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It's time for Jimmie Johnson to step up his game...and time for Chevy's new boss, Brent Dewar, to rethink Camaro marketing

  Jimmie Johnson, who is selling his New York townhouse, maybe should invest some of that money in a NASCAR team of his own (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Well, now that Jimmie Johnson has this winning thing down pretty pat, and this championship charge has become such a routine, maybe it's time for him to expand his horizons, and get Jimmie Johnson Inc. in to the team ownership part of the game.
   Jeff Gordon, his bud, has been at it for a while, rather successfully.
   And Tony Stewart, well his first year as owner-driver has been simply amazing.
   Maybe it's Johnson's time.
   It's certainly time for Jimmie Johnson to start cashing in on what he's got – three straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, soon possibly four.
   And when General Motors' new Chevy boss Brent Dewar shows up in Detroit in a couple of days to take the helm of the 'new' Chevrolet, maybe it's time for Dewar to start cashing in on his company's strong equity stake in Johnson.
   The backdrop for this particular discussion: Ford is going to eat Chevrolet's lunch on marketing the new Mustang over the new Camaro, the way things stand right now on the NASCAR front.
   Ford's Jack Roush, the big team owner, and Ford's Brian Wolfe, the company's racing boss, are going to push the new Mustang in NASCAR-hard promotions, through the Nationwide series, like there's no tomorrow.

Ford's new Mustang will hit the NASCAR tracks in Nationwide tour setup next season....(Photo: Ford)

  Chevrolet's reluctance to commit its spiffy new Camaro to NASCAR, other than as a pace car, is both surprising and confusing.
   And if Chevrolet execs want to sit back and watch this Ford marketing steamroller, well, that's what's going to happen, unless Dewar can hit the ground running on this thing.
   And Jimmie Johnson is the perfect man to lead the charge.
   The solution: Dewar and Chevrolet need to push Johnson into the role as NASCAR team owner of a two-car Nationwide team, running the new Camaro. And GM needs to make some big ad buys on NASCAR's Nationwide telecasts for 2010.
   Because otherwise, Ford is going to kick Chevrolet's butt.
   Ford is on the NASCAR bandwagon on this thing, but so far Chevrolet is still on the sidelines.
   Yeah, yeah, Chevrolet is handing it to Ford on the Cup tour this summer – but that's Impala versus Fusion. Let's talk marketing here; racing is racing, and marketing is a whole different creature.
   But Impalas and Fusions, sorry, aren't hip, hot models.
   Mustangs vs Camaros, that's where the next battleground should be.
   NASCAR's family-sedan era ought to end pretty darned quick.
   It's time for the return of the muscle cars.
   Pony cars, remember? Now that's some hot marketing.
   Four-door sedans? The Taurus thing?
   NASCAR was built on hot two-door coupes.

  Ford's Mustang marketing campaign looks like it has fangs (Photo: Autostock)

  It's time to get back to basics. Time to get back to basic demographics.
   It's time for Mustang versus Camaro.
   Jack Roush is already vowing to put at least three new Mustangs on the Nationwide tour next season, maybe four.
   And Carl Edwards will be in one of those. “I know very little of how Ford is going to market the Mustang, and how it’s going to be developed," Edwards says. "And I still don’t know exactly what the rules are going to be. But I did see a picture of the car, and I got a chance to drive the Nationwide COT, and man that got me excited. That’s pretty cool looking. I like that car a lot. I think that could be good.
  "What I hope NASCAR does with this Nationwide COT is take advantage of the opportunity to minimize our dependence on downforce. I don’t know if there’s time for that left (in car design), but, man, it would the best thing they could do.
    "If we could minimize (aerodynamic) downforce, use mechanical grip (instead), allow Goodyear to make softer tires, and allow mechanical grip to dictate how fast you go…..If you look at last week with the race (the Brickyard 400 Cup event), it ended up being an exciting race at the Brickyard with all the drama that went on at the finish...but for the majority of that race it was very difficult to pass -- and you couldn’t get close to anyone."


Brent Dewar, Chevy's new boss, and a racer: Time to get up on the chip in this Mustang-Camaro thing (Photo: GM Racing)

   This is about spark and marketing.
   Dewar, who after all played a key role in getting Tony Stewart back in Chevrolets, is a racer. He understands these things. And now he's the big Chevy boss.
   So, Brent, put Johnson himself in a Camaro at key races like Daytona, Los Angeles and Chicago, for starters.
   Johnson needs a teammate – bring in Brian Vickers.
   Vickers' current Cup operation, owned by Red Bull kingpin Dietrich Mateschitz is probably going to move from Toyotas to Chevrolets next season on the Cup side and buy engines and engineering from Hendrick. If Mateschitz does that, then Vickers – who is only 25 but who has been a Cup racer since 2003 -- in a Johnson/Hendrick-powered Camaro Nationwide operation looks smart.
   Yes, there might be some political issues with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s AMP sponsorship and Vickers and Red Bull, but Hendrick can work that out.
   Give the fans Mustangs versus Camaros.
   That's the game plan Dewar needs to set in motion.


   Will GM's Chevrolet division step up to the plate in NASCAR with its rival new Camaro? (Photo: Chevrolet)


That Camaro is really sharp.

That Camaro is really sharp. I wish I could still fit into one.

Why in the world would Jimmie

Why in the world would Jimmie start a team?
He's going to break all of Jeff Gordons records, and in this economy he sure doesn't need the headache of running a team

of course, owning a race team

of course, owning a race team wouldn't be my business choice, particularly in this economic climate....but then isn't that what we all said about Tony Stewart this time last year? Racing isn't about racing anymore really, it's about the business of racing, and Jimmie Johnson is at the peak of his career, about to turn 34, and a good time -- with Brent Dewar a racer now in command at Chevrolet -- for Johnson to launch something, IMHO. The other side of the question I'm raising is that Chevrolet/Dewar need some big Camaro punch to counter Ford's Mustang push in Nationwide, and Johnson, to me, seems only logical. If you were Chevrolet/Dewar what would you do about Ford-Roush-Mustang? You would need a driver who could match up with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch....

Ford has been kicking GM's

Ford has been kicking GM's tail in marketing the Mustang vs Camaro for many many years. Look at the sales numbers year by year for the last 15 years or so, it's not even close. It got so bad for GM, they cancelled the Camaro. Now they've come to the party with a 'retro' Camaro 4-5 years behind the Mustang. If you look at all the things Ford does with the Mustang brand like the Shelby, the Cobra drag car etc, GM will never catch up. The new Camaro is poised to be a sales disaster like the last generation model was. The fact is, Ford does not even need to market the Mustang in Nationwide to dominate the pony car sales market. It can only help. Time will tell if GM will ever get their act together.

good point. i agree. that's

good point. i agree. that's why i wrote the op-ed. got some sales figures mustang vs camaro for us?

Mike, I did a quick search

Mike, I did a quick search and found some data posted on CamaroZ28.com. Just wanted to let you know I have followed your Nascar writings for several years now and was glad to find you here after what happened with the paper job.

Year: Mustang/Camaro
65: 559,451/NA
66: 607,568/NA
67: 474,121/*220,906
68: 317,404/ 235,147
68: 299,824/ 243,065
69: 299,824/ 243,065
70: 190,727/ 124,901
72: 125,093/ 114,630 (not a typo!)
73: 134,867/ 96,751
74:*385,993/ 151,008
75: 188,575/ 145,770
76: 187,567/ 182,959
77: 153,173/ 218,858
78: 192,410/ 272,631
79:*369,936/ 282,571
80: 271,322/ 152,005
81: 181,552/ 126,139
82: 130,418/*189,747
83: 120,873/ 154,318
84: 135,678/ 261,591
85: 156,514/ 180,018
86: 224,410/ 192,219
87: 159,145/ 137,760
88: 211,225/ 96,275
89: 209,769/ 110,850
90: 128,189/ 35,048
91: 98,737/ 101,316
92: 79,280/ 70,712
93: 114,228/ *39,755
94:*123,198/ 119,934
95: 185,986/ 122,844
96: 126,483/ 66,827
97: 100,254/ 95,812
98: 170,642/ 77,198
99: 126,067/ 42,098
00: 218,525/ 45,417
01: 155,162/ 29,009

darned, dude, you're making

darned, dude, you're making me look like i'm behind the curve LOL. thanks. let me digest this and get back on it. looks to me like chevy's brent dewar needs more than just jimmie johnson on the case. maybe this is the real reason chevrolet doesnt want to do a mustang-camaro series.
good work.
but brent just arrived back in the u.s. from his european gig, and in the first 30 seconds of his address to GM employees he said 'glad to be back racing.' i think he sees what you've just shown us -- chevrolet needs to get the ball rolling.

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