|The Chevy team owners hope the revised Camaro bodywork will make them more competitive after Ford and Toyota have embarrassed them every since the Camaro was introduced into NASCAR. Mysteriously the Camaro always wins the Daytona 500 pole but races horribly. They hope things are better this time around|
THE MODERATOR: We're joined here now by Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet; Richard Childress from Richard Childress Racing; Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports; Chip Ganassi from Chip Ganassi Racing; and Richard Petty, Richard Petty Motorsports.
Jim, Chevrolet is entering the 2020 season with 786 victories since 1949, more than any other manufacturer. Talk to us about your expectations for the 2020 season.
JIM CAMPBELL: It's great to be here in Daytona. I live in Detroit. Coming to Daytona, it's always great to be here. This is a tradition to kick off the season right here.
786 victories, the team owners that we race with, an incredible group. They represent over 47% of those victories right here. I couldn't be prouder to be racing with each one of them.
What I'm most proud of here is the way each one of these team owners, their competition directors, crew chiefs and drivers are working together both off the track as we prepare for racing and also on the track.
It's going to be an exciting year. We're going to debut the 2020 ZL1 1LE, our new Camaro. This will be the debut for the first points race this weekend.
Incredible lineup of drivers and crew chiefs. Obviously just had Jimmie in here. Jimmie, anything on four wheels, he's only raced Chevrolets. We are so proud to race with him and we are looking forward to an exciting way to celebrate his final season here in NASCAR.
Kurt Busch, our other champion, terrific to have him, both him and Jimmie, both our informal and formal leaders of our Team Chevy driver lineup. We have a very young driver lineup. So exciting. If you take those two guys out of the mix, our average age is 26.6 years of age.
22 years old, William Byron wins the second Duel. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson behind him. Stenhouse, Jr. getting the pole. Alex Bowman on the outside front row. We're excited about the season ahead.
THE MODERATOR: This one is for Richard Childress. You've been with Chevrolet the longest, more than 50 years. You're coming off a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in 2019. Tell us your thoughts and expectations heading into this season.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: We feel good about it. We feel good about our driver lineup at RCR. We moved Tyler up. He earned the right to move up. Excited about having him. He and Austin are going to make good teammates, work together, so far everything I've seen.
The new Camaro, I mean, it's going to be an awesome, awesome car. I think all of these guys have put so much into it. The staff at Chevy has really got behind it and put their thoughts and all the work behind it. We're all excited about this season.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Hendrick, you've had a 36‑year history with Chevrolet. Talk about that relationship and your thoughts on Alex Bowman again qualifying on the front row with a Hendrick‑powered Chevrolet.
RICK HENDRICK: First of all, with Chevrolet, I guess I owe everything to them. My first dealership, a lot of dealerships today. We work arm in arm in the accessory business. Everything I've done has been with Chevrolet. They've been awful good to me.
I'm excited about this year. Like Richard said, the new car, the new Camaro is a really good piece. I'm excited about our driver lineup just like Richard.
We always want to come down here and sit on the pole or the front row. That's a goal. To come down and have an engine on the pole and Alex on the outside pole was great. Then William to win the 150, the second one, was good.
It's been a good week so far. I always look forward to Daytona. It's our Super Bowl. We got a lot of sponsors here. More energy than I've seen in a long, long time here. I couldn't believe the buses when I came in the other way. Usually I come into turn four. When I came in through the tunnel, I've never seen so many people. That's a really good sign for our sport. I'm just excited about this year.
THE MODERATOR: Chip, 2020 marks the 30th year of racing for Chip Ganassi Racing. Talk about your expectations going into what's a milestone season for your organization.
CHIP GANASSI: I'm excited about being here at Daytona, obviously. It's our 30th year. We won some races here and there. I'm hoping somebody just gets a picture of me standing up on the stage here with these three guys, and hopefully someday I'll be able to accomplish about half of what they have.
I'm happy to be with Chevrolet. These guys have been with them 30 years, 50 years. I want to be with them for another 50 years, too.
