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General manager Doug Duchardt leaving Hendrick Motorsports

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General manager Doug Duchardt will leave Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the month, the team announced Tuesday.

In a release, Duchardt, who has been with the team for more than 12 years, said he “felt this is the right time in my life to pursue other goals. It was a difficult decision to make, but I feel this is the right time in my life to pursue other goals.”

Duchardt joined the team as vice president of development in January 2005 during a reorganization of Hendrick, which lost its president and general manager in an October 2004 plane crash.

“Doug joined us during a difficult time in our history and helped provide stability and leadership,” Hendrick said. “I’ll always be grateful to him for accepting that challenge and for his ongoing dedication and countless contributions. We all wish him the very best in his future endeavors, which will most certainly be successful. He’s a special friend and person.”

The team isn’t planning to fill the GM role.

Here’s the full release from Hendrick Motorsports:

Hendrick Motorsports executive vice president and general manager Doug Duchardt will leave the organization later this summer. He will remain in his role through the end of June.

Duchardt, 53, came to Hendrick Motorsports in January 2005 as vice president of development, a position in which he oversaw race car design, engineering and production. In July 2013, he was elevated to the newly created role of general manager, directing all racing operations for the team.

“Being a member of this family of talented people for more than 12 years has been an unparalleled privilege,” said Duchardt, who previously was director of North American motor sports initiatives for General Motors. “It was a difficult decision to make, but I feel this is the right time in my life to pursue other goals. I’m incredibly thankful to Rick (Hendrick) and all of my teammates for a truly rewarding experience and for the countless relationships that will continue on.”

In Duchardt’s 12 full seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, the organization’s chassis and engines won a record six consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championships and nine of the last 11. He oversaw the successful conversion to the Chevrolet R-07 engine in 2007, the incorporation of electronic fuel injection in 2012 and Hendrick Motorsports’ role as lead development team for the Generation-6 Chevrolet SS race car, which debuted in 2013.

“Doug joined us during a difficult time in our history and helped provide stability and leadership,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “I’ll always be grateful to him for accepting that challenge and for his ongoing dedication and countless contributions. We all wish him the very best in his future endeavors, which will most certainly be successful. He’s a special friend and person.”

Duchardt’s responsibilities will be assigned to multiple team members, including Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson, chief financial officer Scott Lampe and vice president of competition Ken Howes. The organization does not plan to fill the general manager role.

 

Gaunt Brothers Racing raises $12,000 in auction for Humboldt Broncos hood

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Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Wednesday it raised $12,000 in an auction for the hood off DJ Kennington’s No. 96 Toyota in last weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway

Kennington’s hood featured the logo for the Humboldt Broncos.

The hood honors the 16 people who lost their lives and the 13 who were injured on April 6 when a bus carrying members of the junior-A Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team was struck by a semi-trailer as the team was on its way to a playoff game in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The money will be donated to the Humboldt Broncos charity. The winning bid was placed by Kennington’s sponsor, Castrol.

Kennington, who finished 27th in Food City 500, is a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

The hood was signed by every member of the No. 96 team.

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Richmond in last three years

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As NASCAR nears the end of its spring short track season, it heads to a course that is often transitional with elements of unrestricted, intermediate speedways tossed in for good measure. Two of the last three races have been run on tracks less than a mile in length, and while they are all very dissimilar in handling characteristics for the drivers, they share at least one important commonality.

Cars are constantly in traffic and a mistake by a driver not in contention for the win can take out the leader – just as it did Ryan Blaney last week at Bristol Motor Speedway. The unpredictable nature of short track racing is part of what makes it a fan favorite, but it can be a challenge to those responsible for handicapping the events.

Last year, only four drivers swept the top 10 in Richmond’s two races. By comparison, the Bristol Motor Speedway bullring had three drivers who swept a track that typically requires rhythm to navigate well. When erratic results creep into the statistics, it pays to take a longer look and three-year averages are one of the most meaningful ways to eliminate peaks and valleys.

Players who have not already joined the NASCAR America Fantasy league can still do so at nascar.com/nbcsportsfantasy, and then share your team using #NASCARAmericaFantasy.

