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Chevy's Brent Dewar is glad to be back in NASCAR Country, and the new GM boss is upbeat

   Chevy boss Brent Dewar (R) and Teresa Earnhardt. (Photo: GM Racing)

   By Mike Mulhern

   The new boss of Chevrolet – the new big cheese, Brent Dewar – is finally back at a NASCAR track, after 20 months serving General Motors' European operations. And from the smile on his face here all weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he's glad to be back, instead of having to rely on the internet, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all the NASCAR news.
   Of course that's great news for the sport itself, which relies on Detroit support…support that has been up-in-the-air for much of the summer, with the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies.
    Dewar has been on a town hall whirlwind, with dealers, and he predicts U.S. auto sales will be up significantly next year, as much as 15 percent.
    But here at the track Dewar gets to have fun, though he didn't get to have dinner with Tony Stewart because Stewart has been down with the flu the past few days. Dewar was key in getting Stewart back in the Chevrolet camp this season, and Stewart went into Sunday night's Atlanta 500 as the Sprint Cup points leader.
    Officially Dewar is "vice-president Chevrolet Global."
    The 'global' part is intriguing, and how that might fit into the NASCAR picture is curious. Dewar, in the big picture of auto sales, is looking at India and China as major markets for Chevrolet, specifically pointed to NASCAR's events in Montreal and Mexico City as 'exciting.'
    Dewar is also a big greenie, who was once pushing NASCAR to have its Truck series running on E-85. With NASCAR's own new green push, Dewar might have more ears in Daytona now.
    With all the economic angst in the car business "It's been an interesting year, to say the least," Dewar noted dryly. 
    Fortunately for Dewar the U.S. economy has been on a rebound since March, and the cash-for-clunkers program may help jump-start Detroit.
    So he's in a good mood on several fronts, despite all the problems the industry – and NASCAR too – still faces.

   Brent Dewar (R) and NASCAR off-roader Robby Gordon (Photo: GM)


