Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Part II of Steve Letarte's Hendrick exit interview: 'I've learned from the best'

   Steve Letarte's final interview as a Hendrick Motorsports employee comes to a close with his thoughts on the No. 88 team and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. going forward and how success in 2014 reaffirmed his decision to move on to a new career at NBC Sports.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Part I of Steve Letarte's 'exit interview' from Hendrick Motorsports

   After two decades working at Hendrick Motorsports, crew chief Steve Letarte is changing career paths and moving to the TV booth with NBC Sports. Letarte sat down with HendrickMotorsports.com during his final week on the job to share his thoughts on working for Rick Hendrick and with two of NASCAR's most legendary drivers in Part I of his "Exit Interview."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

NASCAR statement on the death of former public relations representative Denny Darnell

NASCAR Statement from Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, Regarding The Passing Of Denny Darnell

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 22,  2014)"NASCAR offers its sincere condolences to the friends and family of Denny Darnell. For decades working with Bristol Motor Speedway, RJ Reynolds, NEXTEL and Dodge, Denny was a familiar and friendly face in media centers and NASCAR garages throughout the country. He approached his job seriously and professionally, but few could bring laughter like Denny. He was a public relations institution, and will be greatly missed."

To read more, go here.

To read a story on what Darnell meant to those in NASCAR and his contribution to the sport, go here.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s team gets a postseason penalty from NASCAR

   The No. 17 Sprint Cup Series team and driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. avoided a points penalty but his crew chief and car chief were penalized by NASCAR on Thursday.

   Although the Cup season ended Sunday, NASCAR had some unfinished penalty business left over from pre-qualifying inspection on Nov. 14 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Suspension parts from Stenhouse's No. 17 Ford were confiscated and found to allow improper movement of the suspension/drive line component.

   Mike Kelley, Stenhouse's crew chief, was fined $50,000 and placed on probation through June 30, 2015. The team's car chief, Patrick Magee, was also placed on probation through June 30.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Personnel changes made to Kasey Kahne's Sprint Cup team

   Team press release

   In preparation for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and revised rules that affect race car development and on-track testing, Hendrick Motorsports has named Kenny Francis to the new position of vehicle technical director and Keith Rodden as crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS team of driver Kasey Kahne. The roles take effect immediately.

   Francis, 44, will oversee organization-wide car design and development with day-to-day management of Hendrick Motorsports’ chassis, body, research and development, on-track testing, vehicle engineering and simulation programs. Reporting to general manager Doug Duchardt, he will serve as the primary liaison between Hendrick Motorsports’ crew chiefs and its vehicle group. 

   Rodden will return to Hendrick Motorsports where he worked alongside Francis in 2012 and 2013 while the lead engineer for Kahne and the No. 5 team. For 2014, he was named crew chief for the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing where he won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, earned two pole positions and helped driver Jamie McMurray set a career-best season in laps led.

   “This is a great opportunity for both guys, and it will strengthen our overall organization,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “With the new rules for next year, it’s more important than ever to have a strong vehicle development program. Unifying those efforts for the first time under Kenny’s guidance will be critical to our success. It plays to his experience as a leader, innovative engineer and race-winning crew chief. He’s just tailor-made for it."

   A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Francis holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Florida. Known as one of the most innovative minds in the NASCAR garage, he worked as a team director, engineer and fabricator before posting 17 wins as a Sprint Cup crew chief. Francis has led Kahne’s efforts since the final race of 2005, earning 16 race wins and five Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. The pair joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

   “When it was clear there was a need for this role, I was very intrigued and felt it would be a great challenge,” Francis said. “It encompasses areas I’m passionate about, and I know we can make a difference for our teams, especially with the new rules for next year. There are a lot of reasons why it feels right at this point in my career, and I’m looking forward to contributing in a new way.” 

   Rodden, 33, has enjoyed a long relationship with Kahne, having worked with the driver as a team engineer from 2004 until 2013. After graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, his motor sports career began in 2003 with owner Andy Petree. Rodden in 2004 joined Evernham Motorsports to support Kahne’s NASCAR XFINITY Series effort before moving in 2006 to the No. 9 Sprint Cup team, which began an eight-year stint under the tutelage of Francis. 

   “Opportunities like this don’t come around often,” said Rodden, who grew up in Denver, North Carolina. “The people at Hendrick Motorsports are like my family, especially in the 5/24 shop. I expect we’ll have great chemistry right off the bat, which should make for a smooth transition. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running with the No. 5 team and everyone who supports us. There’s no better resource than Kenny, so I hope he’s ready for some late-night phone calls.” 

   Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne, 34, has earned at least one victory each season while securing three consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career wins in NASCAR’s top division, including five in three full seasons with the No. 5 team. 

   “I’m so grateful to Kenny and happy for him and his family,” Kahne said. “He’s one of my biggest supporters and best friends, and I’m excited about his new role. It’s going to give all four Hendrick Motorsports teams the best possible opportunity to win races and compete for championships."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jamie McMurray's crew chief returning to Hendrick Motorsports

   Keith Rodden, who just completed his first season as crew chief for Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is leaving the organization,  The Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.

   Matt McCall, who most recently served as race engineer on Ryan Newman's Cup team at Richard Childress racing, will take over for Rodden, the Ganassi organization announced on Tuesday.

   Rodden is expected to return to Hendrick Motorsports, sources said.

   McCall is also a former driver who has competed in the NASCAR Nationwide and Truck series and the ARCA series. The Denver, N.C., native graduated from UNC Charlotte with a major in mechanical engineering. The 33-year-old McCall is also passionate about fitness and holds a third-degree black belt in karate. 

   "This organization is one that everyone in the garage has taken notice of in 2014 and I am just looking forward to the opportunity to make them even better," McCall said. "We have a group of very talented people building and driving the race cars here and I can’t wait to get started.”   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Statement from Budweiser on Kevin Harvick's first Sprint Cup championship

   Anheuser-Busch statement regarding Kevin Harvick's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship:

   "Budweiser has a rich history in NASCAR and we’re proud to see Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team bring home the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kevin has been an amazing ambassador for Budweiser—both on and off the track—and it’s truly impressive to see what he and the team have accomplished in their first season together."

   -Lucas Herscovici, VP, consumer connections