Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Jim Campbell

FEBRUARY 24, 2017

JIM CAMPBELL, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT OF PERFORMANCE VEHICLES AND MOTORSPORTS (CHEVROLET), ALONG WITH CHEVROLET TEAM OWNERS, RICHARD CHILDRESS, CHIP GANASSI, AND RICK HENDRICK, met with members of the media to discuss the start of the 2017 season, along with many other topics. Full Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, here in the Daytona International Speedway media center. This is the first of three media availabilities here this weekend where our manufacturers and team owners will preview the Daytona 500 and the 2017 season, specifically the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
We’re joined by Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. VP Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. To his left is Richard Childress, Richard Childress Racing. Chip Ganassi, Chip Ganassi Racing. Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports.

We just got back from an exciting tour that Jim led of the Chevrolet Experience where the owners got a chance to take in this highly impressive active footprint for Chevrolet.
Jim, let’s start there. Tell us a little bit about that experience, but also talk about how Chevrolet will lead the pack on Sunday with the front field.

JIM CAMPBELL: Well, it’s great to be with you all. It’s a unique opportunity to join you.

We had an exciting announcement a moment ago at our new Chevrolet Daytona Experience Center. I invite you to come over and check it out later this weekend. It’s going to be a place, a multi-dimensional facility that’s going to allow us to engage with our customers on special events, ride-and-drives, dealers, sales and service side, and also with the media.

We did have a media event this morning. We announced that the 2017 Daytona 500 will be paced by a Camaro ZL1, a 650-horsepower 6.2 liter supercharged V8. It has a 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifting. Zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds. A top speed of 200 miles an hour. Pit’s a road car, a street car. We call it the Triple Threat. It’s for the drag strip, it’s for the street, and it’s for the track.
We also announced that Jeff Gordon will be our honorary pace car driver. So we’re very excited about that. Jeff obviously knows this place well, a four-time champion. Also recently won the Rolex 24 At Daytona just a few weeks ago here with our company on another program that we run. It was a very exciting announcement.

We’re really proud to be here to kick off the season with NASCAR.

THE MODERATOR: Chevrolet was back on top last season with Jimmie Johnson’s seventh championship. Now he’s going for a record number eight. To our esteemed team owners up here, how do you prepare to tackle the competition enhancements to defend Chevy’s championship?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think it goes to working together. If you’ve seen the racing, a lot it has happened. NASCAR is working on the whole new format, the rules. I think it’s going to be some great racing. We’re going to go out and give it everything we’ve got with Chevrolet.

CHIP GANASSI: It’s a challenge each year to come back here after the winter. You have your off-season, what you do to your team to make it better. Not only do we have other teams and manufacturers we have to beat, I have these guys to my left and right, as well. It’s a tall order.
You come to a place like this, you have to work together. I couldn’t be happier with how we work together with the three of us up here with Chevrolet. I think we’re going to be formidable on Sunday.


RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I think every year you want to end the season with momentum. The competition was fierce. It is again. You work hard. We just hope that we can carry the momentum into this year. We’ve got a good start. Like Chip and Richard said, I think the collaboration now with all the Chevy teams has been the best it’s ever been.
We’re just looking forward to the challenge. I love the new format. I think it’s going to be exciting. Just like you’re kicking off the year, everybody’s pumped up and ready to go.

THE MODERATOR: Before we open it up to floor, Mr. Campbell, you’d like to talk about that collaboration.

JIM CAMPBELL: I would say it’s a real honor to sit on the stage and be long-time partners with all three of these amazing team owners. Rick Hendrick, 34 years we’ve raced together, 12 championships at the Cup level, including Jimmie’s last year. Hall of Fame member. That was a real exciting thing to see Rick go into the Hall of Fame.

Also with Richard, we have a 48-year relationship between Richard Childress and Chevrolet. Hall of Fame member. That was so special. Six championships with Chevrolet. Both of these team owners know how to get around this place at Daytona. It’s very special. So proud to race with these guys. Think about that, 34 years, 48 years.

Then with Chip, we’ve had a nine-year relationship in NASCAR. Great friend. We’ve raced together on the IndyCar side and won a championship in ’14 together. He knows how to win here as well. Also has won some of the most amazing races in different aspects of motorsports around the world.

A real pleasure to race with all three of these guys. Working together is really quite important.

One final thing I would just say. We love racing in NASCAR, Chevrolet, because the car and the driver are the stars. We have a lot of choices on where we can promote our brand. For Chevrolet, the car is the star, along with these drivers and amazing teams. So for a car manufacturer, that is home base for us.

THE MODERATOR: With that, let’s open it up to questions from the floor.

Q. We had two big sponsor announcements in the last two days. Chevrolet has talked about the big commitment they made with their center down there. What does it say about the long-term health of the sport that sponsors are staying in the sport? What does it mean that it’s partnerships now, not just slapping your name on the side of a car?

