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If this NASCAR season is Ford-vs-Chevy, both sides have new men on the point

   GM's Jim Campbell, taking over as Chevrolet general manager, and the man where the NASCAR bucks start and stop (Photo: GM Motorsports)


   By Mike Mulhern

   It was a ceremonial passing the torch here Saturday -- racing aficionado Brent Dewar, Chevy's Global boss, turning the reins over to long-time business partner Jim Campbell, now not only the man running the Chevrolet operation for General Motors but also the point man for GM's NASCAR game.
   However, it was more than just that. It was also an opportunity to look inside Chevrolet's mind about this sport, to gauge how closely GM came to just pulling the plug on NASCAR altogether during its economic woes, and a chance to assess what might lie ahead not only for Chevy with Campbell but for Dewar himself.
   Keeping track of NASCAR-Detroit, with things happening so fast up there the past few months, with new names getting big jobs out of the clear blue, like say Ralph Gilles at Chrysler, and Jamie Allison at Ford, hasn't been easy.

   Dewar looked to be a very fast-tracker at GM during the past few years, and when he was named head of Chevrolet Global last summer it looked like a great move, particularly for NASCAR at a critical point in its relationships with Detroit.
   So since Dewar, a strong NASCAR supporter during his years at GM, stunned everyone in early December by announcing his retirement (effective April), there have been a lot of questions, particularly in the stock car garage.
   Yes, Dewar says, there were moments over the past year and a half, during GM's economic crisis, that GM's continued role in NASCAR was questioned: "Not by me, but yes. The conversation did go through.
   "When you're facing that type of financial crisis, trying to make cash flow and payroll, everything gets scrutinized.
   "Even though this is an integral part of our brand and we have a strong ROI (return on investment), when people are losing their jobs and you're closing jobs, everything gets scrutinized."
   And Dewar said he had the fight of his life to keep NASCAR in the GM budget:
    "I'll tell you, I've been working 30 years in this company, and I never worked as hard in my life to meet this challenge.
   "But this was a global financial crisis. Whole countries have yet to recover.
   "In this country, and in Europe, the government has worked with us through this credit crisis."
    So why continue in NASCAR?
   "As much as anything it was the conviction in approving the marketing plan, that we can directly link what we do here at the track to selling cars and trucks,"  Dewar said. "And if we couldn't have done that, I would have been the first one (to pull the plug). I've been in other racing series where I've been the one to cancel.

   GM's Brent Dewar, 'retiring' as Chevrolet's Global Boss...but wants to keep involved in NASCAR (Photo: GM Motorsports)


"First thing, can you win? and you shouldn't go racing unless you can win; otherwise it's just an expensive hobby.
   "Second, it has to be relevant.
   "There, there has to be ROI.
   "Are there people in the stands and people watching elsewhere? We've raced in series where we could win, but the base wasn't strong enough, so it was no longer relevant.
   "Here there is no question there's a big fan base; even though attendance was down last year it was still the second-most-watched sport.
   "And we are working the ROI. You go into the Fan Zone today, you will get an experience.
  "The scrutiny was there, but we were able to prove it.
   "In part because we have been under scrutiny for a lot of years, about sales-marketing and event promotions, because this is a high-ticket sport and you have to justify it. You're not just a marketer but you're also a technologist as well, developing engines and power trains. So you have to prove the business case."
    That has to be a big plus not only for NASCAR but for this sport's various business partners.
   Dewar accentuated the positives, saying Ed Whitacre's promotion to CEO "provides stability, which is good."
    And Campbell? He will continue Chevrolet's role in NASCAR, Dewar says, and will be just as strong a supporter of the sport as he himself has been.
    Dewar pointed to Campbell's own racing roles within GM: "Jim was the brand manager of Corvettes and Impalas, he's had the Camaro and Chevy S10 products. He's absolutely a product brand manager for several years, and he was integral in the team negotiations. I brought him back to help me in the previous round of negotiations.
    "I worked for his dad at Chevy; his dad was one of my bosses. So Jim has come right up through the company."
   Campbell has also worked with Chevy in the Indy-car series, and the NHRA, "and one of the first things we did at Corvette was take Corvette into racing. Actually our first race was right here at Daytona. Then we went on to race at Lemans."
   Then he joined the NASCAR side. And Campbell has been meeting with NASCAR officials since getting the call two months ago. Maybe the two sides can come to terms on this Nationwide Camaro project.....

   Ford racing boss Jamie Allison, one of several NASCAR newcomers in key roles in the new season (Photo: Autosport)


   And Dewar himself?
   "I'm retiring at the end of March....may look too young to retire, but I'm 54, and I've just adopted a little girl from China," Dewar said.
   "She's 3-1/2, and she's here for her first race.
   "I've been global, and I'm taking Jim to China next week...and it's just been travel for me. Everywhere in the world.
   "That's the reason I'm retiring....moving on. Trying to figure out how to work only 16 hours a day instead of 22.
    "And Jim (45) isn't married, so he can take the travel."
   Dewar laughs.
   But Dewar? No one seriously thinks he's looking for a fishing pole. Not someone with this much talent, innovation and drive.
   Where in the NASCAR world might he land?
   "I'm not really retiring, per se....I will work," Dewar insists. "But first I'm going to take two weeks and go to Canada and visit my dad. He's only seen my daughter once.
   "Then we're going to go to China....
   "Then we're going to get serious about something. I'd like to do something in the innovation or sustainability.
    "I'm a big fan of racing, and if I  can be a part of this as well, that would be one of the parameters I'm looking at.
   "I'm just keeping it open.
    "I literally sleep four hours a night. And I've been doing 24/7 for a long time.
   "I still want to apply the energy. Bob Lutz (the GM exec who just turned 78) is my hero. I figure I've got another 20 years.
    "I'll let you know around June or July."




