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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 18, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're excited to have all three manufacturers sit down with you to talk about their season. With me we have Jim Campbell, Chevrolet US vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. Ed Laukes, group vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor North America.
Before we talk about the action on the track, obviously these fierce competitors have continued to drive fan engagement throughout the year at record levels, specifically putting out great exclusive content from all three brands. This year they had a unique program that they worked with NASCAR on in which fans were entered for a chance to win new trucks, a VIP experience to Champions Week, other experiences and prizes. Really helped them connect their success on the track with fans and consumers.
Congratulations, gentlemen, on a great year on and off the track.
These Playoffs have been highlighted by intense competition. The rivalries are not exclusive to drivers and teams. I'll ask each of you to talk about your season.
Jim, we'll start with you.
JIM CAMPBELL: It's great to be with you. Sorry for my voice, I lost it here the last couple days. I was not screaming. It just went away.
This year has been exciting in many respects. We've had our share of disappointments as well. Obviously it was great to have Sauter in the hunt last night to go for a second consecutive championship. He came in second, as you know. He was a great champion last year. We're so proud of him, everybody at GMS.
The XFINITY side has been very exciting in terms of our progress there, to see so many young drivers coming through that series. They are making names for themselves. Many will go on to the Cup Series next year. We're excited today we're going to see four Chevrolet Camaros, their drivers and teams in the final championship race.
Obviously on the Cup side, some highs and lows. We had 10 wins this year. Last year Jimmie, the defending champion. That was our 31st drivers championship. We put eight drivers into the Playoff at the beginning, didn't transfer one into the final, which is very disappointing.
With that said, I'm really optimistic about what is going to happen next year. We have our new Camaro ZL1 racecar. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mike Royce, who leads our product development at our company, they basically helped debut that racecar. Jimmie Johnson, our defending champion, drove the new Camaro ZL1 to debut it this past August. We're exciting about racing the Camaro ZL1 next year.
I'm excited about the combination of drivers next year, a combination of veterans, Jimmie Johnson, McMurray, Newman, Allmendinger and Kane, these guys know how to win, combined with younger drivers that are hungry, want to make a statement. Chase Elliott coming back, Kyle Larson with absolute momentum, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher. An amazing inflection point to have these young drivers come in combined with the veterans.
Disappointed we're not in the championship today. I know the Team Chevy drivers are going to focus on winning the race.
Also it's going to be an amazing day as Dale Jr. completes his amazing career here in NASCAR. We're so proud to be a partner with him.
THE MODERATOR: Dave, your thoughts on the season.
DAVE PERICAK: I'm also glad to be here with you today. As with any season, you have your highs and lows. We have a lot of momentum going forward. If you look at the Truck Series, Chase Briscoe winning last night, his first win, extremely exciting. We had a contender in the Playoffs. Very well done by those two young men there.
XFINITY, we've been showing a lot of progress in XFINITY. See if we can't help get the owners championship for Penske today.
Then in the Cup, we have had a pretty awesome year. If you look at it overall, we've had six different drivers make it to Victory Lane from four different teams, showing that the entire Ford camp is elevating and raising the chinning bar.
We started out this season with a new team, Stewart‑Haas Racing. It's a lot of work to change over to a new manufacturer, but started off the new season with the Daytona 500 victory and here we are today with Kevin Harvick in the championship.
To have also five guys make the Playoffs, two of those be first‑time winners, was also pretty important with Mr. Blaney and Mr. Stiles. We're proud to be here Championship Weekend with two drivers contending for this title.
Overall I think it's been a really positive year for us, a lot of positive momentum, and we're looking forward to '18 because we know we've got more coming.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, your view on '17.
ED LAUKES: Good afternoon, everyone. We'll get this out of the way right away. I think you've heard me say before that we are competitors in the showroom, competitors on the racetrack, but we're all car guys. We all get along really well and work together for the betterment of the sport.
With that, I'm going to congratulate Jim on his championship in the XFINITY Series, and then at that point I'm glad he made his remarks so Dave and I can take it from this point forward (laughter). Anything else you want to add before you move on?
