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Getting to Know Doug Duchardt, Vice President of Development

CONCORD, N.C. (June 5, 2010)—What does the Vice President of Development do? Doug Duchardt explains his role at Hendrick Motorsports and also dishes on everything from his first job to his favorite movies. Meet Doug:

Full name: Douglas Duchardt.
Hometown: I was born in Canton, Ill., but grew up in Morton, Ill.
Education: I received a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology and a Master’s degree in Engineering from Purdue University.  In December 2009, I received an Honorary Professional degree in Mechanical Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology.

On his honorary degree from Missouri: Last year, I got a call from Missouri S&T notifying me that I had been selected to receive an honorary professional degree in mechanical engineering. Basically, you are selected for accomplishments in your career. They give out 10 of those a semester to alumni. In my opinion, it was more of a reflection of the talented people I have been privileged to work with at General Motors and Hendrick Motorsports. When I went to receive the degree, I got to the meet the other recipients, and I must say it was humbling to be with the group of people that received the honorary degrees. It was fun to go through graduation and have my family with me.  I have three children ranging from 10 to 17 years old.  They got a kick at seeing me go through that experience.  It was an unexpected honor and a lot of fun.

Team/job duties: My job title is Vice President of Development, which is always ambiguous to people. Basically, my group is responsible for design, development and manufacturing of the, chassis and body and the race engines that the teams use. There are other departments that fall under my group such as carbon fiber and metal shaping which perform special manufacturing. All competition personnel that don’t report to teams fall under my group. Ken Howes (Hendrick’s Vice President of Competition) oversees all the team personnel.

What is your role at the track: I get asked ‘What’s my role during the race weekend’ a lot. The preparation for a race weekend occurs weeks before that race, so when we get to the track I look at it as myself and/or Ken (Howes) kind of are the defacto leaders in case anything happens. Whether we need to talk with NASCAR, or a sponsor, or a crew member—you’re taking 25 percent of your company to the racetrack on Sunday and you have to have people there to make sure things are going according to plan. That is basically how I see my role.

During the actual race I’m mostly just observing. I don’t lend any strategy to the crews. There are enough people helping with that; they don’t need any more cooks in the kitchen on that.

Time at current job:  Just over five years. Before joining Hendrick Motorsports, I was the Director of General Motors Racing. I oversaw NASCAR, Corvette, IndyCar, Drag Racing, Cadillac Sports Car, Pontiac, Grand Am. In short all of General Motors racing programs.

Years in racing: 14 years including my time with GM. On April 1, 1996 I started in the racing group at General Motors.

First racing job: I had a summer stint in 1986 when I was still in school as a co-op student. I worked in the NASCAR Group for one summer.

First job overall: My first job overall was a stock boy in a small dairy store in Morton. I put out the fresh milk, stocked the shelves and stacked eight packs of Pepsis. I had to stack the bottles, which about once a week someone would knock over. It was fun; it was a good first job.

If I wasn’t in racing I would be: Probably at General Motors working on production engines. That’s what I think I would be doing, but my dream job would be to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Best racing memory: The best racing memory for when I was with Corvette was when we won the GT1 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004. We had gotten beat in 2003, and we came back and redeemed ourselves. So I am very proud of that. In my time in NASCAR, there are a lot of special memories. But since I have been at Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie’s (Johnson) championship last year was pretty special. Just the magnitude of what four championships in a row and a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2-3 finish. Both have never been done before.

Favorite track: I would say Indianapolis Motor Speedway for NASCAR. Having grown up in the Midwest and just the history and tradition that it brings to racing in this country. And then Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe for the other. Again it’s the tradition, and it’s just a really special place.

Hobbies outside of racing: I try to run and exercise some and just try to keep up with my three children. Between racing and that, that’s plenty.
Favorite sport other than racing: Baseball.

When I’m not at the track you can find me: At home with my family and friends.

On an off weekend you can find me: It’s when we try to travel as a family. There’s not many of those, so we usually try to get some traveling in. We have gone to a lot of different places; we always try to go somewhere different. Our last two favorites have been skiing at Keystone, Colo., and then visiting my father, who lives on the central coast of California. We kind of did a Monterey, Calif., down to St. Luis Obispo, Calif., trip.
Pets: A yellow Labrador named Sugar. Every morning I get up first, and she brings me something. It could be someone’s sock, shoe, her toy squirrel. She always brings me a gift, and she drops it when she goes out with me to bring the paper in, and I always end up carrying in whatever it was.

Favorite food: Steak.

Favorite movie: “Caddyshack “ and “This is Spinal Tap”

Favorite book: “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. It’s one of the classics.

Favorite music: Classic rock. I go through different phases but some of my favorite bands are U2, Eric Clapton, Eagles, Beatles, Boston, George Harrison, The Doors,etc.

What you’ll find on my iPOD: Besides classic rock, it’s pretty eclectic…Barenaked Ladies, Ted Nugent, Kanye West, Joe Walsh, etc .

My current car is: I have a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro and a 2006 Corvette Z06.

Dream car: 2009 or 2010 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and Ferrari 599.

Cell phone ring: I just have the default now but at one time I had a V10 Formula 1 engine ring. When the Formula 1 ringer went off it scared everyone so I got rid of it.

If I could meet anyone, I’d meet: Being from Central Illinois, I grew up studying Abraham Lincoln.  I would love to have met him.  From a sports standpoint, Bob Gibson. He’s an old pitcher for the Cardinals.

If I ran NASCAR, I’d: I would shorten the events at Pocono Raceway.

One thing people don’t know about me: I can do impersonations of peers and celebrities.

I knew I wanted a job in racing when: When I was working at Buick as a student my freshman year in college,  I went to the Indianapolis 500, and I saw my first Indy, and rooted for the stock block V6 turbo Buicks. After the field came through turn 4 on the first lap, I knew I wanted to work in racing.

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