JIM CAMPBELL: Just to anchor on my last comments. We love this platform because it’s the car, the power train, working with the teams and the drivers, is the star of the show. That’s incredible.
This is a platform that we can leverage to engage our current customers and prospective customers. If you get to the other side of the track, you saw what we did on the injector. A massive display. We have almost a hundred cars here on display. And we have project experts. We have a chief engineer from our Camaro program. We have some of our top engineers and product specialists here. Our entire portfolio of accessories, performance parts, engines, transmissions.

The NASCAR fan, they buy cars at a higher rate than the average customer, and they index higher in categories like pickups, utilities. That’s important to us.
This platform is about a tremendous amount of engagement with our customers and prospective customers. We want to take people that don’t own Chevys and bring them our way.
We do get technical transfer learnings from NASCAR and a chance to rotate engineers and marketing specialist through this platform. It’s fast-moving. You have to make decisions quickly. When they rotate back to the production side of the business, they’re better for it.

That’s the reason why we love NASCAR and motorsports.

Q. Rick, the $10 million question. What do you feel like the chances are that Jimmie gets an eighth championship? Surprisingly during the course of the media tour, that hasn’t been a question that he’s been hammered with, believe it or not. What do you think about when you think about the opportunity?

RICK HENDRICK: I think Jimmie’s in the prime of his career. The way he goes after things, works out. Chad, their time together. He’s been in the tough situations, in the tough moments.
I think to me, getting to seven was the challenge. If you could get to seven, then you’ve tied it. It’s hard to explain. I think we took some of the pressure off just getting to seven because now he can just race. If eight happens, great. I think he’s got as good a shot as anybody out there. He knows how to race when it gets into the Playoffs.

It’s exciting. Probably one of the neatest things to watch is the crowd down in Homestead when he won, to see all his fans get up. They saw history. I think we said it. Dale Earnhardt will always be the Intimidator, Richard Petty will be the King. Jimmie has a shot to do something through different types of situations and different formats, to be in a position all his own.

He’s as cool about it as I’ve ever seen him. I don’t think it’s any pressure on him. We don’t feel the pressure now that I think we’ve tied it. I think he’s got as good a shot as anybody. When you get down to the end, he knows how to win.

We’re just honored to have what we have, but looking forward to at least have the opportunity to do something no one else has done.

Q. Jim, can you recall an incident where a pace car may make as much or more horsepower as the cars that are actually in the race? Is that one of the reasons why you wanted Jeff Gordon to drive it?

JIM CAMPBELL: That’s a good question.

Well, listen, I mean, the Camaro ZL1 is an incredibly capable vehicle, no doubt. We were kidding with Jeff. Actually he was kidding with us. He may just stay out there and take an extra lap.
But no, we’re proud to bring it here. The relevance of running our V8s under the hood there, we run V8s here as well. It’s pretty cool.

In many of our motorsports platforms we compete in, sometimes a street car does actually make a little bit more horsepower. The rules are the rules.

But we’re excited and proud to have a Camaro pacing on Sunday. We’re doing a Camaro SS on Saturday with the XFINITY, and a Silverado will be pacing tonight.

Q. Rick, we’ve seen some social media from your shop where your cars don’t have the Monster logo on the windshield. Junior at times seems to have it and then doesn’t on his uniform. How are you balancing that relationship? It appears there’s a conflict. I don’t know if you’re fighting with them or have you decided what you’re doing and what you’re not?

RICK HENDRICK: When you see our cars at the track, they’ll have the Monster logo on the windshield, on the side of the car, guys will have it on their uniform.

Q. With all the competition enhancements, everybody talks about motorsports is in limbo. Where do you see the state of motors, being team owners?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I’ll fire off first because I’m probably the oldest up here.
I’ve seen a turnover in this sport four times getting ready to see the field from all the different drivers. This driver group we’re in today, you know, a lot of them is in their 40s. We’re seeing some of them step aside.

I think the sport today, with the young talent, with Chase, Elliott, Larson, Dillon, Jones, all this group of young talent, I don’t think in my time I’ve seen this much great young talent coming along in our sport in 50 years probably.

Sport looks bright, it looks great. I think it’s going to be great. NASCAR is doing a lot to the packages to improve our product in there. I feel good about it.

CHIP GANASSI: I would say the same thing. With the young talent coming along, I think you have a group of guys coming along that are going to put their signature on this sport.
I think obviously the sport’s gone through some changes. We’re looking at a new format. These young kids, like some of us older guys, when they talk about changing the format, we look at each other, ask questions. These young drivers, they go, Okay. It’s kind of no big deal to those guys.

I think that says a lot about how they approach it, how they look forward to it. So I think it’s pretty bright when you have an attitude like that.

Q. Jim, as the manufacturer, you obviously bring resources and technology to everyone on this panel, information sharing, making sure a bowtie gets to Victory Lane. How do you work as that liaison to get information between them without getting into the proprietary bits and pieces each team develops to distinguish themselves from the others?