Like Rick said, you come in through the tunnel, there's a lot of excitement about the sport this year. There's a lot of excitement about Daytona, a lot of excitement about Sunday.
I think the Chevrolets, the other night I was happy with our performance in the second Duel. Looking forward to a great year. I think, like Jim said, Chevrolet has a group of young guys coming along as well as a couple of wily veterans. I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic about this weekend and about the season. Never thought I'd be 30 years in this business. I'm a lucky guy.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Petty, you have an unrivaled legacy in the sport on and off the track. Talk about your expectations heading into the 2020 season.
RICHARD PETTY: I guess that's what keeps us all coming back. Nobody knows what's going to happen. Decent season last year, a little bit disappointing on some of our points. Looking forward to what can be.
We've been coming down here since 1959 or something. Nobody really knows who's where, what's going on. Even after you practice, qualify, run a couple of races and stuff, it's still not like the 500. That's a completely different animal.
I think all of us are looking forward. Hopefully there's a lot of spectators out there. Like these boys saying, a lot of excitement. Most people I've seen in the last five or six years down here. From that standpoint, I think everybody is really looking forward to next year.
I think with our new car, we're looking forward to seeing what it will do not only at Daytona, but we got 35 other races we got to kind of worry about, too.
I feel like with the testing and stuff, all the engineering that's went into everything, I think Chevrolet is going to be a little bit better this year than it was last year. We're looking forward to that.
Bubba done a pretty good job the other night in the 125‑mile race. We were pretty happy with running fifth because I think he qualified 17th or something.
Anyhow, just looks like everybody's really excited about this year, probably more so. All the car manufacturers, drivers. I think even the spectators are really looking forward to a really good year this year.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q: Rick, Jimmie (Johnson) was just here talking about his last full‑time season. How important is it for you to make sure he goes out with a bang?
RICK HENDRICK: He's given so much to the sport and our organization, in particular with seven championships and all the wins. We want to give him everything we can to see him go out with the best results he can.
He's really fired up. Jimmie is super excited. Cliff is really a super sharp guy. I think they're going to have a really good year with the new car. I'm excited about the car.
I've never seen Jimmie so energized. Sometimes a guy in his last year, they're celebrating, it's the end. I don't want to say they coast, but it's not a priority to run fast and win. Jimmie is really fired up.
We're going to give him everything we got, leave nothing on the table.
Q: Mr. Hendrick, in terms of the car dealers, the dealerships, you see these cars, you don't have to leave your house now, you can order a car online, take the stupid machine.
RICK HENDRICK: That is stupid.
Q: How do you guys counter that at the sales level when you're dealing with your dealerships? Is there a counter to that?
RICK HENDRICK: A lot of people will look at a car online. When it gets down to giving them your Social Security number and all of the other information, they're a little bit more cautious. Not many people want to buy a car 60,000, 50,000 or 100,000 without seeing it.
Service is still the key. If you take good care of the customer, you have owner base, you really have a good reputation, you make sure that nobody leaves there unhappy, then you're still going to get the bulk of the business.
It's a very small percentage of the sales that are done completely online. All of our stores are able to take you to that point if you want to go there. Usually people, once they get a little bit of information, they want to go to the dealership and see the car.
We're going to stay in step with them. If they want it online completely, we can do it. If we can take it to their house, whatever the other folks do we can do. None of those folks have the shop, the parts and the service. Most people want somebody to take care of it after the sale.
Q: Chip, do you have an update on the IMSA program going forward?
CHIP GANASSI: No update on IMSA. I want to be back hopefully next year.
Q: Richard, especially for your team, this is the least amount of on‑track practice I can remember in a long time. What challenges does it present having a rookie with limited track time?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: We have two races. I told them yesterday, they were out there practicing, I said we already ran 110 laps, whatever it is. We got plenty of practice out there.
Running the 150s, I think Tyler learned a whole lot. I'm excited about seeing how this season kicks off with our group.
I don't think it really hurts that much. I don't know what these guys think, but that's my opinion.
