Victory at Le Mans the biggest jewel in the bowtie brand's crown.
Yes, of course, Jim Campbell knows that this weekend, it starts all over again. The slate is wiped clean, new headlines will be written, and in the world of big-time motorsports, win some, lose some, often means that he’ll lose more than he wins.
You are only as good as your last race? No, you are only as good as your next race.
But if Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, wants to soak in what happened last weekend, who can blame him?
After all, look at the weekend Campbell had:
--Usually it’s the “thrill of victory, the agony of defeat,” but at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was the other way around: On the Thursday before the race, the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R driven by Jan Magnussen crashed hard in practice after a piece of debris invaded the pedal box and caused the throttle to stick. Campbell was front and center for the decision to pull the car from competition after it was decided the frame was bent too badly to properly true. “It was a difficult decision to have to write the letter to the ACO, requesting that we pull the entry,” Campbell told Motorsport.com on Tuesday. “It was really tough.” But with Corvette Racing’s chances of an eighth GTE Pro victory halved, the team rallied around the remaining car, and Oliver Gavin, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner not only drove it to victory, but by five laps.
--Meanwhile, back home: Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi and Helio Castroneves take first, second and third in the Verizon IndyCar series at Streets of Toronto Exhibition Place, sweeping the podium for Chevrolet. Followed incidentally, by Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon – all the top eight drivers were powered by Chevrolet. Good news for Chevrolet, bad news for IndyCar if they can’t figure out a way to get Honda competitive again.
--Chevrolet drivers Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr. lock up the podium at the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. Kyle Busch put Toyota in victory lane for the NASCAR XFINITY Great Clips 200, but the consolation prize was Chevrolet drivers Chase Elliott in second, Kyle Larson in third.
--In the third NASCAR race of the weekend, the Drivin’ For Linemen 200 NASCAR Camping World truck event at Gateway International Raceway, Cole Custer won in the No. 00 Chevrolet Silverado, followed by Spencer Gallagher in the No. 23 Silverado. Neither the East nor West NASCAR K&N Series, incidentally, was racing last weekend.
--At New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, John Force drove his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to his second NHRA drag racing win of the season, and Greg Anderson took his Chevrolet Pro Stock Camaro to victory lane for the second straight race. Force’s longtime partner, Ford, bailed at the end of 2014, and Force is making Chevrolet glad they picked up his contract.
--Current World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz drove his Tony Stewart Racing Chevrolet sprint car to his 12th WoO main event win of the season at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway on Saturday, and his 13th of the season Sunday at Huset’s Speedway in South Dakota.
--And finally, Ross Kenseth, son of Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth, won the ARCA Corrigan Oil 200 race at Michigan – not in a Toyota, but in the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet owned by former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Ken Schrader.
Le Mans win was the weekend's crown
Le Mans, of course, was the pinnacle of the weekend for Chevrolet and Campbell. “Our first concern was, of course, that Jan was OK,” after the crash of the No. 63 car. “The car did its job – there’s a lot of safety built into the C7.R, and he was OK, and that’s all that mattered.
“The car was not. But the focus then was we’ll repair the car and race another day, race another year, but the first priority was of course that Jan wasn’t hurt.”
Still, “This is a race you prepare all year for. You basically win, or you lose. Second, third, fourth just don’t have much value.” No American team is worried about having a good points day at Le Mans – it’s all or nothing. “It’s the one day of the year we focus on winning it all,” Campbell said.
All the engineers and crew stayed to support the No. 64, including Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe, “who I’m sure would have rather have been driving, but they were at the track all weekend to back their teammates. And when the checkered flag fell, I tell you, it was an emotional moment in the garage because of all the team had been through.”
So this weekend -- after a week spent at Chevrolet dealer meetings in Las Vegas -- Campbell and his crew will be back at the races, hoping and planning for a good weekend. But it will be hard to top the last one.