Dewar, usually in Richmond each September to watch the championship chase playoff cut, will have to skip that stop this season: "My family is still in Europe, and I have to go to the Frankfort Auto Show next week, and then get my daughter and wife….we will be back in the States at the end of the month."
    Dewar, meeting with NASCAR's Brian France and Mike Helton, and with Chevy's various NASCAR teams, reiterated GM's support of this sport: "We have come through a very challenging financial year and a half….and I'm meeting with all the teams while I am here, to let them know that the Chevrolet brand is still committed to our racing series."
    However there have been some significant cuts, in Truck and Nationwide and Cup too. "We are being very thoughtful with the investment challenges we have…given the economic situation," Dewar said.  "But we've been in it since the beginning, and we're in it for the long haul.
   "And that is part of the message we're telling the teams."
   The bottom line on overall American car sales: Americans typically buy about 16 million a year. This year sales will be about 10.2 million. Next year Dewar is looking for total sales at 11.5 million.
    Helping the recovery, Dewar says, will be NASCAR: "Yes, we will still 'race on Sunday and sell on Monday.'"
    Also helping, perhaps, is President Obama's recent reassurance – during a White House invite to top NASCAR drivers – that he supported Detroit using NASCAR for marketing.
    Dewar says those were particularly comforting words for him: "I was pleased to hear him say it…as the head of Chevrolet and the head of the racing program.
    "We've always been looking at the ROI (return on investment).  NASCAR has been providing that.
     "This is where our brands are….and I've always said we're grateful to be a part of this party. It's one of the best marketing venues you can have." 
     And it was a good crowd that Sunday night's Atlanta 500 played to – perhaps the best crowd here in 10 years, over 100,000 -- which pleased Dewar: "NASCAR is going through the same economic challenges the economy has gone through.
    "Attendance is down…so it's great to hear that attendance is for this race. That is a leading indicator that there is some interest. 
    "From our standpoint (at Chevrolet), that allows us to have other sponsors join.
    "The first thing is you want to go racing where you can win. The second is the fan-base -- and is it building?
    "So to get other co-sponsors in (NASCAR needs) more people in the stands, more people watching on TV."
    It's also about synergies, Dewar says: "People come out here to the track, on a Labor Day weekend, and we have a fan-fest activity, where they can touch our products.
     "Probably the next hottest car in America is the (new) Camaro (which has been outselling the new Mustang the past few weeks).
    "We just need to be respectful that we're having the right level of investment (in NASCAR)…and having the President recognizing the sport and the importance of the American auto industry, that was good for me to hear."
    Dewar of course has been having to deal with team owners here who have been chafing under the economic cuts. So he's been going from hauler to hauler to thank the crews for bearing with him and the company in all that.    
    "We're a family, we're a family in the garage…and when times get tough, families come together," Dewar said. 
    "We couldn't have asked for better support from the drivers, owners, all the partners -- It was probably as strong a message for us as to why we're in this business.  This is a relationship business.
   "So I'm meeting with each of the drivers and team owners, personally thanking them for their support to the company and to our racing program. 
    "I don't want to get too emotional, but it did touch us pretty closely."
    One sticky issue – the new Camaro. GM is refusing to run it in NASCAR's Nationwide series, because the common template rules NASCAR uses keep the Detroit cars from showing enough individuality. Ford is putting its new Mustang in that series, when the new Nationwide cars are finally on the track, sometime next summer. But not Chevrolet.
   "A great question," Dewar concedes.
   "We're very supportive of the NASCAR format….the desire to be utmost competitive with the templated cars. We were very outspoken supporters of the car-of-tomorrow (on the Cup tour)  -- making our vehicles safer, moving the drivers inboard….
    "But part of the challenge in 'templating' the cars, you lose a little of the design profile. 
    "We've got some iconic designs in Corvettes and Camaros. The more it gets away from that (with NASCAR's common templates) is the     reason we're not going to race the Camaro."
    At least not in NASCAR's Nationwide series.
   However Chevrolet will put the new Camaro on NASCAR tracks in the Grand-Am series….which means it will be at Daytona next February, and at Indianapolis in August (presuming the Speedway okays that event).
   And something to consider – Danica Patrick, one of this weekend's hot topics here, raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona for GM this past February, in a Richard Childress Pontiac. Presumably she could well be racing the new Camaro at Daytona in February's 24.
    However how much direct support GM's Chevrolet division may provide NASCAR's Trucks and Nationwide teams is up for debate: "we're still evaluating that," Dewar says.
    "We clearly get our best ROI at the Sprint Cup level.  It gets more challenging for each of the series when you go beyond that."
   But Dewar hinted that 'green' could play a role in what he decides. Perhaps if NASCAR okayed E-85 or some eco-friendly fuel, GM's support might increase…..
    "I'm very much an environmentalist…so I'm working on all the programs -- from FlexFuel to Hybrids to our new Volt.
    "There's a place for 'green' racing, and I think we can do that. 
     "I applaud NASCAR and what they've been doing on the environmental front.
     "I have a performance heritage with Chevrolet, but we also have an environmental eco heritage that we have been developing. The more we can get those brand linkages, the better. 
    "You'll see that as part of the conversation we have been having in each of the racing series.
    "It's an emerging trend, and we want to be at the leading edge.
    "This can be a performance culture, but also part of this eco-enthusiast culture."

   Now that Brent Dewar is at the helm of Chevrolet Global, how will that affect NASCAR racing? (Photo: GM Racing)

GM Racing

GM needs to stop spending so much money in racing and start putting more money in its cars that it sells to the public!!!!!!!

They must own Nascar, it is ususally a GM commerical every sunday, and they are talking about spending more!!!!!!!

Remember us taxpayers own GM right now, we need transparcency on how much they are spending not only the Nascar teams but how much they are paying to Nascar itself, either franchise fee or other!

Nascar needs to 'even it up' and not let GM dominate like in the past!

Transparency would be nice.

Transparency would be nice. I'll see what I can find. Each car maker has been spending an estimated $100 million a year on NASCAR and TV ads, etc. There's been about a 20 percent cut, estimated. But Detroit does get good return on that investment -- a marketing campaign that runs from February through November, with a bevy of high-profile sports stars, and events in all sorts of markets across the country. NASCAR needs to update its tech profile, yes; common template cars are passe, and so are these 358 ci engines.
and, yes, it would be nice to see a little more parity. can't believe that GM is the only bunch that knows how to make a car work on the track....

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