1. Joey Logano (4.83)
Last year’s Toyota Owners 400 was pivotal for Logano. His victory was deemed encumbered by NASCAR and Logano was not allowed to use it to qualify for the playoffs. He finished second in the fall Richmond event , however, and this could be the week he returns to Victory Lane.

2. Denny Hamlin (7.17)
Hamlin finished 22nd in the spring 2015 Richmond race, but he has been an incredibly good value ever since. He finished sixth in the next two races, won the fall 2016 Federated Auto Parts 400 and swept the top five last year.

3. Jimmie Johnson (7.50)
Last week was the first real sign that Johnson’s season is turning around. He came from the back of the grid after making an unapproved tire change, but once he got to the leaders, he looked like the Johnson that once dominated races. It might be time to trust him again.

4. Kyle Busch (7.60 in five starts)
Busch has not scored a top-five at Richmond in three races, but his back-to-back runner-up finishes in fall 2015 and spring 2016 give him a great average. The fact that he enters the Toyota Owners 400 with back-to-back wins and a six-race streak of top-three finishes this year certainly improves his odds.

5. Kurt Busch (7.67)
Busch ticks off both boxes that fantasy players are most concerned with. He has been consistent and strong at Richmond with six top 10s in his last seven races and a win in spring 2015. Last fall, he added another top five to his Richmond record.

5. Kevin Harvick (7.67)
Harvick has been an all or nothing driver at Richmond in recent years with five top fives compared to two results outside the top 10. His most recent of three wins came in spring 2013.

7. Brad Keselowski (8.83)
Expanding the parameters a little for Keselowski reveals he has a Richmond victory in 2014 along with three other top fives in his last eight starts. He has finished worse than 11th only once in that span and makes a great utility fantasy pick this week.

8. Kyle Larson (9.33)
In four years at Richmond, Larson has been consistently better in the fall with a second-place finish in 2016 and his victory last year. He has not yet cracked the top 10 in the spring race, but could fare better now that it is going to be run under the lights.

9. Daniel Suarez (9.50 in two starts)
Now that he has survived 500 laps at Bristol, Suarez knows that his thumb will not be a problem and is prepared to earn a third top 15 in three starts there.

10. Jamie McMurray (10.00)
The one word that always comes to mind with McMurray is consistency. At Richmond, he has not finished worse than 16th in his last nine attempts there. His bad luck from 2018 has to dissipate soon and there is really no telling when or where that will happen.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Matt Kenseth swept the pole last year at Richmond and the new driver of the No. 20 is no stranger to speed. Erik Jones’ first career pole came on the short track of Bristol last August, so he knows how to get around short tracks.

Segment Winners: Play the odds this week. Harvick has the most segment wins in 2018 (four), while Keselowski has earned the most segment points (100). Kyle Busch is no slouch either with 98 segment points and two wins. Whichever of these three qualify best should be the segment one pick; toss a coin for segment two.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Timothy Peters set for Cup debut at Talladega with Ricky Benton Racing

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It’s never too late to be a rookie.

Timothy Peters, 37, will make his Cup debut next weekend in the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Peters will race with rookie stripes in the No. 92 Ford owned by Ricky Benton Racing. It will be the second Cup race for the team after the Daytona 500 in February. David Gilliland finished 14th in the race.

Peters will be sponsored by Advance Auto Parts.
“This is just a dream come true for me,” said Peters in a press release. “I am humbled and so appreciative for the opportunity that Ricky, Advance Auto Parts , the entire Black’s Tire family, BB&T and Highland Construction have given me to make my first Cup start.”
Peters has eight starts and two wins at Talladega in the Camping World Truck Series.

Before this year, both Peters’ and Benton’s NASCAR fortunes were mostly confined to the Truck Series.

Peters has 239 starts and 10 wins in the series since 2005. He also has eight starts in the Xfinity Series. Peters has been without a full-time ride since Red Horse Racing shut down after five races in 2017.

Benton has fielded the No. 92 in 80 Truck races since 2010.

The two teamed up for the March Truck race at Martinsville Speedway. Peters, who won at the track in 2009, started 16th and finished seventh. It was the 12th top 10 for the team.