Q: Richard, when you look at this, it's obviously a big year for your program. Are you feeling the optimism that this can be more of a growth year, get you guys back to the glory days of the Petty team? You won your last two Daytona 500s under General Motors brands. What has it been like the last couple years to be back with the Chevy?
RICHARD PETTY: Long question. I didn't hear any of it (laughter). After 71 years, around racecars, it's hard to hear.
Q: The Camaro this year, are you feeling the same optimism that it seems like all the Chevy owners have as far as this year being a growth year for Chevy?
RICHARD PETTY: I feel like last year Chevy came, they just missed the ball. You know what I mean? They thought they had something good. Once they put it on the racetrack and got going...
This year they corrected a lot of these mistakes. We hope they corrected it enough that we're going to be competitive everywhere we go. I think from that standpoint, Chevrolet and all the Chevrolet people are really looking forward to making up for what we did last year.
Q: The last two of your Daytona 500s came under General Motors brands. What has it been like for you the last couple years since you moved back under General Motors with the Chevy?
RICHARD PETTY: Put it this way: everything's changed so much in the years since then. I mean, we started out way, way back. We've been through I think seven different manufacturers that I've won races with.
Right now I think Chevrolet's probably got the best overall program, and they're looking forward to doing better, building a new operation in I guess Concord, Charlotte, somewhere, so that all of us can work out of one particular place. Right now they're working out of a bunch of different places. All the engineering will be done in one place. It will be close to all the racers and stuff.
I think they're totally, totally committed to racing. We want to be right along in there with somebody that's as dedicated to racing as we are.
Q: Jim, given how last year unfolded, do you feel compelled to tell your drivers and teams you need to work together here at Daytona or is that at this point standard operating procedure?
JIM CAMPBELL: I was reflecting back on coming to this meeting for the past four or five years. I was asked about that a lot. 2016, Toyota got organized, they won the race. The following year, Ford organized, they won about seven superspeedway races. Every time I came in here I said I want this to stay in the drivers' hands. It's situational at 200 plus miles an hour.
With the other two manufacturers organized that way, it can't go any further. We got organized as a team here, all the affiliate teams, all the competition directors, all the crew chiefs, spotters, drivers, going into the Talladega in the spring. I couldn't have been prouder. The first time we did this, they executed beautifully stage one, two and three. You can look at the results. We dominated all three of those stages. Chase won the race, six drivers in the top 10 of the finish, five teams were represented. They executed great.
When we came here in the summer to Daytona, it was overshadowed by the rain, lightning and the red flag and stoppage of the race. Behind the scenes of that, our teams were really rolling well together.
Talladega didn't work out as well. It's a hard thing to do. The benefit of working together is too great, the penalty the not working together is too big. If you try to do the pit stops on your own, do a whole pit cycle, you will lose a whole second to 1.4 seconds. You cannot do it on your own.
Yes, we will work together, but I want these guys to be adaptive out there. At 200 miles an hour, they have to be smart. All things being equal, I want them to help a Chevy. The results will have to speak for themselves. We have to prove it out there in Talladega. I'm proud of what they did last summer in Daytona. Daytona was five of the top 10.
Q: (No microphone.)
JIM CAMPBELL: As we prepare for Talladega, we probably did seven meetings, most of which were back in Charlotte, somewhere at the track. Everyone was bought in. At that point we hadn't won a race that season. They rolled together. I mean, go back and look at that race, they rolled together. I really believe Daytona last summer they did a really good job.
The trust level amongst our Chevy drivers is a level I'm really, really pleased with. The crew chiefs are working together. The competition directors are working together. That really blends over for the preparation for the 2020 Camaro and also the next gen.
The superspeedways, if you want to do it on your own, it's a big roll of the dice. You want to work together, we can benefit together.
Q: Chip, you got Kurt resigned last year to a deal. Now it's Kyle's turn. You don't talk about contracts. Do you have any idea of when you'll really have to sit down and get things buttoned up with him?
CHIP GANASSI: No.
Q: It was worth a shot (laughter). And for Jim, you mentioned the new Camaro. Is there also an engine component coming this year?
