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Rick Hendrick on inspection issues: ‘We’re going to clean our stuff up’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Team owner Rick Hendrick has questions about NASCAR’s inspection process after many of his cars failed to pass before qualifying recently, but the message he plans to deliver to his teams is clear.

“We’re going to clean our stuff up,’’ he said. “If 30 other cars or 28 make it through, we should make it through.’’

Three Hendrick Motorsports cars — those of Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — were among 11 cars that failed to pass inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt last weekend at Kansas.

Three Hendrick cars — those of Chase Elliott, Kahne and Earnhardt — were among nine cars that failed to pass inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt last month at Texas.

No other organization had as many cars fail to make a qualifying attempt at those two tracks.

“If we’re that close to the line, then we need to back off,’’ Hendrick said Tuesday at the opening of the Axalta Customer Experience Center on the Hendrick Motorsports campus. “We don’t want to have to go through that.’’

MORE: Hendrick Motorsports looks to extend sponsor deals

Hendrick, though, does have some questions about the inspection process and the Laser Inspection Station.

“It’s amazing, like the 88 made it through the laser and passed,’’ Hendrick said of Earnhardt’s team at Kansas. “(NASCAR) didn’t like a clamp somewhere and they go back around, fix the clamp and don’t pass. So I don’t know how you pass one time and don’t pass the second time.’’

He wasn’t the only one confused. Earnhardt also expressed puzzlement on Twitter.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that it is “conceivable” that a car could pass the Laser Inspection Station and then be off the next time by.

“It’s hard to explain, it would take an hour to kind of go through all the technical things about the process, but it is conceivable if they’re .01 of a degree to the good that the next time they’ll be .01 of a degree outside of the good.

“Every piece of measurement equipment has a tolerance that it can work in and they seem to think that this thing should be absolute when no measuring equipment is absolute. It’s just one of those things. They’re trying to get to the edge. We’re trying to make sure we have a level playing field.’’

The penalty for not making a qualifying attempt is to start at the rear of the field. Some wonder if that is enough of a deterrent in light of so many cars not getting through. Not Hendrick.

“When you don’t get to qualify and you start in the back, that’s pretty severe I think,’’ he said.

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Ford chooses Sebastien Bourdais replacement for Le Mans (and it isn’t Tony Stewart . . . yet)

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Ford has chosen a replacement for injured Sebastien Bourdais at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is expected to announce the driver soon – but don’t hold your breath NASCAR fans.

It isn’t Tony Stewart, who has indicated his desire to run the renowned event.

While taping an upcoming episode Thursday of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ford Performance director Dave Pericak said the three-time champion, who retired from NASCAR’s premier series last year, still is lobbying “every time he sees us” to race a Ford GT car.

“We love Tony, and he wants to get behind the wheel of that GT but not at LeMans” in 2017, Pericak told NBC Sports at the Ford Performance Technical Center.

However, the new co-driver will be relatively inexperienced on the famous Circuit de la Sarthe road course in France. Pericak said Ford’s high-tech simulator (which mainly is used for NASCAR but also is used for sports cars and street models) at its North Carolina facility would help prepare the replacement.

“We will be using the simulator heavily between now and then for that driver to become fully up to speed not only in the GT but at Le Mans,” Pericak said. “There’s a great example of where we’re going to get tons of hours behind the wheel before that driver gets on an airplanes and heads over the France.

“The realism is unbelieveable. It’s a fantastic tool to have with this situation. Otherwise, you pick a driver, send him to Le Mans and take your chances. We’re going to be much more prepared. We already have the simulator ready to run that track because we ran it all last year.”

Returning to France last year, Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Chip Ganassi Racing GT driven by Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller.

Bourdais, who suffered pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash last Saturday, was released from an Indianapolis hospital Thursday.

“Thank God, he’s going to be OK,” Pericak said. “We’ve talked to him, he’s in good spirits, but we’re really pleased he’s going to make a full recovery.”

Pericak said an announcement of Bourdais’ replacement was likely Thursday or Friday.

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)