“Timothy is an incredibly talented driver and proved to be a great fit with our guys at Martinsville,” Benton said in a press release. “He and (crew chief) Mike (Hester) worked great together, communicated well and made some great adjustments as that race progressed.
“I have no doubt that it will carry over to Talladega in the Cup car.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the lessons learned from hashing it out with Kyle Busch

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During the 2011 Speedweeks, Kyle Busch stopped by Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bus at Daytona International Speedway to offer a present even though their long-running feud was still simmering.

The gift? A box of M&Ms.

“Out of nowhere,” Earnhardt recalled during the NASCAR America Debrief podcast Wednesday. “Couple of days later, I text him and was like, ‘You gave me these M&Ms, were you going around to everybody’s bus and giving them away?’ ‘Nope. Just you and one other guy.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I don’t know, thought you might want some M&Ms.’

“(Busch) would do things that were so out of character, but that’s not it. That was his character. That’s also who Kyle is. He’s a guy who hates to lose. He’s a guy who is a jerk sometimes. He’s a guy who reacts the wrong way in certain situations.

“But he’s also a guy who loves his family and puts a lot of effort into his race team. As an owner, he takes a lot of pride in that. He’s thoughtful about people who are part of his life. There’s just a lot of layers to the guy.”

Earnhardt is much more aware of those layers after hosting Busch as a guest on his weekly “Dale Jr. Download” podcast this week. The pair spent 90 minutes reminiscing about the night of their infamous wreck while battling for the lead at Richmond Raceway 10 years ago and about the reasons they harbored ill will in many years since then.

Today’s NASCAR America (6 p.m. on NBCSN) will be fully devoted to the discussion in which Busch and Earnhardt buried the hatchet, and the process was therapeutic in many ways.

“I’d say that the whole thing I took away from it was it made me think about things that I’m doing today, relationships that aren’t great today, and I wonder how many bad assumptions are in that that are causing those relationships to stay bad,” Earnhardt said on the third episode of NASCAR America Debrief. “How many people do I need to go up to and say, ‘Man, I need to talk to you. Is this really how you’re feeling?’ Because I bet you 100 percent of the time, I’ll find out I was completely wrong, and it would have been an easy situation to resolve had I broke the ice.

“When people say things, what you hear is not exactly how they feel. A guy reacts and is lashing out, he’s really looking for you to say, ‘Hey man, it’s OK, it’s fine.’ What you hear makes you angry, and you make an assumption.”

NASCAR America Debrief guest Steve Letarte said he appreciates the ways that Busch expresses his feelings bare. “It’s easier to cheer for people,” Letarte said. “Drivers are people. I like drivers to not be robots. Kyle Busch, like it or don’t like it, it’s straightforward what you’re going to get. I think he’s wonderful for the sport. I don’t care if you’re booing or cheering.”

But it was difficult for Earnhardt to be involved in the drama for years.

“It sucked,” he said. “All those years we were angry with each other, mad and hated each other’s guts, were not fun. I didn’t like it. It bothered me.

“It was like going to work and having to sit next to somebody you could not stand to be in the same room with. I knew if we talked and hashed it out, I would be able to be in the same room with him and be OK. But neither one of us were smart enough to do that for the longest time.”

That was partly the result of “we made so many wrong assumptions about each other through that whole process,” Earnhardt said. “There’s no denying that he didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him.

“And I thought he was a bad person, and he thought I was a bad person, but there were assumptions made about what the other was thinking. He even said at one point, ‘Man I was waiting on you to break the ice. The whole time.’ I’m thinking me, ‘You spun me out. I was waiting on you to come apologize to me.’ He’s like, ‘You were older, your stature in the sport, I’m thinking you would be the guy to say let’s sit down and sort this out.’”

To listen to the Dale Jr. Download, click on the links below.

To listen to this week’s NASCAR America Debrief, click here for Apple Podcasts, here for Stitcher, here for Google Play, or play the Art19 embed above.

Tune in to NASCAR America on NBCSN at 6 p.m. today for the special Dale Jr. Download episode.