JIM CAMPBELL: Mark Kent is our director of motorsports competition for General Motors and Chevrolet, Cadillac. He supports our efforts in other race programs around the world.
We have a new (indiscernible) that was approved a year ago so the teams can integrate those in when they're ready. It's a combination. Typically on the engine side, we do that when the pool of current engines is at the point where you can rotate them out.
Listen, I think the teams have worked really well together both on the engine development we submitted to NASCAR as well as the submission on the Camaro. We're doing the same thing on the next gen.
Q: Jim and Richard, you talked about on the track, how you're working together. Behind the scenes, you talked about that. How about the marketing, sharing of possibilities for B to B business for the Chevrolets?
JIM CAMPBELL: One of the things that our team does is we handle both the competition side of our motorsports efforts amongst all the divisions in which we race, all the series in which we race. The other side that reports to our group is marketing and marketing activation. The two together allows us to integrate at a high level.
Motorsport is an amazing place if you love marketing. Co‑branding, co‑marketing opportunities are there for the taking. You have to work it. We work it hard, B to B and B to C, business to business and business to customer. It happens up and down the lane here.
Part of my weekend and my team on the marketing side, they're doing meetings with sponsors that sponsor these cars and Chevrolet to see where we have common ground. When these promotions come together, they're amazing. You spend a fraction of the money and get the benefit like you did it all. If it works well, your partners do the same thing. We're all in.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: We're the same way. We work close with Chevy. What they do, if they have sponsors, they'll talk and deal with our sponsors. Our group of PR ladies and gentlemen, they work close with Chevy as well as they work close with us.
Q: Jim, who is developing the Chevy engine? Will it be a project that's done in both RCR's engine shop and Hendrick's engine shop?
JIM CAMPBELL: Mark Kent's group handles our competition, all the preparation on the engine side. We work very closely with both Richard's team and Rick's team, with consultation of our other teams.
What do they need? When we make an adjustment on the engine, submit it to NASCAR, what are the enhancements we need to provide power and efficiency? It's done. It's rotated when it's ready. When the pool is ready to take the new block, it's already been done.
Q: How hard is it to introduce a new Camaro, engine, Gen 7 car within a 24‑month period?
JIM CAMPBELL: In the auto business, that's what we do. Chevy has 18 vehicles that we sell in our showroom, and we're constantly doing more than one thing at a time. The team has done a really good job for preparing for both the new 2020 entry, working on the next gen. The engine work was already done. Right now we're in implementation phase. That piece is already done.
Q: Chip, how important is it for you to want to keep Kyle Larson in Ganassi Racing?
CHIP GANASSI: I think it's always important to keep good people around, whether it's a driver, crew chief, engineer, whatever.
Q: Jim, Chevy has two engine builders, Toyota and Ford have one primary engine builder. How does this work for you compared to what they're doing? Is this something maybe you have evaluated and going forward is it something you need to continue?
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, we've been doing it with these two guys for 50 years and 35 years. It's working great. I don't see a change. These guys are amazing. NASCAR periodically will do dyno‑tests where they'll pull four random, one from every manufacturer. When they do that in the case of Chevy, they typically pull two, one from each of the engine builders.
When we get the results, I know what our results are, I can't tell which is Ford and which is Toyota. These guys on horsepower, torque, the torque curves are right there. They will go right up against the other manufacturers. I love what we're doing.
One thing I wanted to add here. Chevy's involved in about five different series. NASCAR is an amazing platform for its scale and reach. Both competitively we can race in three different series, and then in terms of this idea of lifting our brand and selling cars and trucks, parts and accessories. We love the scale and reach of NASCAR.
RICK HENDRICK: Richard's group and our group work together. We work together to develop a part with GM. We're not up in Charlotte doing one and he's doing something else. Our teams work together to come up with a product. We might assemble it in different areas, but we work together with GM to come up with components.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: If we do have an issue, we share it together and we work together to fix it right away. That's one of the key things that we have going for us.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for spending some time with us today. Good luck this weekend at the Daytona 500.