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Honda has no plans to enter NASCAR
Honda's senior vice-president of automotive operations John Mendel says American Honda and HPD are far too busy with their ALMS and IRL programs to even think about NASCAR for some years to come at least. "We've got more than enough on our plate right now with IRL and ALMS," Mendel observed. "Certainly, NASCAR does come up frequently and there's no doubt that there's as much racing in Honda's blood from motorcycles to Formula One as anyone out there. If we build it, we race it, and NASCAR always comes up. But we race to win and we race to learn, and I think NASCAR is a bridge too far at this point in time.

"We're certainly engrossed in the development of the ALMS program and as sole engine supplier to the IRL we're continuing to develop and expand the IRL to make it one of the premier open-wheel series in the world. I think NASCAR is a maybe someday, but there are no current plans. We try to do what we do well until we get too far afield in other endeavors."

Now that Toyota has arrived in NASCAR many people believe Honda cannot be far behind. Robert Clarke says NASCAR does not fit into HPD's operational philosophy but admits that some American Honda board members would like to see a NASCAR program. "We have no plans for NASCAR," Clarke declared. "It's something that comes up in every board meeting, but it's not being driven by HPD. It just does not really fit HPD's objectives. But our mission statement is that we exist to support American Honda's motorsports objectives. So if American Honda were to decide it needs to be in NASCAR in order to properly promote its products we would be required to support it.

"Honda, I think, is unique as a manufacturer in how it puts priorities on its objectives. NASCAR in our mind, and everybody has their own opinion, is not about technology development. It's about entertainment and it's very effective in that. But entertainment in our priority list of objectives is way down the list.

"Developing our people is number one and we can't do that through entertainment," Clarke added. "We can only do that through technology development. Honda believes that if we can develop a superior engineer then those engineers can produce better cars and those products will sell themselves against the competition. We can't do that through entertainment. We do that through racing because we know, having lived in racing for our entire existence, that we can use racing effectively to develop people.

"All the things you develop in racing are accentuated aspects of what you deal with in the real world of production cars and vehicles. The way that you focus and the strained time lines in racing provide everything to develop people and produce better cars and products. That's what Mr. Honda believed and our whole experience has proven it's true. It's not that we want to race. We have to race. It's part of our culture and it's what feeds the system. If we stopped racing, I think the company would derail. We wouldn't know what to do. How would we develop people and develop technology?" More at GordonKirby.com

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