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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 82: Dave Pericak on a cold call to Roger Penske and keeping secrets

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Keeping Cup teams on the same page while also keeping some secrets between them is a key part of Ford Performance Director Dave Pericak’s job.

And it made for an interesting call to Roger Penske after Ford signed Stewart-Haas Racing to a multiyear deal beginning with the 2017 season.

How would the Team Penske magnate react to having a new team under the Ford umbrella in NASCAR’s premier series? Pericak wasn’t sure.

“I called Roger up and let him know this was happening, and his response was phenomenal,” Pericak said in an appearance on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “I didn’t know what kind of response I was going to get. He said, ‘Dave, awesome move for Ford. It’s going to raise the chinning bar for all of us. That’s going to make all of us better.”

Because Penske virtually coined the concept of the “unfair advantage” in racing, there were questions about the efficacy of asking the team to work closely with another.

Pericak said Ford Performance acts as the buffer between its teams, ensuring that data and information can be shared without compromising the proprietary intellectual property.

“Penske and Stewart-Haas have done a really good job of integrating and learning each other,” Pericak said. “Each team has trust in Ford Performance, so the things that have to remain within a certain team, they absolutely will. Those things we can common-ize and have discussion on, Ford facilitates that discussion and dialogue. We’re doing that role because we have the trust of all the teams, then the teams can work together because there’s a common ground of trust.

“We’ve been very good that we have to make sure we don’t violate that trust, and the things that can’t transfer over, they just don’t transfer over, and there’s a respect from each team that knows there’s going to be an area where we say, ‘That’s off limits.’ So that respect is there, you’re seeing way more collaboration than ever before and we have plans for additional collaboration to give us a more competitive advantage in the future. It’s every week, every month, that trust is building more and more. The results are showing. It’s all coming together to show this is the right approach.”

Other topics discussed by Pericak on the podcast:

–How driver simulator has played an important role in development;

–Where NASCAR is headed with its manufacturers;

–The importance of avoiding marketing leading competition;

–The security of Ford’s NASCAR program after a CEO change;

–The future of racing as autonomous cars become a reality.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR President Brent Dewar says in statement there is ‘no place for bigotry, racism’

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NASCAR issued a statement from President Brent Dewar on Sunday in regards to recent events that have been fueled by hate.

“NASCAR brings fans of all different backgrounds and points of view together to celebrate one thing they all have in common – a love for NASCAR. We are saddened by recent tragic events around the world and feel strongly there is no place for bigotry, racism, hatred or violence in our society.”

The statement is the first public comment from a senior leader with the sanctioning body since the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed and 19 were injured when a car rammed counter-protesters.

USA Today posted a story Sunday about NASCAR fans commenting on the Confederate flag. Confederate images have become a part of the national debate since the Aug. 12 rally.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France told The Associated Press in June 2015 that NASCAR “would go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of (the Confederate) flag. I personally find it an offensive symbol, so there is no daylight how we feel about it and our sensitivity to others who feel the same way. We’re working with the industry to see how far we can go to get that flag to be disassociated entirely from our events.”

France spoke in support of President Trump at a campaign rally Feb. 29, 2016 in Valdosta, Georgia. He defended NASCAR’s diversity efforts when questioned in Nov. 2016 about his public support of Trump.

“On diversity, nobody, nobody with this company has worked harder and done more and resourced it better than me,’’ France said. “I founded the Diversity Council. I have fought for every single thing that makes sense because that’s my core belief about diversity. It is very, very important. I talk about it frequently. My efforts there should never be challenged, no matter what my political views might be. That’s a ridiculous thing to do.’’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. laments final Cup finish at Bristol, but still has playoff hopes

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. coined one of NASCAR’s most popular phrases – “It’s Bristol, baby” – when he won the summer night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2004.

Fast forward 13 years and following Saturday night’s race there, it’s now “It used to be Bristol, baby” for Earnhardt.

Earnhardt’s hopes of wrapping up his 35-start Cup tenure at Bristol didn’t turn out the way he planned, finishing 23rd, three laps down.

It was his second consecutive finish of 20th or worse and fourth in his last seven starts this season.

