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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 16, 2018
THE MODERATOR: I'm pleased to have with us here today Jim Campbell. He's the Chevrolet USA vice president, truck strategy performance vehicles and motorsports.
Richard Childress, Richard Childress Racing.
Chip Ganassi, Chip Ganassi Racing.
Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports.
Richard Petty, Richard Petty Motorsports.
Not only will a Chevrolet lead the pack on Sunday with Alex Bowman, it's also the debut of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Jim, what is it like racing with these four owners?
JIM CAMPBELL: It is a real honor to race with these four Chevrolet team owners. It's absolutely incredible. To think that next to me, obviously Richard Childress, the Hall of Fame class of 2017, with two wins here at the Daytona 500, 107 wins overall with Chevrolet at the Cup level, not to mention six championships at that level. Also XFINITY and Truck. Incredible to be sitting here with Richard.
Obviously Rick Hendrick, eight‑time winner here at this race, Daytona 500, 249 Chevy wins at the Cup level, 12 championships at that level as well. Absolutely incredible. Class of 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Chip Ganassi, obviously won this race in 2010. I stood in the winner's circle with him. It was an amazing year that year. We won a lot of races together here with Chevrolet, 11 Cup wins, plus XFINITY. We also had a chance to win a championship in IndyCar together in 2015. He was here celebrating a win at the Rolex just not too long ago. It's great to race with him.
Obviously, having Richard Petty back with Chevrolet is really exciting. He had six wins with Chevrolet in '79 and '80. First win was at Martinsville. He won 31 times at the Cup level with Chevrolet and our other divisions in our company. He won this race seven times.
Amongst all these owners here, 20 wins at the Daytona 500. We couldn't be prouder.
THE MODERATOR: It was a very special day, Jim, back in August when you all debuted the new Camaro ZL1 at your headquarters.
First question is to Mr. Hendrick. What is it like racing this new car?
RICK HENDRICK: To me, it's like a dream come true being a dealer. I'm a huge Camaro fan, Corvette and Camaro. I've got one of the original ZL1s.
To see the car we have in the showroom exactly like that on a racetrack, it's going to be win on Sunday, sell on Monday. I hope that's going to work regardless.
It's such a good‑looking car. Chevrolet did more work on this car than any car they've ever brought into this series. But this is such an iconic car. If you think about a ZL1, if you have one today, in an auction it will bring between $300,000 and $600,000.
It's an amazing car, iconic nameplate with Chevrolet. As a dealer, I am more than excited to be able to have this car on the showroom floor and to race it on Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Childress, your thoughts?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It's great. I ran a Camaro in the Talladega 500 in 1969 when the track was opened. To be running a Camaro again today in NASCAR is unbelievable. Like Rick said, this car looks so much‑‑ everybody has worked hard to keep it looking like our street version of the ZL1.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Petty, your thoughts on the new car? Bubba will be sitting No.7.
RICHARD PETTY: Really looking forward to it. We're working a whole lot with Chevrolet, working with RCR. Sort of a new chapter in Richard Petty Motorsports' book. We got a new shop, we got a new car, we got a new driver. Had a pretty good night last night. I was very appreciative of how everything went for us last night. Everything was brand‑new to us.
We're looking forward to the rest of the year, like everybody else. From our standpoint, it was almost like winning. Really we did win because it's a brand‑new team.
Chevrolet has been really behind us to try to get us up to speed on how they run their operations and stuff. So far it's been good. We're looking forward to bigger and better things.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Ganassi, your thoughts on the first experience with this car on track?
CHIP GANASSI: It's obviously pretty exciting. As Jim said, getting started at the end of the summer last year with, first of all, the excitement of the iconic nameplate. When we heard it was going to be a Camaro, then of course seeing little pieces, parts and pieces come through the race shop as they began to build it. They kept saying, It's going to be like the showroom car, like the showroom car. We've all heard that for a long time.
It actually is. It really was. That was kind of a nice surprise. Yeah, very excited. Obviously we're excited about the performance the last few days here at Daytona. Certainly looking forward to Sunday.
JIM CAMPBELL: I would just add, the development of the Camaro, a total collaborative effort with the Chevrolet teams and our engineers. We'll have our chief designer for Chevrolet here this afternoon. He did the original design and sketch. Then we worked together with the teams and our engineers, really intensive CFD analysis, then 40% scale model. You iterate between those two over and over again until we get the car in terms of downforce, drag side force where you want it. We did full scale wind tunnel testing, then obviously our submission to NASCAR, got that approved.
It's been a great process. We're thrilled that it's running on track.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Jim, you won 10 races last year, but the Toyotas were pretty dominant. Talk about the pressure of having to debut this new Camaro, all that goes into that, plus having to play catch‑up to make sure you're competitive.
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, we're in a pressure sport, I can tell you that. Every single weekend Chevrolet is racing somewhere in the world in one of about six series. We definitely understand that piece of it.
We introduced the Chevrolet SS in '13 along with the other Gen‑6 entries. This is our first opportunity to refresh and come with a new model. You have to do that when you have a production model that changes. You can't do it at‑will.
In some ways, Ford did the introduction in '13, then they updated in '16. The Camry went '13, '15, '17. They got a few more changes of their body style.
This one was really important to us, number one, to make sure we connect the track and the showroom together. We want authenticity. Fuel‑injected V8 in the showroom, rear‑wheel drive configuration, manual transmission. That's how you buy it in the showroom, that's how you race it on the track. Not doing front wheel drive in the showroom and rear wheel on the track. We selected the Camaro because we could stay with that authenticity.
We worked very closely with these teams here, their engineers, our engineers, to make sure we had the downforce, side force, the drag. There's some requirements you have to meet for NASCAR, but there's also choices within that of how you balance the car. We worked very closely to do that.
Yeah, this is a big deal. We're in a performance sport. 39 manufacturers championships, over 30 drivers championships. Last year was one year. We're now onto '18. Our goal is to win the manufacturers championship and work with the drivers to give them the best chance to win races, make the Playoff, drive to a championship. Those are our objectives every single year.
Q. Team owners, talk about the resources you had to devote going into this redesign, still remain competitive. You were looking for the future to debut this car, but you had to remain competitive.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It was just a great team effort from all the teams at Chevy. We were concentrating on 2017, but we knew we had to come with a really great racecar to come out this year. We did a lot of work. All three of us right here at the time were working together to get the best product. I think we got us a winner here.
Q. For each of you, as owners and head of an OEM, each of you have worked with Brent Dewar. How has he performed in your view as president of NASCAR?
JIM CAMPBELL: One of the things that Brent, also Mike, Steve Phelps, O'Donnell, Jill Gregory, with the support obviously of Brian and Lesa and Jim, one thing they instituted in a very formal way was what's called an OEM council. In our world, in the automobile business, it is standard practice. You have a dealer council that you work with on the variable side of the business where we sell new cars and used cars, do financing, and you do the same thing on the fixed operations and service and parts business, body shop business.
Rick obviously is close to that piece of it.
That created a forum where NASCAR can sit with the three OEMs and talk about issues on the competition and marketing side. That I will tell you we value. I want to hear things ahead of time, not after. This forum gives us that exact‑ability.
That's one thing that Brent, Mike and their leadership team, with support of Brian, Jim and Lesa, instituted that we value a lot.
RICK HENDRICK: I worked with Brent when he was with Chevrolet and General Motors. Very smart, very innovative. He listens. I think he's done a super job. You don't always agree. That's just normal in this sport, in racing. I think he's had a lot come at him from the RTA and everything else in the sport.
As the sport evolves, I think he was a good pick.
Q. Jim, in talking with crew chiefs and some of the backroom guys of the race teams last year, Toyota was in the wind tunnel three to four days a week all season long with a car that had already been established. What kind of commitment has Chevy made to their teams for 2018 and beyond wind tunnel‑wise and development‑wise on this new car?
JIM CAMPBELL: What I describe in the process in which we developed it, these are sets of tools that we use. Wind tunnel is a key tool for us. The specifics of what we're doing I'm not going to reveal. I will tell you we are committed to providing all the tools we need to stay right on top of this vehicle.
While wind tunnel is one of them, we're also deep into simulation, simulators. Using those tools in conjunction one with the other is really quite important. We're in six, seven race series across the industry, across the globe. We use all those tools in conjunction one to the other.
Chevy has had a pretty good run across the different series. Obviously we have some work to do in Cup. We're going to do that. Wind tunnel is one of many elements we'll use.
Q. Any of the owners, when you drive up here to Daytona for the first time to begin the new season, what are some of the memories that start flooding?
RICHARD PETTY: Came up here in '59, came through the tunnel, had a racecar hung on the back of a pickup truck. There was one little building in the infield, which was the NASCAR inspection station.
The track, first time we seen anything with a bank like that. Looked like a wall, okay? It was a 21‑year‑old kid, looked like I'd died and gone to heaven as far as the racetrack is concerned. We started out here with nothing. You see what they built since then.
Q. For the car owners, when you saw how much work was done and the final numbers, side force, downforce, were you 100% confident you were going to jump out of the box a lot stronger this year than you ended last season?
CHIP GANASSI: I'll tell you, sitting up here with these guys, talking about the history at Daytona here, the 20 wins at the table, the history that these guys have in the sport, I can tell you I don't think any of us were ever 100% confident when you roll off the truck how you're going to be. I don't know about you guys. There's always that.
You can do all the simulation you want, you can do all the wind tunnel time you want. Until that driver comes back on the radio that first time around, really there's always that question in your mind.
At least that's how it is for me. You're never 100%, never. I'm not sure we're 100% now.
