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.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”