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Buescher looks for bigger win, and $1 million that comes with it

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Last year’s win at Pocono was the biggest win in Chris Buescher’s life.

He’s looking for an even bigger win – with a $1 million prize to the victor – in this Saturday’s NASCAR Cup All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It would probably top my last win,” Buescher said in a team media release. “It would be awesome. If we could pull it off, it’d be very special.”

Buescher feels that his JTG Daugherty Racing team has been steadily improving since he began racing for it this season (he raced for Front Row Motorsports last season).

“Our program has gotten much stronger over the last month and a half, specifically, and I’ve been really happy with the progress we’re making,” Buescher said. “Everything is starting to come together really nicely.

“We feel like we’re starting to put together really competitive cars on the racetrack, we just have to get through a little bit of bad luck and try to be mistake-free.”

But in a format like the All-Star Race, mistakes are more likely to happen than in a conventional points-paying race.

“I think there’s going to be the opportunity to make mistakes, and I think that opportunity is going to be larger than it usually is, just with all the different options we have on pit road being such a competitive place,” Buescher said. “Everyone is going to try to get as much speed as possible and you have to make sure all the lug nuts are tight and that you hit your pit box the right way. It’s going to be a challenge.

“But if you can pull that one off, it’s going to be a huge thing on your resume to be able to say you got a win at the All-Star Race.”

Buescher is in a much different situation for this year’s All-Star Race: he’s got a confirmed starting spot via his Pocono win, while last year he fell short of making the All-Star Race field.

“We tried really hard to get into the All-Star Race last year and just weren’t able to do it,” Buescher said. “But with that win at Pocono last season we’re qualified in, so we’re taking what we’ve got and we’re ready to go racing.

“We get to qualify with the other all stars, which is always interesting with the no speed limit pit road qualifying format. It’s going to be a busy weekend. It’s going to be exciting racing for a million dollars for the first time. It’s an awesome opportunity and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Buescher makes a good point about the no speed limit pit road during qualifying.

“It’s always been kind of comical to watch how difficult it is and see how easy it is to slide through the pit box and make a mistake,” he said. “When you’re not trying to participate in it, it’s a lot of fun to watch. But now that we’re in it, it’s a little stressful.”

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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 airplane and heads over the France.

“The realism is unbelievable. 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)