JIM CAMPBELL: I want to thank you for William Byron. Thank you.
ED LAUKES: You are welcome for William Byron (laughter).
JIM CAMPBELL: Congratulations on the truck championship, too.
ED LAUKES: Thank you.
Obviously 2017 starting off in the Truck Series last night with Christopher, a huge deal for us. Another manufacturers championship. We're very excited about that.
Going into XFINITY, obviously we had some challenges with some rookies this year. Going into the Cup series for the grand finale, having two teams with two seasoned drivers, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex is a huge, huge deal for us. We're poised also to win manufacturers championship for the second year in a row in Cup, which when we came into this sport was a huge deal for us.
I think some of you were writing at the beginning of the season: What was going on with Toyota? Is it the 2018 Camry that was causing the problems? We worked on it and worked on, JGR, Furniture Row, TRD, who is a linchpin of the success we have within our organization, you saw them come together. Now the result is 15 wins, 16 poles, and two guys that will be competing tomorrow for a championship.
Overall, we're really excited about that. 2018, we'll talk about that a little bit later. Right now we want to focus on finishing up this season tomorrow with another championship.
THE MODERATOR: Jim, earlier this year you unveiled the Camaro ZL1. Chevrolet put 19 drivers into the Playoffs. Talk about what 2018 looks like for you.
JIM CAMPBELL: My comments earlier really said it all. I think as we conclude the race here, this will be the final race for the Chevrolet SS. We debuted that in 2013. 73 wins. Three of those years a Chevy driver in the SS won the championship. We won three manufacturers championships during that timeframe.
The SS has actually been a big success for us. Obviously we wanted to be stronger and get into the Playoffs here in the final year. But your opportunity to change the car also (indiscernible) what goes on in the showroom. The SS, completing the production on the SS, which really spawned the selection of a new vehicle.
We really wanted to focus on‑‑ the reason why we brought the SS in is the same reason we selected the Camaro ZL1. That is fuel injected, V8, rear wheel drive, manual transmission in the showroom. The same on the racetrack for the SS. That same thing goes for the Camaro ZL1, same on the racetrack. We think that's the authentic way to do it, showroom to the racetrack. We're really pleased with that. Cannot wait to get this on the track.
We've been spending a lot of time obviously in the wind tunnel. We went through all the testing we had to do for NASCAR, got all that approved. That debuted in August at our world headquarters, it was pretty special.
I really like this combination of drivers. We're going to lose some veteran drivers, it's part of the cycle. But we have a lot of these young drivers coming up. It's exciting. They're hungry. The veterans, they want to put an exclamation point on their careers. It's a great combination.
THE MODERATOR: Ford didn't waste any time to start off the year transitioning to Stewart‑Haas Racing, Kurt Busch winning the Daytona 500. Two Playoff drivers, Brad in the finals along with Kevin. Talk about how you're feel being part of the Championship 4.
DAVE PERICAK: We're feeling really good. We struggled in the middle part of the season figuring out the new rules package with the car, keeping up with the rest of these guys. You can see we've been hitting our stride. We figured out quite a bit.
We're coming to Miami with the best that we've got. We feel very confident in what we have. That's why we're also looking forward to next season as well because we understand where the rules are going for next season. We feel we figured out how to make it work for us.
Very confident. Two veteran drivers obviously. They know how to do it. They know how to get it done. They've done it before. They're very determined and laser focused. I wouldn't want to be here with anyone else. I'm happy with who we have. Look forward to tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, 15 wins this year, the other half of the Championship 4. Talk about your success this year.
ED LAUKES: One of the things that we focus on with our teams is the family aspect of it. We really are a true racing family, work very closely together. You've all followed the personal stories that have happened within the different teams this year with Sherry, and now Barney in the hospital, one of the crew guys from Furniture Row passing away unexpectedly. Obviously we're all praying for J.D. Gibbs. You may not have heard, we also had another passing recently.
