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November 6, 2020

Jim Campbell

Ed Laukes

Mark Rushbrook

THE MODERATOR: We'll kick this off. If you have any questions for these three gentlemen, please raise your hand. We are now joined by Jim Campbell; he is vice president performance and motorsports for Chevrolet; Mark Rushbrook, global director for performance; and Ed Laukes, group vice president of marketing for Toyota North America.
Jim, we'll start with you. As we head into the Championship 4, Chevrolet will compete for a driver's championship in all three NASCAR national series. Can you talk about what this opportunity means for Chevrolet?
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, thanks for waiting for me to join here. Really it's great to be here. It's fun to do this OEM council with Mark and Ed, and we're really happy this time around, we're competing in all three of the series, Truck, Xfinity and Cup, three, two, one, three Chevy drivers in the truck race tonight, two in the Xfinity on Saturday and obviously Chase Elliott on Sunday, so three, two, one, ready to go.
THE MODERATOR: Mark, Ford Performance captured its second manufacturer's championship in the last three years last weekend at Martinsville and heads into the Championship 4 with two drivers vying for the Cup Series title. Talk about Ford Performance's season with 18 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series.
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, it's been a challenging season for everybody, given the pandemic, and really proud of the industry and how everybody pulled together to be able to get a full season in like this through a lot of challenges with no practice, no qualifying. It's really a point of pride, I think, for our company to achieve the Cup manufacturer's championship. Congratulations for the Xfinity and truck championships still to be decided for manufacturer's, but we're proud to have the 18 wins. We're proud to have two drivers in fighting for the Cup championship and can't wait to see the race play out on Sunday. It's a real testament to the industry for us all to be in a situation like this, and proud to be part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mark. And then Ed, Denny Hamlin started the season winning the Daytona 500 and has the opportunity to bookend the season during championship weekend with his first Cup title. Talk about Toyota's 2020 season and how it will be marked in the history books.
ED LAUKES: Yeah, thanks. I think similar to what the comments Jim and Mark made, I'm really just proud of the industry and the way that they have reacted to this, the way that the sanctioning body and NASCAR really were the first ones to come back and be competing, the creativity that they brought.
For Toyota, this is not really the season that we would expect it to be for us, only having one car in the Cup championship, and then no one competing for a championship in trucks and Xfinity is really not how we normally would end a season.
Maybe that's one of the reasons why I'm retiring, I don't know. But anyway, at the end of the day we have had a very, very successful season on many fronts, but again, I'm going to go back and say, one win for Kyle Busch, one win for Martin Truex. We're really stoked with Denny, though. Denny had a phenomenal season starting off with Daytona, obviously, but overall, in the grand scheme of things we're really proud of the sanctioning body and NASCAR, the way that they've handled things, the way they've come back. But ultimately the way we've got to cap off this year, it's going to be really important that we have a strong competitive Sunday and hopefully bring home a championship.
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll open it up to questions from the media.

