Saturday, February 16, 2013
Chevy's future tied to 'Gen 6' car?
By David Newton
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chevrolet may have pulled out of NASCAR had the governing body not developed the new "Gen 6" car that returns brand identity to the sport.
"It would have been a good chance," team owner Rick Hendrick said on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. "As a matter of fact, I'm sure they might have."
Hendrick, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports and one of the top owners of automobile dealerships in the United States, made the comment during the unveiling of the 2014 Chevrolet SS production car that will debut in NASCAR this season.
"When Mark took over, he said if we're going to be in the sport it needs to be relevant," Hendrick said of Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors North America. "That's when everybody started talking and Ford and Toyota.
"But Mark pushed the button with NASCAR and I'm glad that he did. It sure paid off."
NASCAR president Mike Helton said Chevrolet led the charge two years ago for a return to manufacturer identity that was lost with the CoT that was used from 2007 through last season.
"Mark kind of voiced that, that if we can't be relevant we don't race," Hendrick said. "We had a lot riding on that, and we needed it anyway. We had beaten that COT to death."
NASCAR introduced fuel injection to its cars last season because manufacturers wanted it, then worked with Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota to make the body of the cars look like those on the showroom floor for this season.
"They backed us in a corner and said, 'Here's what you guys need to think about doing,'" Helton said.
Reuss tempered his comments on whether Chevrolet would have left the sport were it not for the changes.
"Any really successful motorsports activity has to have a really good technical focus on what you're racing, great personalities that drive it, wonderful people running the teams and the great fan bases will come," he said.
"Once you start losing any one of those things there's dangerous things that happen. To get these fuel injected, to get them looking like cars you can buy again ... and to have people understand what they are and what they represent from a brand and driver standpoint, that's what we were working on."
Hendrick said it was time for the CoT to go even though he won 60 races and four titles -- all with Jimmie Johnson -- with it.
"Wins are one thing," Hendrick said. "But if the fans don't like it and the manufacturers don't like it, we can't survive that way. The fans grew up, I grew up, going to the track wanting to outrun the Fords and the Pontiacs and all those guys. I think we missed that.
"The CoT, we had a lot of success with it and won championships with it, but it was time to get back to our roots and a production car we could race."