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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 15, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Sitting from left to right, we're joined by Jim Campbell, the U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet. Mr. Richard Childress, Richard Childress Racing. Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports. Chip Ganassi, Chip Ganassi Racing. And Richard Petty, Richard Petty Motorsports.
Jim, talk to us about what Chevrolet has happening in 2019.
JIM CAMPBELL: It's going to be an exciting year both on the track and in our showrooms. In our showrooms, we're introducing a host of new products, including our 2019 Silverado. You'll see them all over our displays here at Daytona. New Blazer is back doing really well.
It's a big year for our company in the showroom. On the track, we got our racing started here a few weeks ago at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, where we raced the Corvettes, our sister brand Cadillac ran and won overall.
For Chevrolet, excited to start here with the NASCAR season. Last weekend very exciting with the qualifying effort with Chase and Alex locking up the front row. Last weekend the first five positions showing really good individual car speed. Really looking forward to the year.
Great things happening with NASCAR. We're working very closely as part of the NASCAR OEM council on kind of marketing fan experience as well as the competition side. We're looking forward to the year.
It's a real honor to be racing with Richard and Rick, Chip and Richard Petty. Three Hall of Famers for NASCAR, and Chip obviously won every big race in every category. Real honored to be here with them and you all.
THE MODERATOR: Richard, you were in here yesterday talking about 50 years of Richard Childress Racing. Can you talk a little bit about how your relationship with Chevrolet over the years has been such an instrumental part of your success.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I was racing Chevys way before '69, but I ran a '69 Camaro here in Daytona 50 years ago. It's been a great ride. We wouldn't be where we are today, RCR wouldn't be, without General Motors, all the support from Chevy, engineering, all the help they've got.
I think we had the very first engineer back in the '80s I think it was. They've been really great for RCR. They've been great for the sport.
When you get a manufacturer like GM behind the sport, we won so many championships over the years, all of us have, it's just been a great honor.
THE MODERATOR: Rick, can you talk a little bit about how you and your team, your organization, work with Chevrolet to prepare for a racing season.
RICK HENDRICK: Again, congratulate Richard on 50 years. That's quite an accomplishment, man.
Since the beginning with Chevrolet, I mean, I started with Harry Hyde, and we had basically nothing. The engineering and the support from Chevrolet has been remarkable over the years. They've been there, that's all I've ever raced. For me to get to see the products that come to the track early, like the Camaro and the new Silverado, to race the cars we're going to sell, it's been really cool for me.
My relationship with Chevrolet goes back to my first deal in 1976. I remember the first two blocks they gave me. I thought that was a big deal, got one set of sheet metal and two blocks.
It's been a great ride. I think the thing about the bowtie in my life has been it's always stood for performance, whether it's the Corvettes or the other Camaros, drag racing, oval track racing, road racing. That's been kind of their heritage.
I've just been lucky to be a part of it all of my life.
THE MODERATOR: Chip, heading into the 2019 season with two very talented drivers, Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch, talk about your expectations for this season.
CHIP GANASSI: First I want to congratulate Richard Childress on 50 years of racing. I just got to 25 and I thought it was a hell of a lot (smiling). I got a long way to go, I guess. Long way to go to catch these three guys sitting up here with me in terms of their history in the sport, I can tell you.
I got to be honest with you, ladies and gentlemen. I got to pinch myself sometimes, I'm sitting up here on the dais with these people all because of General Motors, their history in the sport. I won some championships with them in IndyCar racing, but I got a little ways to go here yet.
I'm honored to be just even accepted by these other three team owners up here as part of the group. Obviously with General Motors, with their tradition and history in motorsports, just to be a part of that is something that as a kid I would only dream of.
Having said that, I look forward to 2019 with Kyle and Kurt. My expectation is to have two cars in Miami still running for the championship.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Petty, you've been around the sport for quite a while. Talk a little bit about the landscape of NASCAR today and your thoughts heading into the 2019 season.
RICHARD PETTY: It's really hard to say. The Daytona race basically is a continuation of last year. We go to Atlanta, we got a whole new set of rules, a whole new way of inspection, all this stuff. It's going to be a pretty exciting deal to get started with.
I've been here a long time, seen a lot of changes. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. The whole deal is trying to put it all together not only for everybody involved. When you get everybody involved, that means the fans, the news, the workers, the owners, all this kind of stuff, get them all on the same page.
NASCAR is doing everything they can, I think. The drivers and the owners are doing everything they can to kind of go to the next level with our racing. Again, starting the season next week in Atlanta basically is going to be an exciting deal. I think everybody is looking forward to that.
We're looking forward to staying and doing our deal with the Chevrolet deals. They've been real good to us as far as working with Richard Childress and working with Chevrolet. It's been a big plus for Richard Petty Motorsports.