Q. We've heard a lot of talk this year about the new business model that's coming into NASCAR. Wondering what from your perspective, kind of how it's changing, what you've seen, what you would like to see change? And in working with new owners when they come in, are you involved in these conversations and trying to facilitate agreements and everything?
JIM CAMPBELL: I'll take the first one, first answer on that one.
I think NASCAR and really all the sanctioning bodies that we compete in around the globe are working within the rule set and with all their partners and stakeholders to figure out ways to get the costs of competing down and still put on amazing racing, and NASCAR has done a really terrific job of that. It's been a multiyear effort and obviously getting ready to come with the next‑gen car is another step in that direction, combined with the other things that they've done.
I think as a result of those steps, we've had new team owners take a look at coming into the series. Justin Marks created a team and announced he's going to be coming in starting next year, but the catalyst was really about where the series was going beyond.
Those teams when they're thinking about coming in, I do believe they reach out to all the OEMs. We certainly get the calls and I presume they're going to the other OEMs, as well. So I think it's exciting to see new team owners consider coming in, and part of that is can we make the sport more efficient in terms of the investment to get in and operate and yet keep the racing exciting and for manufactures keeping it relevant for the reasons we're in it, as well, which is we want to connect what we're selling on the track‑‑ in the showroom to what we're racing on the track and vice versa.
That would be my take on it. Thanks.
MARK RUSHBROOK: Just adding to some of those comments, the change in the direction by NASCAR for the next‑gen car was certainly a lot about relevancy to make the car look more like the street car, to make what's underneath the car more like the street car, to allow us more opportunities for innovation and tech transfer, so that part of it is great. We're looking forward to that in 2022 when the car debuts.
And then the economics around that car are very beneficial for the entire industry, for all stakeholders in the industry, whether it's team owners, manufacturers, everybody in the sport is going to benefit from that.
Other things that have benefitted certainly the no practice, no qualifying this year, while forced by the pandemic, has also helped the economics and team ownership model, and continuing that into next year for a large number of the races I think is going to help, as well. Some other changes to the engine rules will help with some of the economics there, as well, while still giving us a really good basis for competition as manufacturers and engine builders and teams, as well.
So I think there's a lot of good positive change in the sport in a lot of different directions but specifically to your question about the business model, I think it's helping everybody and especially the new ability for new or different team owners to come into the sport. We welcome them all. Happy to talk to them, and we're really happy with the ones that we see coming in next year with Michael Jordan in Toyota and with the Trackhouse team with Chevy and what Matt Tifft is doing coming in with Ford. Optimistic about the team ownership model and overall economics going forward.
ED LAUKES: Yeah, there's not really much I can add to what Mark and Jim have already covered. In the manufacturing world that we live in every single day, that's all we live for is to try to make better cars and bring our costs down and become more efficient, so it's very, very natural for us as manufacturers to be involved in this type of process, to be able to bring a very, very quality product to the marketplace at reduced costs and bringing our costs down but keeping the quality and the standards up at a very, very high level.

Q. Ed, do you know after you retire, are they going to fill your role specifically, and will that cover all the things you do, or could there be kind of some reorganization?
ED LAUKES: You know, there's a lot of discussion going on. I don't know whether or not I'm replaceable, frankly. That should be like the headline. If you ask Mark and Jim, they'll say absolutely not under any circumstances. There's a lot of discussion about structure and how we do things.
I was fortunate enough to be brought to work with the motorsports program in 2007 when we went into Cup, so from 2007 all the way on now through 2020 I've been, as you know, mostly the face of Toyota Racing, so from a sales marketing and operations perspective, that's really to be determined.

Q. And for Jim, can you talk to me about how much‑‑ how involved were you as far as Kyle Larson returning to a Chevrolet at Hendrick, and did you have to approve it? Did you spend any time talking to him? And do you guys have a‑‑ does he have any sort of personal services deal with you?
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, you know, certainly watched what Kyle was doing after he was suspended in April, the actions that we took and the reasons that we took the actions, and we did‑‑ we were aware of the things that he was doing in terms of what was required from NASCAR, and also aware of some things that he was doing on his own to learn, to understand better, and to be a positive part of change going forward, obviously off the track at that point but his aspirations are to get back on the track.
I have had a chance to talk to him two different times, and the reasons I wanted to talk to him was to understand where he was at and what he had learned and what was he prepared to do going forward. In terms of a personal service agreement, we don't have a personal service agreement with Kyle. He is obviously going to work for Rick. We have an arrangement with Rick Hendrick, and then he has his affiliated drivers.
We did take a look at all the things that he did that were required and things that he did above and beyond that. You may be aware of the long‑standing relationship we have with the Urban Youth Racing School, and Kyle was involved in that school before the incident in April, and he continues to be involved in that, and he's actually taken a lot of counsel from Anthony and Michelle Martin, some sessions where they talked for quite a long time. He also met with one of the students that was a champion of the 2019 program for the Urban Youth Racing School, which is both a system‑related classroom kind of scoring system and then an on‑track performance for go‑karting. So he did have a chance to meet with the student who was the champion and family members and had a long discussion with them about what happened and apologized for it and then committed to being part of a positive change going forward, not only on the track and off the track within his NASCAR role but also continuing to support the Urban Youth Racing School and the students there.

