Trevor Bayne made move on own
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne says there were no last-minute team orders for him to abandon Jeff Gordon to work with fellow Ford driver Matt Kenseth in the final two laps of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Bayne told ESPN.com on Tuesday that he merely stuck to a plan made earlier in the week to help a Ford team if the opportunity arose and that there was no premeditated plan to hang Gordon, who was in a Chevrolet, out to dry.
We were kind of the backup plan for everybody else, which was unfortunate because we happened to have a fast race car. It's not like somebody said, 'Hey, don't work with Jeff Gordon or tell him you're going to work with him and then leave him out to dry.'” -- Trevor Bayne
He added there were no threats of losing his ride if he did otherwise.
Bayne drives the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford that is supplied engines and chassis by Roush Fenway Racing. Kenseth's car, which is second in the Chase behind Carl Edwards, is owned by Roush Fenway. Bayne's contract is with RFR and he is on loan to the Wood Brothers to run a part-time Sprint Cup deal.
"Every team going into this style of (tandem) racing has to have a plan," Bayne said. "If you don't have a plan then you're going a lap down like Denny Hamlin at the beginning. You have to have a partner. You have to know who you are going to work with as a backup plan.
"We were kind of the backup plan for everybody else, which was unfortunate because we happened to have a fast race car. It's not like somebody said, 'Hey, don't work with Jeff Gordon or tell him you're going to work with him and then leave him out to dry.' "
Jack Roush confirmed that Bayne wasn't given any orders in a statement released Tuesday morning.
"This weekend, there were no team orders, from myself or anyone at Roush Fenway, given to any of our drivers as to whom they could or could not choose to run with or assist, nor did I give similar directions or suggestion to any of the other Ford drivers," Roush said in the statement.
Roush said in the statement that he has spoken with Bayne about the situation and its fallout.
"Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy," Roush said. "I'm confident in his decision making, his ability and actions on the track, and I'm excited as we continue to move forward with his development."
Bayne initially was hard on himself for leaving Gordon, apologizing to the four-time champion after the race and then writing on Twitter that "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."
He added on the social media website that "I won't race restrictor plate races next year before I'm put in that situation."
That Gordon was Bayne's childhood hero and the two worked together during much of Daytona Speedweeks when Bayne won the 500 made the situation even tougher.
"That was my dream opportunity to go race Jeff Gordon for a win since I was 5," Bayne said. "The whole situation, the way you have to race in tandem races, man, I was hurting after that deal on Sunday. I probably was way too hard on myself because that's what I needed to do and that was the right thing to do, but man, that was really hard to do."
Bayne , a 20-year-old with strong Christian beliefs, said he and Gordon are square after texting on Sunday and talking on Monday even though Gordon was hard on Bayne after the race.
"He was completely fine," Bayne said. "He said, 'Don't beat yourself up, man. It's all good.' "
Bayne said had he known Kenseth's drafting partner, RFR teammate David Ragan, was going to blow an engine when the race restarted with two laps remaining he would have given Gordon a disclaimer to his promise to push him over the final two laps. He said nobody told him to leave Gordon at that point, that when he saw Kenseth stranded he simply fulfilled his promise to help a Ford driver.
That didn't make it an easy decision, though.
"Yeah, it was hard," he said. "At the time I had given my word to two people not knowing that could be a possibility. If you tell somebody you're going to lunch and they say they can't make it and you make plans with somebody else, then all of a sudden at the last minute they say, 'hey, I'm here,' you want to satisfy both of those deals and it's hard.
"Trust me, the last two days I've been trying to think about how I could keep three cars together the whole time. I haven't come up with an answer yet."
Despite reports that Roush suggested earlier in the week that all drivers with Ford engines help each other, Bayne said he never spoke with Roush before the race.
"Everybody kind of formulated that on their own," Bayne said. "But if you look at that 21 car, you see Quick Lane on the quarter panel, you see Ford Motorcraft on the hood. That car is funded by Ford.
"If we have a chance to help them win a championship, that's what we're going to do."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.