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Jimmie Johnson: ‘Everywhere we look, there’s change’ at Hendrick

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CHARLOTTE – Half of Hendrick Motorsports’ driver lineup will be new in 2018, but that only represents the surface level of the team’s massive overhaul for this season.

In a visit to the NASCAR on NBC podcast during this week’s preseason Media Tour, seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson outlined the structural facelift of its sprawling 140-acre campus near Charlotte Motor Speedway. After running its four cars in pairs based out of two buildings for more than a decade (last season, Johnson’s No. 48 and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 were in one shop with the teams of Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne next door), Hendrick has redesigned its approach and will bring many of its processes under one roof.

“Everywhere we look, there’s change,” Johnson said. “Our two shops are now one. The process is just a lot different. So the way we’ve known it, we’re all trying to pull those layers back and say, ‘Let’s start over.’ We’ve got a great new starting point. And let’s figure out what the new normal is and how to make this work.”

The organizational chart for Hendrick’s competition department was redone last August, two months after the departure of general manager Doug Duchardt (who joined Chip Ganassi Racing). Hendrick also added longtime GM Racing executive Alba Colon last month.

Johnson said it’s changed the workflow for his team and crew chief Chad Knaus because “the way we go about doing our jobs, it’s a bit different now” as Hendrick attempts to building more cohesiveness across its lineup, which will add Alex Bowman and William Byron in place of Earnhardt and Kahne.

“Just from an efficiency standpoint and also trying to get all of the smartest people in a huddle on any given part of the car,” he said. “What’s been tough for us is we’ve had so much success with four teams sharing data … but all four cars are coming to the track different. Especially from the 48-88 shop to the other shop, pretty big differences.

“Why don’t we have all these smart people in one room think-tanking ideas? From engineering, brakes and transmissions, aero … down the entire line. So that’s really what we’re doing. In today’s world with sponsorship dollars where it is, it’s smart to be more efficient.”

After spending much of the last two years with his family in Aspen, Colorado, Johnson said he also plans to reside in Charlotte more often (while splitting time in Aspen and New York) as he takes a larger leadership role.

“I just feel that an area I haven’t fully exploited is just my involvement in the energy and the atmosphere within our race team,” said Johnson, who was winless over the final 23 races and finished 10th in the points standings, tying the second-worst finish of his career. “I’m around. I’m there. Definitely know my role as the driver, but just feel like I can do more. When I watch other pro sports, college sports, and you just see a locker room environment that looks very interesting and amazing. That’s something I feel I can help lead and orchestrate within the 48 and at Hendrick Motorsports.”

You can hear Johnson at the 9:30 mark of the podcast, which also features Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin.

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts.

Brad Keselowski wins pole for New Hampshire Xfinity race

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Brad Keselowski will start first in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski claimed the pole for the Lakes Region 200 (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with a speed of 130.296 mph.

It’s his second pole in three starts this season and his fifth pole in 10 starts at the 1-mile track.

Keselowski is trying to win his fourth straight Xfinity race.

The Team Penske driver will be joined on the front row by Christopher Bell (130.126 mph).

The top five is completed by Ryan Preece, Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek.

Ryan Truex, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Jeremy Clements, Michael Annett and Ross Chastain did not advance out of the second round.

During the first round the red flag came out with 6:25 left due to fluid on the track from Ryan Reed‘s No. 16 Ford.

Reed will start last.

Click here for qualifying results.

 

Today’s Xfinity race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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Last year, Ryan Preece finished second to Kyle Busch in this race. Preece takes over the car that beat him last year and hopes to improve by one position. He’ll have to beat Cup regulars Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon to do so.

Here’s all the info for today’s Xfinity race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:07 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (211.6 miles) around the 1.05-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7 a.m. Qualifying is at 11:05 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Boston Sports Team Vocalist John Robert Murphy will perform the anthem at 4:01 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Jodie Cunningham at 3:58 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 78 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch beat his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ryan Preece by more than 10 seconds. William Byron came home third, with Cup regulars Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Denny Hamlin posts fastest lap in Saturday morning Cup practice

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading the field with a lap of 132.942 mph.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (132.526 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (132.462), Kyle Busch (132.406) and Kevin Harvick (132.356).

Harvick ran the most laps at 50. Harvick told NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Rick Allen in the garage that he ran so many laps to see how much the speed falls off as the tires wear. Jimmie Johnson was next with 42 laps run.

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Ryan Blaney had the best 10-lap average at 131.767 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

Start time of Sunday’s Cup race moved up to 1 pm ET

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LOUDON, N.H. – The start time for Sunday’s Cup race has been moved up to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain, NASCAR announced.

NBCSN will broadcast the race. NBCSN’s coverage begins at noon ET.

The wunderground.com forecast for 1 p.m. ET Sunday calls for a 49 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. There is a threat of rain throughout the day.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race.