   Chrylser's new Dodge boss Ralph Gilles. A lot of new faces in NASCAR this season (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Dewar and Campbell brought their messages to Daytona with a lengthy interview session with the print-and-internet media Saturday.
   However media in the United States, NASCAR media included, has been undergoing a major transformation the past two years.
   And Dewar says that has made it harder for Detroit to get its full message out.
    Detroit has been doing its usual 30-second ads on TV, but with the death of newspapers and the uncertainty of news magazines and the Wild West of the Internet so hard to wrangle, how does Dewar get his message out to the public? Those 30-second commercials can get the vehicles out into the limelight, but you really can't say much in depth in 30 seconds.
   Perhaps that just makes big events like NASCAR weekends a better sell for Detroit, providing a more in-depth fan-sales process?
   "There are two things – the thing that the media is unstructured is a challenge for immediate communication," Dewar concedes.
   "But because it is unstructured, it is more vertical. So whether it's blog or digital, the message is there. If I'm not at the track I can go to Mike or Juan Pablo and find out what's going on.
   "It's is more difficult. It is more focused. It is harder to do, it is more work. But the rewards are more, because being 'vertical,' your messaging is more targeted.
   "I think the traditionalists who think of media as 'eyeballs,' that model is gone. So gross ratings points aren't important.
   "You want to get as closely connected to the consumer as possible.
   "So it's better; it's just harder work."
    GM's NASCAR program, Dewar says, has been focused on four main points:   
     "The first thing was safety. Safety for the fans and safety for the drivers. So we've been supporting that.
   "The second thing is technology. We've been very open about moving to fuel injection; testing has been going on the last couple of years to move to that.
   "The third is thing is bio-fuels; we do green racing all around the world, and I think that is an important aspect. And NASCAR is continuing to study that with the manufacturers.
   "The fourth is the differentiation (between the various brand cars when out on the track, difficult with common template cars). We recognize we have to plant the seeds to move to that. But it is important for us, as for all the manufacturers, that when we see that vehicle going around the track that it is as close to what we're trying to get to....and the fans want that as well."

    Which leads to the Camaro, which would seem a natural fit in NASCAR's next-generation Nationwide car, with the Mustang and Charger.
    However Chevrolet has so far balked at NASCAR's still-too-tight body template rules, though Dewar said Saturday that NASCAR's Brian France is listening to the whole debate very intently.
   "We would love to look to more brand-differentiated look of the vehicles," Dewar says, referring not only to the new Nationwide projects but also the next look for the Sprint Cup car-of-tomorrow, up for serious debate between NASCAR and Detroit.
   "We have a some very iconic designs we're proud of," Dewar says. "So the direction of more brand-differentiated look in the Nationwide series is correct, and we applaud it. It's evolutionary and we'd like to go along.
   "And we applaud the consistency of the rules NASCAR has.  We don't want to go back to the days when everyone was arguing over every little thing.
    "But that (the templates NASCAR okayed for Chevrolet) wasn't a Camaro. We're proud of that new Chevy, and we think we can move a little further.
    "The fans are looking that; they tell us that in the fan zone, that they want the look and feel of the individual cars that we're racing at 180 mph.
   "The technology is available.
    "And we're not that far apart. Brian France is very innovative, and he's done a great job on the marketing side.
    "And we've never had better listening time than we are today. The dialogue is excellent. We have to be respectful that we were invited to the party....and that we've been one of the pioneer players here, which we're proud of.
   "There is a time for evolution and for speed of change, and if we can get that lined up...."

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   New Chevy GM Jim Campbell -- yet another new face in NASCAR (Photo: GM Motorsports)


Being GM is owned by is

Being GM is owned by is taxpayers why didnt you ask him how much GM is spending in Nascar? Someone is spending alot of money on the GM side to keep Nascar a GM commericial!!!!!!

Lets not hype the Chevy Ford Toyota matra!!!! Its still a Chevy show at Daytona and probably all year!

2010 Daytona Results so far!

Chevy = Both cars on pole = won Bud Shootout= won one Duel Race and a second finish in other = Tony Stewart wins 4 ot of 5 Nationwide races mostly in Chevy!!! Laps led aprox 65%

Ford = Won one Duel Race by inches over Chevy!!

Dodge = 0

Toyota = 0

Daytona 500 will probably be another 3.5 hour Chevy Commericial!

Well, you might be right;

Well, you might be right; Chevy has dominated Daytona and Talladega. But the last two D500s were dominated by Joe Gibbs' Toyotas (though Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart failed to win).
A year or so ago, when GM's total ad budget was nearly $3 billion a year, it was spending between $120M and $140M on NASCAR...which, considering it's a 10-month running series of commercials, is a pretty good deal, I'd say. What's a Super Bowl 30-Sec cost?

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