drivers at RFR.
Trevor Bayne simply was going to lose either way the race ended. He had no control over the motor of David Ragan, the only thing he could control is what car he partnered with.
Kenseth’s spotter Mike Calinoff asked if Gordon would have done anything different if JJ needed the help. The answer is up to your guess but let this be clear Rick Hendrick signs Jeff Gordon’s pay checks, Bayne’s are signed by Jack Roush. When you are faced with that predicament this late in the season you have to help your teammate no matter what anyone else says.
The sad part of this whole fiasco is that we will hear about if all week leading up to Martinsville. We will hear about it during speed weeks at Daytona next year. We will hear about it at each restrictor plate track next year.
Veteran reporter Bob Pockrass gave Bayne the ole atta-boy in a tweet late last night citing that “Bayne did right thing helping Kenseth. If teammate is on your bumper, you let non-teammate hung out to dry.”
Your view on the matter likely depends on your opinion of Jeff Gordon. Fans of Gordon believe Bayne did the wrong thing. Kenseth and Ford fans not so much.
Personally I have no problem with what Bayne did. Was it wrong to not relay the message to Jeff Gordon that he was dumping him? Probably. Do I think Gordon would have done the same? In a heartbeat. Trevor should have told Jeff on their breakup but the reality is that’s racing. Is it much different then the bump and run? or the two swipes Jeff Burton took down at Clint Bowyer once he realized he had left the bottom line open for his teammate? Hmm…
If leaving Gordon wasn’t bad enough, Bayne and Kenseth fell back though the back once they paired up. Two cars that ran up front most of the day ended the race 15th and 18th.
One of the best tweets I saw today on the matter is listed below.