Q. I ask this question, but after I ask I'm going to put it on mute and let everybody answer it. The global pandemic has had a major impact for you guys I would think on not only your production lines but also sales divisions. We've seen other racing series around the world be affected by it seems like almost daily we hear about manufacturer decisions being made in other series. How well insulated is NASCAR from the economic ramifications, the fallout from the pandemic as far as the manufacturers, and why would NASCAR be well insulated if you think it is?
MARK RUSHBROOK: I think from a Ford perspective, what we've seen through all of this, through the pandemic, through the economic challenges around the world and specifically to our company, it has impacted budgets everywhere throughout the company, not just motorsports, it has impacts motorsports but our company had to adjust to what was happening in the world, and we were part of this company and we had to make our contribution to adjusting our budgets to reflect that.
I think that the great thing that NASCAR has going for it is the momentum that was already building within the sport and what they demonstrated this year with their leadership and with the stakeholders in the industry, they showed to the world that they can work together to pull off a very successful season.
I can't say that NASCAR budgets are not impacted. They certainly have been. But that doesn't mean that the sport gets any worse because of it. In fact I think it got better because we just showed with a passion of the people in this sport that we can put on great races and execute and get a full season, and here we are in Phoenix just as planned at the beginning of the season for a championship weekend across three great series.
TV numbers have been good, as well, so there's a lot of positive momentum behind what the product that NASCAR is putting on the track and on TV and in front of fans and looking forward to seeing that continuing, and it's a big part of who we are, motorsports in total, and NASCAR is a big part of that, and looking forward to the bright future that's coming.
ED LAUKES: Thanks for that question. There's so many things that have happened that I don't believe that so many industries were not prepared for, but from an automobile sales perspective after our plants being shut down for nine weeks, we've seen a tremendous recovery on the retail side of the business, and I think my counterparts at Ford and Chevrolet have also enjoyed the same.
The retail environment has rebounded, as I said, a lot quicker than I thought it would. Organically a lot of money was saved by at track activation, hosting, all those other things, and then we also did a lot of adapting and doing a lot more social type of programs, social media type of programs, and working around finding new ways to be able to communicate, embrace and showcase our products to our customers.
That evolution has started at the dealership level with regard to online buying, and I think all those things are all going to evolve over time. As Mark talked about, the racing program is really a strong part of who we are and who we are in America, and as things change and as this next car comes along, we'll be able to, again, just as the teams will, eventually start to bring our costs down and do more things.
But I think the way that we communicate with our fans, the way we showcase our products, all those things have all been a result of this, and so it was a great learning opportunity for us, as well.
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, similar comments from us. I mean, the key thing is we had to adapt and adapt fast. That's what we did. The sport had to do it. As participants and stakeholders in the sport, we did it. We did it in our car business. As Ed said, our factories were shut down for eight, nine weeks, and that really required us to really adapt very quickly. But the market is coming back. We're super excited about that. Our factories are running full out, three shifts at most plants. We're getting everything we can to meet the demand and the demand on the retail side is coming back, which is great.
But in the meantime, we learned a lot, not only in our own operations and how we can work remotely efficiently and do it and still get output that is high quality and meeting key deadlines as we do our product development programs, but also on our activation and platforms like racing at NASCAR but many other platforms, as well.
As Ed had suggested, and we're seeing the same thing, customers obviously not going‑‑ we're not going to the stores as frequently and obviously in many states there were rules on whether they could or couldn't, so the online shopping element and interacting with us on an online basis is really becoming a lot more popular. It's a path we were on. It's accelerated our development in that area, and we're seeing really good results.
We did have a lot of kind of organic savings, as Ed said, on not activating at track, but then we're spending a lot more time and effort around social media activities and other innovative ways of kind of helping drive our business on this platform. We'll continue to do that. We've learned a lot this year in motorsports and in our own operations that will go on for a long, long time.
The other small item is we used to travel a lot of people to track also on the technical side, and that's restricted now, as you may be aware, and so we find we can get a lot of what we need to done from home base and in a virtual way. That probably will continue to a large part because it's fairly efficient.
That would be the way we would take a look at it.