We got a new driver. Bubba has a lot to learn. He's been to all the tracks last year, so we're looking forward to a lot better things this year.
THE MODERATOR: We have time for a few questions.
Q. Any of you could answer this. It feels like there's a little bit more of the manufacturers all sticking together in the races, maybe more so than I can remember in some recent seasons. Talk about that and what that strategy may be especially at Daytona.
JIM CAMPBELL: I'll start. Clearly at a race like this, working together where you can makes a lot of sense. That's what we're doing. All things being equal, Chevy drivers to work with the Chevy drivers, obviously in the draft.
With that said, racecar drivers, it's very situational. They got to read the track, read the competitors. I think in the end the drivers have really got to make those decisions on what they're going to do in the situation.
All these folks have driven racecars, they manage successful teams. We have to do both, working together when it makes sense and then we also have to recognize it's situational for the drivers.
One thing I think last weekend, last night, number of cars on the track, we never got a lower line going. I think in the race we'll have a chance to do that. That will be an opportunity for our drivers to work together, but also being really sensitive to what's the situation, how they get to the front.
Q. Rick and Chip, as the sport looks to contain costs for teams, are there particular areas that shouldn't be regulated that teams should still be able to allow to spend whatever they want? If there was something like a cap, 10 to 12 million per car, is that something that's reasonable for you guys?
RICK HENDRICK: I think racers, they're going to spend whatever they got to spend to get the job done. I think NASCAR has done a good job of trying to hold costs down. I mean, it's a lot of work going on with our CFO's, not just the Chevy teams, but all of the team owners and presidents are working together to look at what we're spending, how we can do it for less.
I think in the future, you're going to see other things happen with the cars, engine packages, that's going to reduce the cost. So NASCAR is really on it. When you look at it, we talk about a spending cap. I don't know how you regulate that with all we have going on. I mean, everything is on the table. I think they've done a great job.
We are in constant communication. Nothing going on with NASCAR that teams don't know about. Nothing going on with the teams that NASCAR doesn't know about. We're working hard on it.
I think we're making progress, don't you, Richard? I think it will continue to get better.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yes.
Q. NASCAR's rule now if you're caught with something after the race, it's going to be good we know exactly who the winner is Sunday, not have something pop up on a Tuesday, but how do you deal with that? Do you agree with the clear‑cut line if you're caught with something after the race?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think it's good. I think what they're doing, if they'll stick to it, it's going to be better for all of us. Racers are competitive. They're going to do everything they can to get the advantage. If you know going in you're going to get your hand slapped if you win the race, you're going to be a little more careful how you do it.
We got hit on the first round. We lost a car chief and the 13 lost one. We had a meeting after that. I got everybody's attention, I hope.
CHIP GANASSI: I look at it like‑‑ I'm going to make the connection in a second. We heard so much about them improving the facilities here at Daytona. The people up in those grandstands, they want the same amenities they have at an NFL game or Major League Baseball. I think kind of concurrent with that, they don't want all this murkiness in trying to understand what happens when a race is over, if a guy made it, blah, blah, blah.
They want to have more rules that are of today and that are comparable to other sports. Those are our competitors, are the NFL and Major League Baseball, the major sports. If we're a major sport, we have to govern like one. We need to react like one to certain issues.
Q. How do you feel the quality of the racing has been so far during Speedweeks? Has NASCAR given you any indication they might make a change for Sunday?
RICHARD PETTY: I haven't seen a whole lot of difference this year than any of the rest of the years. I think they're a little bit closer on inspection. Like I said, caught three of four of us doing things. Other than that, again, this year the rules down here are pretty much what they were last year, they're just tightening up on the rules. Other than that, I don't see a lot of changes.
Q. Do you think the racing has been good so far?
RICHARD PETTY: No, I don't.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: The biggest thing, we haven't seen full fields. You get 40 cars out there, you're going to see a different race.
RICHARD PETTY: Instead of one lane, you'll see two lanes.
RICK HENDRICK: Trying to save your primary car. Remember, this is the last race of this car. We go to Talladega, it's going to be different.
Q. Rick, just like the federal open market committee is data driven, NASCAR is becoming data driven. As someone who is involved in a lot of business, how do you balance gathering data with having personnel and travel?
RICK HENDRICK: You're forced to use the data. Some of the teams had the data before others did. Some of the organizations had it before others did. But it's good information, especially for a young driver to be able to see throttle traces, braking, wheel angles, all the things that you can capture.
Still comes down to the talent in the seat and someone calling the race, getting on and off pit road, no mistakes. We're in a data‑driven society, the way we go to market, the Internet has changed the world, the way people shop. I think it's only natural that it kind of works its way into our sport.
