Ray Evernham leaving ESPN for expanded role at Hendrick Motorsports

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Ray Evernham is going from in front of the cameras to back behind the scenes.

Evernham announced on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway” that he will not be part of ESPN’s NASCAR broadcast team in 2014. Rather, Evernham will further expand his role as a consultant to Hendrick Motorsports, which he has done for nearly the last three seasons.

“Now not doing the ESPN thing will allow me to be involved in some of the management and some of the things that they’re doing at (Hendrick) Motorsports,” Evernham told show hosts Dave Moody and Angie Skinner. “The best way to avoid a conflict of interest is to choose one or the other. I’m excited about being able to go and being involved in the management team on the motorsports side.”

Evernham, who led Jeff Gordon to three Sprint Cup championships in the 1990s, will essentially be going back to his roots as an innovative mechanic, serving in HMS’s competition department. He’ll work with the organization’s four Sprint Cup crew chiefs as well as others in an attempt to further enhance HMS’s overall performance.

He will also sit atop the pit boxes of all four teams, although he’ll only likely attend 15 races, similar to what his schedule with ESPN was last season.

But don’t think that Evernham’s expanded duties mean he’ll be returning to his old crew chief days, which is all the more poignant because HMS will be looking for a new top-level crew chief soon. Steve Letarte will leave HMS as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief at the end of the 2014 season to assume a role as an analyst on NBC Sports’ TV broadcasts of NASCAR, which begin in 2015.

Evernham has repeatedly said he will not become a crew chief and reiterated that with Moody and Skinner.

“I’ll be working with everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” he said. “I’ve met with crew chiefs. I think I’ve got a good perspective as they face different challenges. I will be going to meetings and be involved in competition things that I’ve not been involved with in the past three years or so.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.