Q. This is kind of just one question to each of you, but obviously it seems like there's a lot more ownership interests than there are charters available, and so I'm wondering if you want to see NASCAR expand the number of charters available in the Cup Series.
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, I'll take the first answer. I mean, there are a limited number of charters. I would say you're right, the demand for the charters seems to be kind of going in a direction north, which is good. I think that there are still charters that a new team owner could get access to or create a lease arrangement or buy it, and I think over time there's overwhelming new owner demand, I think that's something that the series will have to pause and take a look at along with the team owners and the relationship they have.
One thing NASCAR has done very well over the past, I don't know, five, seven, eight years is they're communicating with their stakeholders. We feel it as OEMs, and I know Ed and Mark quite well is because we sit in meetings with NASCAR, and otherwise we don't sit in meetings together because we're competing in the showroom against one another and on the track, but there are moments where we come together.
So, I think that NASCAR has that same arrangement with the team owners, and that's something that I think could certainly be discussed as the demand for and interest by new team owners accelerates.
ED LAUKES: Obviously the charter system was developed in order to bring additional value and to improve the racing product. I think there's going to be more and more charters that are going to be available, like Jim said. I think that's really a real nice question for the ownership body.

Q. The next‑gen car, what will it mean to your brand, and how close are you guys to getting one on track?
MARK RUSHBROOK: I can jump in. We're excited about the next‑gen car. We've been supportive‑‑ I think Chevy, Toyota and Ford have all been part of wanting the next‑gen car and setting the definition of what it was going to be and what it wasn't going to be. That's been started over two years ago and it's good to see it coming to the level that it is now, and we can't wait to see it get on track. But for us it is important for the looks of the car to be much closer to what we have in the showroom and on the street and what we're going to have on the racetrack, and underneath with the technology and architecture of the car being much more similar to what we sell on the street and what we have on the race car so that we'll get even more learning from racing that architecture and more learning from our processes and our tools that are even closer and more relevant therefore as a result of that.
I think it's important for the sport to maintain that relevance and closeness of the race cars and street cars, and I think it's going to be great racing, just like we see today. There's some elements when you bring hybrid in, as well, further into the future that it can increase some of the passing opportunities if we have the extra boost available from the hybrid to create even more excitement than what we see today.
It's important for us for that relevancy and I think for the sport and the excitement of the racing on the track.
ED LAUKES: I think Mark pretty much said everything. The relevancy is a big deal. Jim mentioned the collaboration, and you guys have all heard me say that before. I just really appreciate the fact that we can compete in the showroom and we can compete, but when we need to come together for the good of the sport, collectively we can all work together, and it really has been a privilege to be able to work with all these guys because at the end of the day we're all car people, and we want the industry to succeed and we want all the racing programs that we participate in to succeed, as well.
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I agree with that and Mark's comments there. For us, the car is going to look more like the car we sell and updated to relatable connected to what we're selling in the showroom. Those are key factors for us, and then figuring out when we do that along the way improving the process so we can get the costs down and make it more efficient as we go to the racetrack all the way through the system, for us, for the teams and for the whole enterprise, including NASCAR. Those are important‑‑ those three things are important for us.

Q. Ed, what are you going to do with your free time?
ED LAUKES: Thanks, I really appreciate that. Thank you to everyone that's on this call and everybody that's been‑‑ I just want to thank everybody for helping me along the way and teaching me, including Mark and Jim. These guys were around when I showed up, too, as well as some of their other counterparts at Ford and at Chevrolet. The question is I haven't decided yet what I want to do. I don't know about going from 60 to 0 overnight, so I might do some consulting or something like that. I'm really not sure. Maybe Mark or Jim will hire me to come in and share some of the Toyota secrets. I'm just kidding. Please don't print that.