Q. Does the pointed nose of the Camaro give you an advantage in the photo finish? But seriously, bump‑drafting, have you had to make any modifications on you how approach that, or maybe starts?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I don't think it's going to bump‑draft that well. I think we seen it the other night in the Clash. I don't think any of these cars are going to bump‑draft very good. It doesn't matter which ones they are. I haven't really seen anybody.
I know last night, maybe it was in the Clash, last night Newman told me, I can't pull up there and push him on one of the restarts. They're a little bit hesitant right now with the nose. I don't think any of the cars can bump‑draft that good.
CHIP GANASSI: That's probably more of not so much the body but the fact that the rules have changed a little bit in terms of the rear‑end of the car. You can sort of run what you want. That might have something to do with that, as well.
Q. Richard, what was wrong with Austin Dillon's car? He finished pretty decent in the Duel, but went to a backup.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: When the 20 crashed, he come across and knocked his whole front end down and bent the front snout down. That's where all the sparks were coming from. Chip's team has changed, but we just felt we had another car that was as good. NASCAR let us change it out. This Hawkeye, you got to really be on it to get through.
Q. I'm creeping toward the legal retirement age. All three of you guys are well over the retirement age, but you keep on going. What is the motivation for continuing to work past the government retirement age?
RICK HENDRICK: Debt will do it. If you have enough debt, that will do it (smiling).
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Richard, you going to answer this one since you're our senior?
RICHARD PETTY: You know, I've been going to the races since I was 11 years old. Drove the racecar, it was a hobby. Now basically it's a hobby. Trying to make a living out of it, too. It's in your blood. I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't do the racing part.
I guess when my toes turn up, I'll still be at the racetrack somewhere.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I came here the first time like Richard, I came here in 1965, was my first time working for another team. We stayed in a tent out here off of Nova Road.
I just love the sport. I love how I've been fortunate enough to do what we've been able to do in such a great sport.
CHIP GANASSI: I'm just trying to push all those guys out to make more room for me.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Campbell, I understand you gathered this crew for a pretty special photo.
JIM CAMPBELL: First of all, I want to say about all four of these team owners, other team owners we work with, the passion they have for the sport is absolutely incredible. Every single day they think about how to get better, faster. We work in collaboration. They push us, we push them. There's so much passion up here.
I want to tell you a story. We had a special moment before the race here. We gathered next door at our Chevrolet Experience Center. For those of you who know what that was before, that was the old winner's circle. I was standing with these four team owners who have 20 wins here. We had a chance to take a picture with Firebird 1, which was designed by a guy named Charlie Earl, the chief stylist at our company. The model on top of the Daytona 500 trophy is that Firebird 1. Jet turbine, kerosene fueled, two speed, power glide transmission.
It was fun to talk to them, especially Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, about standing in the old winner's circle when they won the race as drivers. Chip and I had a chance to stand in the new winner's circle in 2010.
Q. Where is the next generation of team ownership coming from? At some point you might want to play golf, get on your sailboat, do whatever.
RICHARD PETTY: I got about 25 people with the name Petty on the end of it. They'll be here for a while (smiling).
RICK HENDRICK: My son‑in‑law, Marshall Carlson, is doing an unbelievable job. He's the president of motorsports. He's 42. Gordon wants to be around. Junior, we're partners up at the XFINITY deal. He's retired driving.
I think our deal is in good shape for the future.
JIM CAMPBELL: In the car business we go through transitions over time. For the most part our dealer partners do have a plan of succession, bringing people up. Part of that is training, getting people experiences in different jobs. It's really important. I see a lot of that happening with all of our teams in all of the series we compete in.
Q. (No microphone.)
RICHARD CHILDRESS: She can run it better than me. She runs our winery, some of our other businesses. She's our consultant. Believe me, I hear about it every Monday morning, sometimes Sunday night.
Q. It doesn't sound like team ownership is something you're particularly concerned about going forward. In that case, what would you say is the biggest challenge on and off the track facing the sport moving forward?
CHIP GANASSI: That's a good win. The biggest challenge on and off the track facing the sport?
I think the biggest challenge on and off the track facing the sport, these guys up here have been in the sport a lot longer than me, and I feel like I've been it in a long time myself. We're not only competing against each other on Sunday, we all sit up here and work together, but on Sunday we want to kick each other's rear‑ends pretty hard when it comes down to it.
The fact of the matter is I think the biggest challenge facing all sports today is competing with each other for that sportsfan. Sportsfans today have so many choices. I think that's a big part of it.
I think we also grew up in an era, at least I did, where we idolized, our fans growing up, the players, the professionals. I know I idolized this guy sitting down here at the end of the table. I used to sit at home on Sunday in February in Pittsburgh watching it snow before I was a part of motorsports.
Today I don't know who these kids idolize. They have many more people that they look to, just how they grew up. It's not only their sporting heroes. It could be the MTV culture, that world. They idolize other people besides sports stars.
I think that's the biggest challenge for all sports.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for your time today. Best of luck the rest of the weekend.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports