NASCAR Media Conference
Sunday, November 7, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our winning manufacturer, champion manufacturer, and that’s Jim Campbell, he’s the General Motors vice president, performance & motorsports. Thank you, Jim, for joining us. Maybe start off with a couple words on this championship.
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, it’s a great performance by Kyle today. He wins a race, wins a championship. Incredible, it’s the 33rd time a Chevy driver has won the championship. Couldn’t be prouder of that.
We put two goals up every year at the beginning of the season, one is a Manufacturers’ Championship and side by side is they get a Chevrolet driver to the driver’s championship. And last weekend we clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship. It was Chevrolet’s 40th Manufacturers’ Championship, and now Kyle brings home the 33rd Chevrolet driver’s championship. So two objectives that were at the top of the list, and both of them accomplished here coming out the other end of this race here today.
Jim, you guys obviously had Kyle in the fold before the incident that happened on iRacing last year, and you guys brought him back into the fold this year. What was the decision-making like from you guys’ perspective as an OEM to bring him back into the fold?
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, good question. Clearly Kyle did a lot of work off the track while he was out of the sport. We know Kyle well. As you probably are aware, starting in 2017 through our association with Urban Youth Racing School, we took Kyle to the school to interface with the students in one of their classes, and he kept that association up even beyond the formal introduction from our standpoint.
Kyle did a lot of work off the track during that time with Urban Youth Racing School. Michelle and Anthony Martin are here today as well as their chairman was here today and members of their board were here, as well. They did a lot of work with Kyle off the track, he met with the students, and he also did work with the Tony Sanneh Foundation, did a lot of work that we observed.
And when we kind of reviewed all the work he had done off the track, we decided that it was worth supporting Rick’s request to sign him on to the team.
What I will tell you is what he’s doing off the track doesn’t get as much focus as what he’s doing on the track, whether you’re talking about here in NASCAR or in the dirt track series, but I am really pleased with what he’s doing off the track as well as his performance on the track. So that combination has been a real positive.
Work he’s doing even today with the Hendrick Cares Foundation, his own foundation which he launched, the Sanneh Foundation, and then obviously Urban Youth Racing School. He was scheduled to go early December to take part in one of the classes where the students are kicking off another class, and he’ll be there.
I’ll tell you one thing because I joined a lot of the Urban Youth Racing School sessions, especially when they’ve been virtual, I join them on Saturday mornings, and very often Kyle Larson will be on those same sessions to say hello to the students and answer questions. What he’s done on the track has been incredible. Obviously he got his 10th win and brought home the championship.
The other thing I just would say is that the pit crew did an amazing job on the last pit stop, but when you really reflect on it, that team did that all year long. It was really an example of what they did all season long. So proud of the No. 5 Chevrolet team and what they did this year.
You had Kyle and he was the favorite and you probably want to feel good about that but you can’t feel good in this format. I’m wondering what that race was like for you, you guys and Chevrolet, especially as it looked like on that long run that it was slipping away?
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, certainly when you think about this format with four, and we had obviously last weekend Chase Elliott locked in at the end of the second stage on points, so we knew we had two in the Final 4, and then you say, what other drivers do you want to compete against? The list is long, and you don’t want to compete against any of them. They’re that tough.
And so a Truex Jr. showed exactly how good he is. He was really tough on the long runs. I just love how the 5 team responded and how they pulled off that last pit stop, got to the front. Kyle drove it to the front and kept it there. And then just hit his marks all the way through.
At any point, if you make one mistake, a guy like Truex Jr., who’s a champion and a great driver, will take advantage of it. And Kyle and Cliff Daniels, they kind of kept their heads about them, hit their marks and delivered the win in the championship.
What I’d say, this format, the other two that are non-Chevys, you look at all the people who were competing for those two spots, you don’t want to race against any of them. They’re that good.
You guys will go down in the history books as having the final car to win under this make with us going to the Next-Gen car next year. Does that mean anything for you guys? Do you take that away as a success overall?
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, thanks for the question. Winning a race at a professional level is difficult, period. To win in this case 19 races for Chevrolet, Kyle does 10 race wins and brings the championship home, regardless of the format and the rule set, it’s difficult to do, and I’m really proud of what Kyle and the Hendrick team did.
Chevrolet, as you know, competes in all kinds of racing series, in the U.S. and across the world, and so when they change the rules, you’ve got to change and be ready to race. So that’s what we’ll do. But that’s for next year. Tonight is for celebration of Kyle Larson and Cliff Daniels and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and the Chevrolet engineers.
That’s what our focus is tonight. Just big shout-out to everybody at Hendrick, Rick Hendrick, Marshall Carlson, Jeff Andrews, Chad Knaus, Jeff Gordon. The list goes on.
And then from the Chevrolet side, we picked up a real talented guy like Eric Warren, and he was at Richard Childress Racing, super talented engineer, and he leads our NASCAR programs from an engineering standpoint. So proud of the job he’s done with along with Pat Suhy and Adam Golembeski. And then I’ve got a counterpart, Jim Danahy, he was our vice president of engineering. We’re all in on motorsports at Chevrolet as you know, so I’m really happy for those guys, too.
Alan Gustafson was in here on Friday, I believe, or Saturday after qualifying. He said he thinks he’s got two of the world’s best drivers that he’s working with at Hendrick right now, and I’m curious if you also see that from Chevrolet’s perspective, if you feel like this is kind of with the youth that that team has right now that it’s kind of the start of a legendary era.
JIM CAMPBELL: Thanks for the question. Just at a very broad level, if you think about the Chevy driver lineup that we’ve had over the past years and many of these amazing drivers and champions retired, Tony Stewart retired, he won three championships with us at our company; Jeff Gordon retired; Dale Earnhardt Jr. was obviously an Xfinity champion but also won so many races at the Cup level, retired; Kevin Harvick moved on to the Ford side.
Along the way we brought in so many young amazing drivers. They were young drivers who in many cases were in their first year in Cup, they hadn’t really been to many of these tracks at that level.
What I love about what’s happening right now, Chevy has the youngest ever age of drivers across all our teams. What I love about them is they’re getting better and better every race, every year. So I’m excited about what that means for the future. Certainly talented drivers at Hendrick, but there’s also talented drivers across all the Chevrolet teams. Super proud of that and excited.
Kind of following up a little bit, celebrating a championship tonight, but there’s a lot of work to be done between now and February with the new car. I just wondered how you guys feel on your progress with the new car, and what are you hoping to get out of the myriad of tests that will be going on between now and February?
JIM CAMPBELL: Well, you know, the test schedule, we’ll be in Charlotte, we’ll be back here. There’s a whole list of tests that are in front of us. In the automobile business you do two things: You sell what you have in the showroom today while you prepare the next model for the showroom tomorrow.
We’re doing the same thing. We’re racing today with the car we have while we’ve been preparing the Next Gen Camaro ZL1 for next year. So it’s something in the auto industry, that’s what we do. You’ve got to be able to do those two things at the same time. So our team is definitely preparing on that side, but obviously that preparation and development continues in the coming weeks and months as we prepare for the Next Gen next year.
But for tonight just a huge focus on what Hendrick Motorsports accomplished tonight with Kyle and Cliff and the whole team. Really proud of them.
It’s better to have one if it’s the Cup than two —
JIM CAMPBELL: I was thinking about the weekend we had. Obviously we had Zane in the championship race on Friday. Zane actually did a nice job. He had a shot at it, but we didn’t really get to the winner’s circle there.
Yesterday we had two drivers between Noah and A.J., didn’t get to winner’s circle, and today the focus was we’ve got to get to the winner’s circle on the third race, and it’s the big one. Certainly we would have loved to have won in all those categories, but today at the Cup level, at the top level, to get the win in the championship, so very special.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on a great year, and thanks for your time.
— NASCAR —