Q. As part of the adjustments that you've had to do this year, we can't disguise the fact that sales are coming up, they're coming back up but they are down, but part of the adjustments, you seem to say you've learned a lot, but going forward, shorter weekends, these one‑day things are going to continue for 2021 at most tracks and maybe for the long‑term and maybe beyond this pandemic. Do you all think that's a good thing, and do you think you'll still be continuing to look for ways to exploit that, look for different opportunities beyond what you're already doing or do you feel in a pretty good state where you're at?
JIM CAMPBELL: I'll take that one first. Yeah, there's no doubt, the shorter programs give you less opportunity with the fans at the track, so that is definitely true. However, I do think it does‑‑ there are indications that some of the events there will be a longer format weekend so we'll take full advantage of that.
One thing that's maybe been happening kind of behind the scenes all along that maybe you've picked up or maybe you haven't is with the ability to really leverage the digital platforms. A lot of the activation and energy we can get to so many people with the digital platforms, and certainly we love being at the track. We have just a massive tradition of it for decades and decades, so we'll combine them both.
To the degree that sometimes race fans were coming to the races Friday, Saturday, Sunday and we'd see them two, three times, we'll probably have a chance to see them on those particular weekends you're referring to one time. We'll make it a great experience. We'll bring our products, we'll bring our experts out, we'll do driver interviews, we'll make it really engaging and then a lot of self discovery and we'll have experts there to answer the questions on a car or a truck or technology or utility that they're interested in.
So it's going to be‑‑ we're going to adapt. We're going to be more efficient, and then there certainly will be some of the races which will be longer format and we'll take full advantage.
ED LAUKES: Yeah, I agree 100 percent with Jim. I think it's interesting, this is ‑‑ the intimacy of the sport still gives you a really nice opportunity to be able to showcase what your brand stands for beyond just products, and people get to have that type of interaction.
I would say that as OEs, because we are primarily out there on the midway and interacting with the fans in person more so than maybe a lot of other brands, that we want to talk to NASCAR about scheduling those type of things so that we can make sure that we can leverage that a little bit, and then we have the ability to be able to, as Jim said, talk to them a couple times during the weekend but then also with that engagement comes our ability to be able to follow up with them, and again, show case who and what we're all about.
That along with TV ratings and all those other things all plays into the total investment.
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, I agree with everything that Ed and Jim have said. The important thing is the opportunity to engage with the fans. We can still do that. As we start to exit the pandemic next year hopefully with a vaccine and the ability to get more people and back to more normal, there are some benefits for the teams and everybody with the reduced practice and qualifying, and I think part of as NASCAR is planning for the future, as we're reinventing what the sport is, there are other ways that we can fill the time or create exciting interactions with the fans and the drivers and the OEMs in different ways that we haven't done before, and I think that's part of what we need to do working together, again, as an industry, to look for those opportunities. I don't know what it is yet. We've got some ideas and I'm sure others do, but that's an opportunity that I think we need to be looking for in the future, as well.

Q. Ed, thanks for all you've done for your teams and all of us in the media. My question is do you have a favorite motorsports memory that stands out?
ED LAUKES: I talk about this one a lot, but I think the 2015 season with Kyle starting off with all the emotion from the wreck in the Xfinity race, the comeback, being in Sonoma with him when he had his first win coming back, and then our first Cup championship that year probably overall is probably my favorite, but there's a lot of them.
I mean, my very first race that I went to in 2007 in the Cup Series there were a lot of people that weren't very happy about Toyota participating, so it gave us a real opportunity to be able to showcase who we are and who we are as a brand and who we are as a company. That growth over time really has been spectacular, as well.

Q. Jim, you kind of touched on it with Chevrolet being back in the Final Four; being there, of course, is always important, is always a big deal, but can you talk about how big it was and how important it is to get back there this year after three years of being locked out?
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I mean, there's no doubt about it. We've done these OEM press conferences for a lot of years. It's definitely more fun when you have a Chevy in the final, and it's something in our history we're used to, so it's great to be back. You know, you take a look at‑‑ you guys follow the racing closely because of your jobs. It is so difficult to win one race, and so to see Chase have a year where he won four times and he won in a clutch moment in the Round of Eight at Martinsville, just an amazing race, it could have gone any which way, and we're so proud of him and what him and Alan did and the whole team at Hendrick, so super excited.
I think it's going to be‑‑ these four drivers are just absolutely incredibly talented. It's going to be an absolute shootout.
And then I reflect on the last time we were in, which was in '16 and Jimmie Johnson went on and won the championship. Here we are, Jimmie's last race as a full‑time NASCAR driver. We're proud of everything he's done. Jimmie, any time he's raced on four wheels it's been with Chevy. It started with off‑road trucks in a bunch of different off‑road truck series and then kind of got to the pavement with the different series going in through what would be called Xfinity today and on to Cup with Rick Hendrick. It's been an incredible run. You guys know the stats as good as any. I did a see a stat that Jimmie over his career has led 18,937 laps to date. I'm sure he's going to want to put some more on that one to top off his career. What an incredible run. We're so proud of everything he's done.
And like so many of the drivers, not only on the track but what Jimmie has done off the track, what an incredible partner and couldn't be prouder.
Looking forward to the weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It's great to be racing. There's a lot of things going on with the pandemic and in the world. It's great to be thinking about a championship weekend here, and we'll hope the race fans really enjoy all the racing in Truck, Xfinity and the Cup Series.

Q. We've heard drivers be kind of split on whether or not a six‑season is successful depending on if they make the Championship 4 or not. Just curious from a manufacturer's standpoint can a season still be successful if you don't make it to the championship right, or is all that matters making it to the Final Four?
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, is that question for me?

Q. Yeah, but if Ed or Mark‑‑
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, certainly, the goal of every one of our teams and I'm sure it's probably true beyond, is to win a championship. But believe me, tomorrow there's four‑‑ as you know, four drivers will go for the championship on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the rest of those drivers, they are going to want to make a statement. They're going to want to get to the front and lead laps and put a win on the board. Believe me, it's going to be that intense.
Obviously kind of the gold standard of a season is to win the championship, but there's a lot of ways that define success, and I also think in racing, I've asked a number of team owners about this over the years that I've had a chance to get to know, and when teams win what do you do, when teams don't win, what do you do, and in the end it's kind of like, what's the momentum of the program of that particular team.
Everyone is going to define success in different ways, but one way is do you have momentum, are you building a successful program, a team dynamic, and if you are, that could be considered a success to set the table for the following season. So that's the way I would take a look at it.
ED LAUKES: I think Jim is right on. I think the gold standard is winning a championship. The reason why we're here is to compete, win races and win championships. But the other big piece of it is watching these teams grow and develop, watching these drivers grow and develop, and all that so that the definition of what the deemed as successful overall in the big picture of things, you have to take it on a team‑by‑team basis and a series‑by‑series basis. But ultimately as I said earlier, not having a truck or a car in Xfinity or in Camping World Series, not having a vehicle in the Final Four is a disappointment for us. We're not used to that. We're going to show up at the race tonight and show up at the race on Saturday and cheer for Toyota to win the race, obviously, and then congratulate Jim and Mark on an unbelievable season and congratulate their winning drivers.
MARK RUSHBROOK: Yeah, I would agree for sure with Jim and Ed. I think for our program as a manufacturer, we would judge success on whether we have a driver into the Final Four or not. When we look at our individual teams and individual drivers, we don't because the teams are all in different places, the drivers are all in different places in their career or the teams in terms of where they might be in terms of rebuilding internally and engineering depth and structure and everything else.
So we can't have‑‑ we've got 13 drivers that we support. Obviously we can't get all 13 of them into the Final Four. But we look at each 13 of those and judge their success as drivers and the teams that support them and sit down at the end of the year and say, what went well, what's not working well and how do we strengthen that part of our collective programs as a manufacturer and a team and a driver relationship.
Always judging and assessing that and looking for where we can make our overall program stronger.
THE MODERATOR: I think that'll wrap it up. Jim, Mark, Ed, thank you so much for your time and your activation in our sport. Best of luck this weekend, enjoy the races and good luck especially on Sunday for all three of you. It's great to have all three OEMs in the championship for the biggest motorsports series in the world. Have a great weekend, safe travels out here and good luck on Sunday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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