“We struggled,” Earnhardt said after the race. “We had a real fast car for like 10-15 laps and then we would just real, real tight, so we struggled all day trying to figure it out.

“We weren’t good and we weren’t going to fix it on pit road either. We’ve got a lot of tools on pit road to really get after it, but the problems we had we couldn’t fix with wedge or trackbar.”

Now, after nearly three dozen career Cup starts at NASCAR’s so-called Last Great Coliseum, amassing one win, eight top-fives and 16 top-10s, Junior will never pass this way again.

Sure, he’ll keep returning to BMS for many more years to come as a NASCAR On NBC broadcaster and NASCAR Xfinity team co-owner, but never again as a Cup racer.

I think I will much rather enjoy coming here and watching,” Earnhardt said with a laugh after Saturday night’s race.”

But there’s little humor at how his season has gone, and Bristol only added to the disappointment and frustration of what has been much of the 2017 season for him.

“This race track can be a lot of fun (but also) can be very difficult,” Earnhardt said. “There is never really no middle ground. We struggling, gosh, I just don’t know what to do. We were pretty quick for the first 20 laps, passed five cars and then we dropped like a rock.”

Earnhardt has now finished 20th or worse in 12 of this season’s first 24 NASCAR Cup races. He’s 22nd in the point standings, with zero wins, one top-five and just four top-10s this season.

If he keeps up that pace, Earnhardt’s final season as a NASCAR Cup driver has the possibility of ending up as one of the worst full-time seasons of his career (not including last year’s half-season due to injury).

If not the worst.

But NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver is quick to not point a finger of blame for his team’s struggles at crew chief Greg Ives, his pit crew or race preparation and car building back at Hendrick Motorsports’ campus.

He even took to social media to reiterate it:

Granted, Earnhardt still has a chance to make the NASCAR Cup playoffs, but it’s an all-or-none proposition. He’s 22nd in the playoff standings with no stage wins or playoff points to date this season.

He has to win either at Darlington (21 career starts there with 0 wins, 4 top-fives and 10 top-10s) or the final playoff-qualifying race at Richmond (35 starts, 3 wins, 10 top-fives and 14 top-10s) to make the 16-driver playoffs.

The odds are long, but Earnhardt isn’t going to stop trying.

We’ve just got to get our stuff together as a team,” Earnhardt said. “The team works closely enough with me to know that I’m plugged in and they still see something in me that gives them confidence that if we can get the cars going and get everything working right, we can have some good runs.

“There is still some time to make that happen, but we’ve got a long way to go to catch some of those guys.”

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Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson are members of each other’s fan club

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Following Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Bristol Night Race, Kyle Busch stopped by the NASCAR on NBCSN victory lane stage to give an expanded explanation of how he wound up not only winning the race, but also sweeping all three races of the weekend.

During the interview, Busch discussed numerous things about the race, but one part stood out: his complimentary explanation of racing with his namesake, Kyle Larson.

“I tell you what, I like Larson a lot, but he is an animal,” Busch said with a smile. “He just drives the heck out of a race car.

“He don’t care if you’re there. He’ll pull down in front of you and take that chance that you’ll cut him a break. And sometimes you can’t, sometimes you don’t, and I think that’s just sprint car mentality.

“Like when you’re going down a straightaway side-by-side with a guy in a sprint car and you just turn it off to the bottom and try to pull a slide job on another guy, you just don’t care. He better check up, or you’re both going to be up on your wing, you know what I mean?”

While Krista Voda, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett spoke to Busch, Larson put out a post-race tweet explaining his awe and appreciation of Busch and his talents.

Busch responded in kind.

“I appreciate that,” Busch said. “A lot of people would say those exact same words about Kyle Larson himself. And I do as well. I’ve raced against him in Trucks and Xfinity and watched him work his way up through the ranks. It’s fun to race guys like that.”

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No race today, but you can still check out Episode 2 of “The Pits”

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Don’t miss Episode 2 of “The Pits” and be on the lookout for the next episodes only on NBCSports.com/The-Pits.

Episode 2, sponsored by Sonic and brought to you by NBC Sports, features the pit crew and what comical adventures they get into after stepping off pit road.

Check out the video above.