Q. Richard, 40 years ago you won this race on the last lap, flag‑to‑flag coverage on TV. Everyone remembers the fight between Cale, Bobby and Donnie. How important was that to NASCAR history?
RICHARD PETTY: It was one of the high points of NASCAR. Put NASCAR on a nationwide map, okay? Even though Winston had come in in '71, they started taking NASCAR all over the country. We had tracks all over the country. In '79, they had the great snowstorm, wasn't but three TV stations at that particular time. If you was going to watch TV, then the racing was probably what people were watching.
Then the people that heard about racing and stuff, they knew it was like a southern sport deal. You come down to the last lap, you see the rednecks come out in the racing part of it. I think it probably could not have played out, it was a perfect storm the way it wound up, with the weather, the way the race ended. I think that was my sixth win.
You had everything that you could put into a program, you had it that day. I think being flag‑to‑flag green flag and stuff, it couldn't have been a better footstep for NASCAR at that particular time.
Q. Jim, the automotive market shifted to SUVs. How hard is it to keep motorsports relevant in the marketplace to help sell these vehicles?
JIM CAMPBELL: For us as a company, literally over a hundred years old, motorsports have been part of what we've done. Louis Chevrolet, the cofounder of Chevrolet, him and his brothers raced at Indy. That began this tradition of performance in racing. All the changes in the auto industry, racing has been a constant for our company in one form or another.
I expect we will continue to find a way to make it relevant. For sure, propulsion technologies, the lessons you learn on aerodynamics, downforce, drag, all of the ways we prepare our cars are relevant for what we do for our showroom vehicles.
Camaro, we have Camaro, still selling Camaro in the showrooms, racing on the track. The SS in the showroom, racing on the track in Xfinity, so on. As I mentioned we were here for the Rolex. Corvette, racing on the track, selling it in the showroom.
We got to continue to adapt and continue to link what we're doing in the showroom to on the track, both from a vehicle but as to propulsion technologies, the production side.
We love racing. We have great alignment in our company around it. We have great partners as demonstrated here today, as well as drivers.
Q. Mr. Hendrick, from the dealership side of it, you deal with more than Chevrolet, do you see the sedans going away, people buying SUVs? Is it because people want that or is it because the market says that's what's going on?
RICK HENDRICK: For us, we sell a lot of Corvettes, a lot of Camaros. The crossovers, you see the numbers, that's a big part of our business. That's true across the board. That's high lines, everybody.
There's still performance sedan business with some of the makes. They're still building 600, 700, 800 horsepower cars. A lot of those cars are halo cars, like for us the Corvette, the 750 is a halo car, brings people in the showroom that buy trucks and cross‑overs, too.
We need that. There's so much of a buzz about the new Chevrolet mid‑engine Corvette. We probably could take hundreds of orders, but we don't know how many we'll get.
The bottom line is, I think a lot of the soccer moms are going to SUVs. Their husbands are driving them, too. We still have that performance end of it. When you see all these pickup trucks that come to the race, SUVs, they're Chevrolet fans, Toyota fans, Ford fans, and the manufacturers see that.
JIM CAMPBELL: Last year our company sold‑‑ first company to sell over a million cross‑overs. We're definitely investing in that. We still have core I'll call them passenger cars, sports car models that are in our lineup.
We have to do both. The buyers are really looking for a little bit more functionality, but great fuel economy as well. We're able to do that both on the car side but also on the crossover, small and mid crossovers and SUVs.
Q. Richard, you have admitted openly, as you should have, that you lucked into the '79 win. Have you ever sat down and thought that makes up for five or six you lost like that, evens out a little bit?
RICHARD PETTY: Yeah, it all evens now. We were fortunate enough to win seven of these. Probably four of them we should have won. Circumstances probably cost me three or four races, but then circumstances gave me three or four races.
In the long haul, it kind of evened itself out. You lose one, you come back next week, I'm not going to make that one up, but we'll win this one. So far it's worked out pretty good for us.
JIM CAMPBELL: Chip won the Daytona 500 with Jamie in 2010. Richard Petty, seven Daytona 500 wins, including the '79 Monte‑Carlo, which is right out here outside the media center. He won the championship that year, as well. Rick Hendrick, they've won this race eight times. The '99 Chevy that Jeff Gordon won is out there, as well, which is great. Then Richard, you won it three times, obviously last year with Austin. Great to have a Chevy Camaro in the winner's circle.
What I love about these team owners, they recognize the history, but they are immediately focused on the future. What are we going to do next and when? Great to be with you. See you on the track.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us, gentlemen. Good luck in the Daytona 500.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports