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NASCAR America begins 6th season today at 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The sixth season of NASCAR America debuts at 5 p.m. ET today on NBCSN with a new look.

Kicking things off for the one-hour show will be the NASCAR on NBC team of Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.

The new season of NASCAR America features a number of reimagined features, starting with a new studio. The show’s home has moved from its base the last five seasons in Stamford, Connecticut, to a new studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. The show will air weekdays from 5-6 p.m. ET.

Each weeknight will showcase a different theme focused on the sport of NASCAR, its drivers, teams, fans and the motorsports industry. In addition, select episodes will include opportunities for fans to call in and speak with NASCAR America hosts, analysts, drivers and other guests.

Tonight’s season premiere of NASCAR America will feature discussion among our analysts about Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash (Jimmie Johnson won the rain-shortened race) and Sunday’s 61st edition of the Daytona 500.

NASCAR America Mondays will focus on the previous weekend’s races and include highlights, “Turning Points,” driver interviews, expert analysis, and the signature NASCAR America segment Scan All.

Here’s how the rest of this week’s show lineup looks, with themes that will continue on the same days throughout the season:

Tuesday, February 12

  • NASCAR America Presents The Dale Jr. Download: Every Tuesday, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver for an unprecedented 15 consecutive years (2003-17) and winner of two Daytona 500s, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@Dalejr) co-hosts NASCAR America with Mike Davis. Produced on-site at Dirty Mo Media Studios in Mooresville, N.C., episodes on Tuesday will expand to one hour, and feature the same unparalleled perspective, candid commentary, and first-person insight of The Dale Jr. Download that fans have come to love.
  • NASCAR America Splash & Go: In addition to NBCSN’s linear telecast on Tuesday of The Dale Jr. Download, NBC Sports Digital will feature multiple editions of NASCAR America Splash & Go segments, featuring the news of the day, breaking news, race shop reports and interviews. NBCSports.com’s lead motorsports writer Nate Ryan (@nateryan) will host Splash & Go digital segments and will be joined by a collection of NASCAR on NBC analysts. NASCAR America Splash & Go will be available on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Wednesday, February 13

  • NASCAR America Presents Motormouths: Hosted by NASCAR on NBC’s Rutledge Wood (@rutledgewood) and Marty Snider (@HeyMartysnider), alongside auto racing icon Kyle Petty (@KylePetty), Motormouths Wednesdays will feature a light-hearted approach to the traditional show, and include regular opportunities for fans to call in to NASCAR America and speak with hosts, analysts, drivers and other guests live on TV.
  • NASCAR America Debrief: As a compliment to Wednesday’s telecast of NASCAR America on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Digital will present NASCAR America Debrief, a digital exclusive show available on the NBC Sports YouTube Channel beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Nate Ryan will host NASCAR America Debrief, and will be joined by select NASCAR on NBC analysts and guests from that day’s linear telecast. NASCAR America Debrief will follow the same light-hearted approach as Motormouths, with an emphasis on additional viewer and fan engagement.

Thursday, February 14

  • NASCAR America Presents The Motorsports Hour: Featuring NASCAR on NBC host Krista Voda (@kristavoda), with NASCAR drivers and analysts A.J. Allmendinger (@AJDinger) and Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman), NASCAR America’s Motorsports Hour on Thursday will highlight the upcoming weekend’s NASCAR races, and also shine a light on the latest news surrounding IndyCar, IMSA, American Flat Track, Supercross, Motorcross, Mecum collector car auctions, and all of motorsports. Additional analysts will include former IndyCar driver Townsend Bell, former IMSA GT driver Calvin Fish, former IndyCar driver Paul Tracy, as well as Motocross and Supercross legend Ricky Carmichael.

NASCAR America’s Fan Fridays will return to NBCSN in July, live from the site of select NASCAR on NBC races, and will be broadcast from NBC Sports’ Peacock Pit box set located on pit road.

NASCAR America is also available on the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TV’s.

Podcast: The Earnhardts race the Rolex 24 … recalling one of the last rides for ‘The Intimidator’

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Their first spins around Sebring International Raceway in sports cars were a little too literal for Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

There were some lucrative silver linings from a crash course in learning how to race a Corvette, though.

In preparing for the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the Earnhardts went to Sebring to learn the nuances of driving a GT car, which have more sophisticated cockpit technology and precision braking and handling than the stock cars of which they were accustomed.

Within his first 15 minutes on track, Earnhardt Jr. had crumpled the back end of the Corvette. Late in the day, his father joined him

ROLEX 24 COVERAGE: Full announcer lineup, NBCSN/NBC Sports App schedule

“We got a pile of parts sitting there from both of them crashing,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said in a new episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast (links below). “Dale says, ‘This isn’t really the way we wanted to start.’ I said, ‘I think it was inevitable. End of the day, I’m not sure it wasn’t a good way to start because you both have learned the limits of the car.”

Earnhardt told Fehan he still felt bad about the expense and trouble for the team. Fehan pointed at the pile of parts.

“Don’t worry, you and Junior are going to sign all those, and we’re going to sell them,” Fehan said. “We’re going to get the money back.”

The Earnhardts then grabbed Sharpies and headed to the scrap heap.

Beyond making the best of it with their autographs, Earnhardt Jr. said crashing early “probably was a good thing” in getting acclimated to the Corvettes.

“I’m the guy that everyone looks at and thinks, ‘Man, he’s probably the weakest link,’ ” Earnhardt Jr. said in the podcast. “So I put a ton of pressure on myself right out of the gate to be very fast.

“I mashed the gas, and it just spun out. It had so much power, you could just spin that thing out so easily just by touching the throttle pedal. I backed into a bridge abutment. I thought I had killed this race car.”

Dale Earnhardt makes a lap during the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. (Jon Ferrey/Allsport)

Once the car was back in the garage, though, the Corvette team unzipped some large black bags and had the rear end replaced in about 20 minutes.

“‘OK, get back in!’” Earnhardt Jr. recalled the team saying. “I tore this thing to hell, and you’re going to fix it with new stuff and want me to get back in it! You’re not going to let me take a couple of hours to think about what I did, send someone else out there. ‘No! Get back in, you’ve got to learn!’

“I got back in and took a little better care of it the rest of the day.”

It was near the end of the session when his father lost control on a fresh set of tires, and Earnhardt Jr. believes he was partly responsible.

“Dad’s out there, I’m way faster than him,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I’m like, ‘Dad, look at me, doing good!’ and he’s like, ‘It’s not important how fast we’re going. We ain’t even racing here. I don’t know what the big deal is.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’

“Well right at the end of the day, I think it was eating away at him a little bit. He wouldn’t admit it. It’s 5 o’clock. It’s time to stop. He’s like, ‘Put me some tires on this!’ One last run, he goes out and is running a lap by the flagstand to start his run. He nosed the car into the tire barrier head first in the last corner.

“I knew he was pushing as hard as he could to match or better my time. So there was some competition between us two that I think he would never admit to. Because I’d be like, not ‘I’m better than you,’ but ‘Look at what I’m doing! Isn’t this cool?’ He’d be like, ‘We don’t even race at Sebring. We race at Daytona! I don’t know why you’re pushing so hard, you’re going to tear it up.’ We had two completely different approaches.”

But there was much common ground for a duo that didn’t always spend much time together at the track. When Earnhardt Jr. was up and coming in Late Models, his father rarely attended his short-track races. They competed together for only one season together in Cup but on separate teams.

The Rolex 24 provided a unique opportunity to work together on a full-time basis.

“This is the closest I’ve ever been to him to be able to do that,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Usually we’re racing on the racetrack and against each other. He might not even see me all day or know what I’m doing. Here we are together, debriefing and talking about the car and changing things on the car together.

“This is a really great opportunity for me to show him just what I thought about race cars and how I communicated.”

Listen to the NASCAR on NBC podcast to hear more stories about the Earnhardts’ run in the 2001 Rolex 24, including:

–How Dale Earnhardt grew close with the Corvette Racing team (“He said I want to be treated like any other guy on this team,” Fehan said. “I don’t want to be treated as Dale Earnhardt. I’m just a driver like anyone else on this race team. Coming from anyone else, I would have thought it was BS. Coming from him, it was genuine. He was serious about it.”)

–The welcoming reception he received in the sports car community (“Dad had a lot of respect for people all across all forms of motorsports. He sort of crossed those lines and boundaries. So I think everybody was like, ‘This is great!’ They weren’t intimated by him from a competitors’ standpoint. He didn’t act like, ‘Boy I’m going to light the world and show you guys. I’m Dale Earnhardt, move out of the way and give me my space.’ He just came in there inquisitive, asking all the right questions. Easy to approach, and people just liked it, man.”

–Why Earnhardt initially believed the team didn’t necessarily need a fourth driver, and the Daytona test that told him otherwise.

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher or Spotify or by clicking on the embed below.

Part II of this special narrative edition of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast will be released early Thursday morning.

A.J. Allmendinger joins NBC Sports as motorsports analyst

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A.J. Allmendinger has joined the NBC Sports Group in a multiyear deal as part of its motorsports coverage, the network announced Wednesday.

Allmendinger, who spent the last 12 years competing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will begin his work with NBC in January.

Allmendinger will work on the various properties across NBC Sports’ motorsports portfolio, including as a booth analyst for the network’s exclusive coverage of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. He also will contribute regularly to NBCSN’s NASCAR America.

Allmendinger will make his broadcast debut during NBC Sports’ coverage of the 57th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Saturday, Jan. 26, where he is also expected to race as part of Meyer Shank Racing (MSR).

“I couldn’t be more excited to begin this new chapter in my life alongside some of the most knowledgeable and influential voices in motorsports, and to be a part of NBC Sports’ second-to-none coverage,” Allmendinger said in a release.

During his NASCAR career, Allmendinger earned one Cup win and two Xfinity Series wins, all on road courses.

In addition to his years of NASCAR experience, Allmendinger brings knowledge from his time in sports cars and open-wheel racing.

In 2012, Allmendinger was part of the overall winning team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2006, he earned five wins and placed third overall in the Champ Car World Series.

“A.J. loves to race and is passionate about IMSA,” Sam Flood, NBC Sports’ Executive Producer and President of Production, said in a release. “His career as a driver across IMSA, NASCAR and Open Wheel will bring a unique mix of experience and insight to the NBC Sports team.”

Chip Ganassi Racing executive batted around baseball opportunities

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CONCORD, N.C. – When he left his general manager position at Hendrick Motorsports a year ago, Doug Duchardt was interested in staying in the front office.

But not necessarily in NASCAR.

The longtime St. Louis Cardinals fan “looked pretty hard at Major League Baseball” for a few months before starting his new job as the chief operating officer at Chip Ganassi Racing in January.

“I had discussions with a few clubs and got close with a couple, but it just didn’t come through,” Duchardt told NBC Sports.com in a recent interview at Chip Ganassi Racing’s NASCAR headquarters north of Charlotte, North Carolina.

It would have been quite a reset after a three-decade career of working in the automobile industry (primarily in racing, starting at General Motors before moving to Hendrick in 2005).

“In the front office but a much lower level,” Duchardt said. “I understood I wasn’t going to come in as the general manager of a baseball team. I’m not smart enough for that. It was something new to challenge myself. Go find something you like and learn about it.

“I don’t regret pursuing that at all. I met some really interesting people and had a great time learning more about a sport I love. I think anytime you get to interact with leaders of other sports, you learn from them, even though you may not think it’s applicable to a race car or race team. Inevitably, leadership and how you approach things and your culture, company, all those things apply. Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, racing. Any company you have, you have to build a culture, and have people buy into that and move forward.”

During the job search, several lessons came from one Major League Baseball GM whose team has produced many executives who became GMs at other teams.

“I don’t know if I want to name the name, but it’s someone who has been in baseball a long time,” Duchardt said. “And what became evident in my discussions with this person is their openness to someone who didn’t grow up in the game and was more interested in building a culture with the right people other than necessarily someone who grew up in the background. It was just a different philosophy.”

And an approach that might have landed him a baseball gig.

“That’s what I was hoping,” Duchardt said. “But I completely get it. If you’re at a club and grooming people to come up through their system, and you’ve got a plan and how that’s going to proceed, and here comes a guy who is working on race cars, how is this going to work?

“I was hoping to bring a unique perspective. As technology increases in baseball, coming from a sport that is extremely dependent on technology, and I had managed technology for many years, specifically at Hendrick, that I could come and help that.

And did he talk job opportunities with his favorite team?

“Briefly,” Duchardt said of the Cardinals. “I’ve got a ton of respect for that club and how it’s managed. They have plans and people in place.

“I really didn’t look at it like that. I was just wanting to find something that was going to get me out of my comfort zone.”

His return to that comfort zone has gone well at Ganassi, which has the series’ top-ranked Chevrolet in Kyle Larson’s No. 42 (ninth in the points standings) and just earned its second top 10 with Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 (sixth in the Coca-Cola 600).

Here are highlights of the interview with Duchardt, who reflected on his time at Hendrick (which announced his departure on June 6, 2017), managing a team across multiple racing series and on the challenges of the new Camaro:

Q: What was the impetus for your first break from racing in more than 30 years?

A: “When I decided to leave Hendrick, it was for professional and personal reasons. I was just ready to look to do something different. So, I took the time to do that. I just unplugged. I went and played fantasy baseball at Cooperstown. I helped my daughter get acclimated in her new job in New York. I was looking at opportunities outside of NASCAR. That’s really where I thought I was going to land.

“Chip called about coming here. Chip and I had known each other a long time from when I was the NASCAR program manager at Chevrolet, and he was coming into NASCAR. Of course at Hendrick, we were supplying engines, and I got to know him through that relationship. I felt we always had a good rapport. He talked to me about coming here, and it really appealed to me because he competes in three racing programs. It allowed me to get back into racing that I really enjoyed when I was at General Motors and had the director of racing jobs. The fact it was a different role than just competition, so managing across the company. I felt like it was going to be something new and a challenge.”

Q: How is the new job a different challenge from the competition-focused general manager role at Hendrick?

A: “The title is COO, so it’s competition and all business operations. So basically run the company. That’s the revenue side, supporting sponsors, public relations and all the competition. There are two facilities, one in Concord (NASCAR) and the Indianapolis facility with the two IndyCar teams and the two sports car teams.

Q: Did you have an MBA to prepare for the business side?

A: “I went to Sloan School of Business at MIT and did some executive education courses. But I never got a formal degree. I got a certificate. Specifically in different areas I felt like I needed to learn if I wanted to grow from competition to a bigger role. So that’s been good. It’s been a challenge. It’s new. It’s different. I’m not day to day worried about the new Optical Scanning Station. Someone else is worrying about that.”

Q: You left Hendrick near the midpoint of what was a tough season for that team. Were those results a factor in your departure?

Doug Duchardt was general manager at Hendrick Motorsports when he left in June 2017 (photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images).

A: “When I was looking at (the move), what’s the right timing for that? For me to wait through the whole year would not be fair to the company because the time for the general manager or management role at a race team to be locked in is when the season ends. You have to plan for next year. To me, the minimal disruption to them was for me to leave, and I just felt that was the right time. It gave them time to reorganize, put people in place and be ready to assess and adjust whatever they had to do in the offseason next year.

“I have nothing bad to say about (team owner) Rick (Hendrick) or (team president) Marshall Carlson. They were nothing but supportive of me when I made my decision. Rick didn’t want me to go. I’m still great friends with him. I’m really proud of the work I did there with them. It’s a hugely talented group. I was blessed to be there for the 12 years I was.”

Q: Does the pride stem from being there for seven championships with Jimmie Johnson?

A: “Here’s the thing about that. When you’re in a senior management role, you’re trying to build an environment for people to succeed. And so, when you have really talented people throughout the organization, including a driver and crew chief combination that locked in, it’s hard to say what you did or didn’t do to help that. I’m smart enough to know and humble enough to know that hopefully I helped. I tried to help. Or I was just right place, right time. Whatever it is, I’m blessed and thankful I was there when it happened. It’s made for great memories.”

Q: Are you pleased by Ganassi’s start to 2018?

A: “When I started here, the NASCAR program obviously was going in the right direction and has been successful in the past two years and continues to perform well. We’ve been close to some wins. The group here has done a really good job of building a tight-knit two-car team that is focused and working well together. You just try to focus on the fundamentals and keep learning and getting better, and the rest will take care of itself. From my standpoint, I haven’t said or done much other than reinforce the importance of communication and working together.