One of the things that I think is really, really part of our family is the fact that we work completely together across all lines. It's very evident with everything that we do. This morning you saw when Martin rubbed against the wall, we had the 18 guy out there trying to help him. We're really, really happy about the way these teams have all gelled together since 2007 when we came into the Cup Series. We think the relationship we have between the drivers and the teams, crew chiefs and everybody is a huge part of our success.
THE MODERATOR: With that we'll open it up to questions.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Dale Earnhardt Jr. has meant. He and his family have a long legacy with Chevrolet. What has that legacy meant?
JIM CAMPBELL: As you all know, it's been very special. The Earnhardt family and Chevrolet have a long history together. We all watched Dale Jr. grow up around the track. He worked in his father's dealership, the lube rack, changed oil as a mechanic and technician. Then he ran the modified series. He worked his way up with his brother and his sister, Kerry and Kelley, then graduates into XFINITY, wins 24 races, then two championships. That was back‑to‑back. It was incredible. Moves up to the Cup Series obviously at DEI, then later with Hendrick. Delivered 26 wins.
Think about his record at the superspeedways. 10 wins at superspeedways, nine runner‑ups, and obviously within that win number are two Daytona 500 championships.
What he's done for Chevrolet, off the track he's helped us introduce new vehicles, cars and trucks. He has introduced new crate engines, gone to a lot of our factories. Fifth general Camaro, we had him out at our proving grounds before we introduced the car to drive it, give our engineers feedback on the handling and the dynamics. He's just been a great partner all the way through.
Then to see what he has done through his foundation to give back to others and great causes is incredible. The number of charities and causes that they have provided benefit and support to, it is almost too long to list. It's incredible. But a couple that come to mind, Make a Wish, he's done over 250 wishes, and he's one of the most popular Make a Wish partners, if you will. Then a strong partnership with Nationwide and their Columbus Children's Hospital. Those are just two examples.
Amazing guy on the track, off the track, and we look forward to a long partnership with him and Kelley Earnhardt and their team for years to come.
Q. Dave, not to bring up a sore subject, but 12 years since you have won a Cup championship. What would it mean both inside your organization but also clearly from a sales and marketing point of view if you do win tomorrow?
DAVE PERICAK: Yeah, I don't sees that a sore subject, I see that as motivation. It's time, right? We owe that to our fans, to our employees, everybody that's been with us throughout the years. It is time for us to get it done. We plan to do that.
What will it mean to us? Obviously it means a lot to our program itself. It means a lot as far as the sponsorship goes, keeping that going. Then clearly we're going to leverage that for our marketing activation and things like that.
I think it would be very hard to define what winning a championship does, but it definitely is very huge. We want it more than ever. Like I said, I don't take that as‑‑ it's okay. It's been a long time.
Q. Jim and Ed, you have the new Camry, the new Camaro. Do you see translation of interest from the showroom because of that? Increase in sales or interest at all?
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I mean, I would just say in general, racing is great platform for us obviously because we learn on the track. That's a key reason, take those learnings and drive it back to the showroom products, whether the vehicle or the power train or the integration. It's a great place to develop engineers, we love all that.
When you have a chance to win races and vie for championships, it does lift what people think of Chevrolet. We do see more people put Chevrolet on their shopping list that are fans in the motorsports category. NASCAR is one of them. Chevrolet is involved in five major series. Some of our sister divisions are in racing as well in the company.
We do see a translation to sales. In the midways, what we love about racing, race fans get to the track early. Sometimes days early, many times hours early. In those midway areas is where we can show them our new Chevrolet cars, trucks, crossovers, parts accessories, crate engine. Chevrolet customers, they discover what's new about Chevrolet. If they're not, particularly Ford and Toyota customers are very interested in getting them to come to our camp, Ed, Dave.
DAVE PERICAK: Not going to happen (smiling).
JIM CAMPBELL: We do see the translation to sales, for sure, absolutely. Camaro for us, we race it in another road racing series, won a championship. Running in NHRA, what we call stock eliminator, kind of the sportsman classes, Pro Stock, all the way through. We just had a sweep in NHRA in championships. Running in XFINITY and now Cup really puts the focus on Camaro for racing. It's great.
ED LAUKES: The short answer for us is yes. You saw at the Detroit Auto Show when we introduced the new Camry, we also introduced a Cup car alongside it. Designed side‑by‑side by our designers in California. They were working on the production vehicle along with the Cup car.
The Camry has only been out for a few months now, but we've already seen the demographic come down slightly on Camry. It has been a little bit of an aging brand over time. Also that segment is also struggling overall as people start moving more to SUVs.
We're really happy with the styling of it. It's probably the most aggressively styled Camry we have ever had. The response has just been tremendous. So the answer is yes.
Q. Used to be that win on Sunday, sell on Monday, all that. With the trend for the automotive buyer now, two areas, SUVs and crossovers. It's no secret. Selling sedans, coupes, hybrids. How long do you think motorsports can still be relevant in that arena? Looking at decades, a decade, a few years? How can you translate the use of sedans and coupes to an automotive public?
DAVE PERICAK: I mean, I think it's a great question. But what we're creating by what we're doing are brand ambassadors for the entire brand. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. They want to know that the car company they're investing in is successful and that they have great engineering and whatnot. We are creating, again, those brand ambassadors.
Yes, you're right, that's where a lot of the sales are. They're still out there talking to their friends and family and people that they know. They're delivering the message that we want them to deliver. It does work for us quite well.
I think as we see the world change, I think motorsports are going to obviously change as well. I think we'll keep pace with everything that's going on in the industry.
I don't know what you guys think, but it absolutely works for us to create those brand ambassadors.
ED LAUKES: We've seen evolution before. This car based SUV thing, getting up in the 65% range with car‑based SUVs. There will have to come a time when it's going to level off. I think Dave is absolutely right. We've had those conversations many times in the past collectively, the affinity for the brand gets built around the racing program.
It works very well for us. When we started in Cup in 2007, amongst NASCAR fans, our brand affinity was 15%, now it runs about 65%. It works.
JIM CAMPBELL: I would just say we're in five series with Chevrolet. Those are moments to create energy and excitement, enthusiasm for Chevrolet overall. As I mentioned, all those places, part of our team is back in the back, on‑site activation, online activation, we're leveraging these platforms to tell a broader Chevrolet story.
It does touch on all the different new entries, whether it's new Equinox, Traverse, pickup entry. We have in our midway, you'll see us with the Volt and Bolt, which has a 238 nominal range with one charge. Amazing technology. The industry is moving very quickly.
We'll always use it as a platform to tell our entire story, like what I was saying earlier. Cars, crossovers and trucks, parts and accessories is what we focus on in our midways but also online.
Q. Jim, is all the data that you collect in the development of the Camaro, is that available to the Chevy team?
JIM CAMPBELL: Absolutely. We run what's called a key partners program in all our major teams. I see our program manager sitting here on the Cup side. We work together as one team as common development, particularly the beginning of a new vehicle. You're in the tunnel together, doing a lot of aero development together, doing performance integration together. In today's day and age of motorsports, every dollar you spend, it is a precious dollar. We try to do common projects together to move the whole performance of our Chevrolet team lineup ahead, then the teams are going to take a moment where they're going to do their own point of difference. It's just going to happen.
More and more, projects come in through our key partners program.
Q. Dave, with the Camaro coming into the Cup Series, are you introducing the Mustang?
DAVE PERICAK: Great question. I mean, Jim has been waiting for this answer.
JIM CAMPBELL: Thank you for asking it (laughter).
DAVE PERICAK: We always look at what's going on in the showroom, where we're going with our product development cycle plan. We introduced the new Fusion a couple years ago. We will be looking at introducing a new car in the future. We have not submitted anything as of yet, but stay tuned.
THE MODERATOR: With that, these gentlemen have to roll to the drivers meetings. I want to wish you luck tonight and tomorrow.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports