After an 18-month absence, Brent Dewar returned to the garage at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend with a new title — Vice President Chevrolet Global — and a reassuring sentiment to the Chevy teams in Sprint Cup and NASCAR.
And he came to deliver a message to teams and consumers.
“Let them know that the Chevrolet brand is still committed to our racing series,” Dewar said. “Obviously, we are being very thoughtful with the investment challenges that we have. Each of the manufacturers and sponsors, given the economy situation. We’ve been in it since the beginning and we’re in it for the long haul and that is part of the message and communication that we’re telling the teams.
“From a business standpoint, the industry here in the United States has been very challenged. Our auto industry is off about 20 to 30 percent down for the year. Just come off a stimulus package, cars program affectionately called, ‘Cash for Clunkers,’ that ended last week. It’s been a great program for the dealers and the manufacturers to bring back some consumer confidence back into the marketplace.”
And despite the difficult economic times, team owner Richard Childress feels confident continuing with Chevrolet — a company he has partnered with for four decades.
“NASCAR is a great marketing tool for Chevrolet,” Childress said. “There are 75 million race fans here and those are the people that buy their cars. They have been great partners to us over the years and will continue to be.”
Dewar met with his teams at Atlanta Motor Speedway over the weekend. With Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s choice of manufacturer hanging in the balance, Chip Ganassi was on the list.
EGR President Steve Lauletta said the company has been “very happy” with Chevrolet, but there’s still some details with the contract that need to be altered before a decision is made. Ganassi admitted that he had spoken with other manufacturers but has not arrived at a decision.
On a related note, when Ganassi was asked if he’d be interested in a merger with Richard Petty Motorsports, as has been speculated in the garage, he replied, “I’ve never talked to them.”
Time for an upswing
Richard Childress admits his Montana vacation last week wasn’t “long enough,” but given the teams results this season, he knew it was time to get back to business.
Although Childress remains in charge, it was time to share the load of responsibility, which led to the changes in management reported earlier this week by FOXSports.com. Childress’ son-in-law Mike Dillon remains vice president of the company, but part of his responsibilities will shift to Scott Miller, who will now oversee competition.
“I’m going to focus on the business side of the company more,” Dillon said. “With Scott’s background as an engineer, he’ll be beneficial to us in the shop. Kent Day can really help us with testing.
“There have been a lot of communication gaps in the organization. Scott will help pull that all together. With a multi-car operation, you have to do everything the same to derive the greatest benefits. When you look at the way that Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are set up, you can learn from their examples and adapt that to your situation.”
Dillon admits that RCR has been inconsistent lately as successes have been followed too quickly by slumps. However, he feels the company will rise again. Dillon added that Miller, who was named director of competition and will relinquish his crew chief duties for the No. 31 team at the end of the season, could get additional responsibilities and a title that would reflect it in the next few months. Dillon also said he’s heard from potential candidates for Miller’s current crew chief position and wants to find someone outside the company “with fresh, new ideas.”
Clint Bowyer commends the company’s decision to restructure and said he’s “excited about it.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bowyer said. “Richard’s carried the load for a long time. I’m proud of him for putting the right people in place and giving our company some depth and some organization.
“I feel like it’s really going to help ease some of the load off of him, some tension off of him and ultimately will help our performance on race day.”
Martin Truex Jr. knocked Kasey Kahne off the pole on Saturday with a lap of 184.149 mph — the third pole of his career and his first since winning the top spot for the Daytona 500 in February.
Upon congratulating the driver, he replied: “See, I told you we haven’t given up.”