JIM CAMPBELL: That’s a good question. We’ve talked about it before. We use a key partners approach. If you look at the duration of our relationships, that is the definition of key partners.
We work on common problems or opportunities together to try to spend the resources once. I see Alba and Pat, who work closely with the technical directors at each of the teams.

The common issues we work on as best we can together. Things that are points of difference, the teams do those individually, the crew chiefs and drivers.
But the idea is to spend the resources on some of the toughest issues one time, and that leaves more resources for the points of difference to get the edge that they want to have for their particular teams and drivers.

We work on the power train very closely. We have a lot of capability and testing facilities inside of our company that we use with the race teams, driveline dynos. A lot on the production side, we have dedicated tools for that for racing. We put a driver simulator in North Carolina a number of years ago. We work on that together. Obviously the drivers get in there and do their simulations themselves, but in terms of the tool itself, we built that so it can be used by all the teams.

Key partners, work on common issues together. Points of difference, they do it on their own. I would say over the duration with this set of owners, plus previous owners we’ve worked with, Chevy has had 39 manufacturers champions and 31 driver championships.

We cannot rest. The competition is intense. We work on it every day, every week.

Q. Rick and Richard, there’s been a lot of talk about collaboration. I know that can be on many different levels. On the track we’ve seen other manufacturers work together in moving up through the field with the Toyotas, a little bit more with the Fords. What is the expectation for on-track collaboration? I ask that in part because I think some eyebrows would have been raised last night where you had a Chevy push a Toyota past another Chevy in a qualifying race. That raised some eyebrows. Can you define how you view the collaboration, what should be expected on the track? Are there cases where that’s not going to work out?

RICK HENDRICK: I think you saw it happening last night with the Toyotas. They couldn’t get together. They tried. They tried to form up. Everybody knew they were going to try to do that. Even when we get our own guys trying to help each other, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I think all the drivers that are driving Chevrolets know if you get a chance to help a Chevrolet, that’s what you should do. You see the Fords and Toyotas doing it. It used to be kind of you weren’t supposed to do that even if you were on a team. Now you got manufacturers that are doing it.

Things happen so quick out on the track, you know, it’s hard to put yourself in that guy’s situation because you don’t know what he’s feeling. But I know that we have a close relationship with both of these guys and their teams. They try to help when they can.

Surely Jamie helped Chase last night in that first race a lot. They worked together well. Our engines were the same. I have been in situations at Talladega and down here where I had my own cars that I thought, What were you thinking? I don’t think you can put yourself in that position. After the race, when they digest what happened, there’s usually a reason. I don’t think it’s intent.

When you get out there, everybody wants to win the race, wants to get to the end. But we know if we see everyone else doing it, we want to help the brand we’re with. So best we can do.

Q. Back to the young talent. You each picked off a Truck Series driver to bring to the XFINITY Series this year. What are your expectations for this year for those drivers growing in your organization?

RICK HENDRICK: I’m super excited. I love to watch the young guys. I don’t know whether it makes me feel young again. I don’t know what it is. I think about Jeff Gordon when I watched Chase last night.
William, I’ve been so impressed with him. In his first test in an XFINITY car, two laps in, our guys said, He’s at the edge on speed, at the edge of grip.

So it’s just fun to watch those guys mature, grow, come up through the ranks. It’s real exciting. I think Chip said it, Richard said it. Richard said it actually. I’ve never seen the level of talent that we have today. I think these guys adapt so much faster. I think it’s due to video games, simulators, all that. I mean, it doesn’t take them long to get into it.

Experience, you got to have experience down here. These guys will take you to school in a hurry. But the level of the young guys that you see coming along that have the talent that they have, it’s super exciting.
I look for William to battle for Rookie of the Year. He’s the whole package. I’m so excited about him. And Chase, to look at how he’s developed. So I’m looking forward to watching them. It’s a lot of fun to watch those young guys.

Q. Jim, you mentioned in January at some point there will be a process of picking a replacement for the SS. What are the factors that will go into that? How involved will your NASCAR programs be in selecting the model or will it be strictly based on things related to production?

JIM CAMPBELL: Well, this is the final year for the Chevrolet SS. Obviously we’re proud to be racing that on the track for the season. You can still buy them in the showrooms this year as well. It’s a fantastic road car and racecar.

We are working on what’s next. Without divulging all that, we will have an announcement at one point about what we’re going to race next year.
In general, we want to create relevance in anything we do in motorsports, NASCAR included. If you look the five series that Chevrolet is involved in – stockcar, open-wheel, drag racing, two sports car series – it’s about driving relevance from the showroom to the track, really making that connection.

That’s what is meaningful for us as a manufacturer. It’s not only the vehicle itself, it’s some of the technologies. As I mentioned earlier, some of the tools in which we prepare a production car can be honed over on the racing side and vice versa.

I think the key word there is just continuing to create relevance between the track and the showroom. We do it in every series. We’ll continue to do that going forward with NASCAR.