Kyle Larson is ahead of Ryan Blaney during Sunday’s  Coca-Cola 600. Larson finished seventh, giving Ganassi Racing two top 10s in the race (photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

“From the IndyCar and sports car side, the first part has been learning those series again. Before the season, I was trying to get to Indianapolis at least once every other week. Get caught up with (IndyCar president of competition) Jay Frye. So it’s been fun catching up with friends that you’ve had from before, and they’re in new roles. And then learning new racing series. It’s been 15 years since I was exposed to IndyCar and sports car, so it as fun getting back in that.

“I always said if I went back to being director of a (manufacturer) racing program, I could do my job so much differently. Because once you’ve understood what is happening day to day (at a team) — what is going on to get to the track and operate, execute and succeed – it really helps.”

Q: What decision-making are you involved in with IndyCar and sports car?

A: “It’s more of long-term planning and structurally looking at things. That’s all this sport is. It’s all continuous improvement. Always how to get a little bit better. Whether week to week or long term. Chip’s organization started with IndyCar. It’s got a lot of history, a lot of longtime employees. They’ve been around the sport a long time. They have a lot of experience to lean on and know the paddock well there. You lean on them and then start talking about what their needs are and what they need next, and then you start working on that.”

Q: On the NASCAR side, are there advantages to having two cars vs. four?

A: “There are advantages and disadvantages. The four-car team lent itself to having more resources. It’s more difficult to manage and align because there are four opinions vs. two. There’s always pros and cons to everything.”

Q: Why have the Chevy teams seem to have had some growing pains with the debut of the Camaro this season?

A: “There are two variables: The new car and the new inspection system. That’s the two variables that Chevy are dealing with, and Ford and Toyota teams just dealt with the new inspection system. And so we’re working hard to continue to evolve and develop the car. Kyle’s been competitive at intermediate tracks. Certainly we’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re working hard to get there, so NASCAR has a process to put those cars through and approve, and we went through it. I feel like the fundamentals are there to make that car successful, and we’ve just got to keep working on it to get there. We’re just a third of the way through the season, so things can change a lot by the time we get to the playoffs.

Q: The Camaro was designed and developed ahead of the Optical Scanning Station this year. Did that have an impact?

A: “We knew that was coming, and then what we didn’t know was the tolerances (NASCAR officials) were going to hold us to. I wasn’t (at Hendrick) in the middle of it anymore in the tail end of getting that car approved. My recollection was they were bringing (the OSS) to playoff races, and you could voluntarily go through to see how it worked, and I don’t know how many people took that option to understand that. I just wasn’t there for that.

“But NASCAR didn’t say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have an OSS and this is the tolerance.’ That’s fine. It’s not like the Chevrolet group knew what that was going to be, and Toyota and Ford didn’t, either. It’s just change. I try to put it on the engine side. I’ve seen it before like back in 1996, we had the 18-degree Chevrolet small block engine and the new SB2 small block. What happened was you’d developed the old 18-degree engine so long, that when you build your first SB2, it was just as good as the 18-degree. The 1998 Daytona 500 was the first SB2 win with Dale Earnhardt, but in qualifying, Gibbs had an 18-degree engine because it ran better. They qualified with the 18 degree and raced with the SB2. When you put that much time and development into something, sometimes it’s hard to leapfrog it. Especially in the tight tolerances like NASCAR has. I think that’s just what we’re in the middle of (with the Camaro).”

Chase Briscoe to run multiple series in 2018

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
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Chase Briscoe‘s second year in the Ford Performance Driver Development program will see him run in multiple series and with multiple teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Briscoe, rookie of the year in the Camping World Truck Series, will drive in 12 Xfinity races in 2018 for Roush Fenway Racing. He also will drive in at least one Xfinity race for Biagi-DenBeste Racing.

Briscoe also will run select Mustang GT4 races in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series as well as select Mustang events in the Trans-Am TA2 class.

“If you want a championship driver, you have to train the young driver and that’s what our program is all about,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “It’s about developing him and developing his skills. Chase is taking a step up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but we’re also going to pair him up with the best in the business and he’s going to understand what it means to go out and road race.”

Briscoe also will assist Ford as a test driver.

“I’m excited for next year just because I’m going to be doing multiple things,” Briscoe said. “I’m not committed to just one series, which is good because I probably haven’t run 50 pavement races in my entire life. I feel like I’m at a point where I learn a ton every single race, so to get a chance to run some IMSA and Trans-Am races, in addition to my Xfinity schedule, is going to be a huge deal.”

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