Phoenix II: George Gillett - Sunday media visit

GEORGE GILLETT (Co-Owner, Gillett Evernham Motorsports) WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR NEXT YEAR? "Our family, the Gillett family works on the business side, so hopefully we'll get even more professional and we'll bring some more ...

GEORGE GILLETT (Co-Owner, Gillett Evernham Motorsports)

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR NEXT YEAR? "Our family, the Gillett family works on the business side, so hopefully we'll get even more professional and we'll bring some more sponsors in. We are working on some very exciting things. We had an announcement with Best Buy on Friday that I think was a very interesting one for us and very good for all of us hopefully. On the racing side we are looking for victory lane.

WITH ALL OF THE TALK THAT NASCAR HAS PLATEAUED, DO YOU FIND IT HARDER TO FIND SPONSORS IN GENERAL OR IS IT EASIER FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRE-EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS? "I think there is a little bit of both. First thing that I would argue is that NASCAR is plateauing. What has happened is the things that we all measure on a historic basis like television ratings they have in fact plateaued, but there are so many other ways that our fans are accessing NASCAR today that the actual fan base is growing at a very rapid rate. If you could ever figure out a way to measure all of that I think we'd be very thrilled with what's going on within the NACSAR family. As a result of that what we are finding is the more sophisticated advertisers who understand new media and the various ways that we have access to the fans are really coming in, in droves. So the new advertisers coming in are the people that are really quite sophisticated. We're very excited."

CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF THE TYPE OF ADVERTISER THAT YO U ARE TALKING ABOUT? "I would really rather not say. There are some that we are talking to, but they are very exciting folks who have not been in the sport before, and you can imagine who they might be because they are quintessential new media."

ARE YOU SEEING INTERNATIONAL SPONSORSHIP INTEREST? "Very much so. I think you'll see us in the next few weeks a little something, a very major international sponsor coming in and another one growing with us. We're very excited and we do see recognition of the international aspects of NASCAR. As I say, it's not just the traditional way to measure it, it's the new ways that people are accessing it and this sport is exciting."

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE YOU PLANNING TO ADD TO THE GILLETT EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS MARKETING DEPARTMENT? "We don't have a target. I think it's what the market will require. You've got to remember that if you're going to be in this sport now it is no longer just enough to sell a sponsor. The idea of us being a moving billboard is passe. We've got to provide our sponsors so much more today, and so that takes people, very, very bright and talented people. Not necessarily young people, in many cases experienced people."

DOES PATRICK CARPENTIER HELP WITH THE INTERNATIONAL APPEAL? "No, the decision to hire Patrick Carpentier was a decision made by Ray Evernham not by the Gillett family. Last year when we put him in our Busch car that was a Gillett family influence and he was so good, so positive, bilingual, has a wonderful family. He is in many ways the future of the sport. It's not about national or international, it's about the fact that he's a hell of a driver. I mean if you happen to watch what he did down in Atlanta, you know the first morning he was 50th, that afternoon he was 49th, the Tuesday morning he was 36th, by Tuesday afternoon he was 31st and he qualified 24th here. This is only the second day that he was on a car on this track, and this as you know is a tough track. We are seeing not just great young athletes coming in, but we're seeing people with international experience and I think that's a real asset."

WHAT REALLY BROUGHT YOU HERE TO NASCAR? "What brought me here to NASCAR is a love of cars. My family has been in the car business for, I don't know, 50 or 60 years. We own 30 or 40 auto dealerships. I used to be a driver. We sponsored cars. We went to the winner's circle at the Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Lazier. We've been in the sport a long time. In the mid-70s Mr. France and I talked about us becoming an investor in NASCAR and/or in Talladega and Daytona. Our interest is not fresh and new. We're not new to the sport we've been around it a long time."

HOW SERIOUS WERE YOU IN YOUR ATTEMPT TO PURCHASE NEW HAMSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY? "We were psychology close and seriously interested, but we didn't have a racetrack like Las Vegas that might perhaps be the source or the spot to take an extra race where they can make fabulous profit. The Bahre family built a great track. I have been to all but a couple of the tracks over the last five years and I would have to tell you that the feeling and the training of that staff is as good as anything that I've seen anywhere. I think that Speedway Motorsports made a very, very good buy."

WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN BUYING POCONO IF IT BECAME AVAILABLE? "I don't know that much about Pocono. I've never been there. I know the doctor and his family own it. I know they do very well with Boston. I think they are quite experienced. I think it's just charming that this sport continues to have individual owners rather than just two major conglomerates. I think we bring something to the sport by having families continue. I was disappointed to see the Bahre family sell for that reason, but I understand why Bruton did what he did."

DO YOU EVER RECOMMEND ANY CHANGES TO BRIAN (FRANCE) OR DO YOU JUST LET THE SPORT COME AS IT MAY? "I don't really know Brian. We've met a couple of times just briefly or socially. We have a dinner on our calendars coming up soon. I think it's as much what Brian wants to know about me as what I want to know about Brian."

WHY ARE WE SEEING SO MANY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELF COMING INTO THE SPORT FROM OTHER AREAS? "I think in our case it's a little different. I think we've been in and around motor racing, sponsored and owned cars, and so forth in all different forms of racing. So I think that we are probably a little different and I think that there is sort of a tendency to put us all in the same boat.

"When you come here today and there are probably a 120,000 or a 125,000 people on premise and down the road the Arizona Cardinals, a darn good football team will be playing, we'll have more than twice the audience and twice the crowd then they will. They'll come here earlier. They'll spend more money. They will support this sport in different and better ways. They will watch tonight when they get home. It's a different crowd and I think this is really such a wonderful sport for that reason. That's why we like it. That's why I think others like it."

IN YOUR ESTIMATION WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING NASCAR? "I think its sort of more of the same. I think that they are on such a great track. We've studied it for a long time before we got into it. We read what a lot of you say and you do look that the television audiences are down a little bit in some cases, and I think what you see is that they're trying to grow the sport in terms of its audience base, which means that they have been playing around a little bit with the starting times and that certainly effects the audience. The second thing is we've had some peculiar weather this year that has either delayed or moved a race to the following day in some cases and those numbers are put into that average. If you look on a similar staring time basis I think NASCAR is doing fine. So, I don't sense that there is anything on the sports side that I'm really concerned about. I do think that the cost of fuel is a real issue, because an awful lot of our fans drive and that makes it expensive. On the other hand you come into a market only twice a year and that's really not quite so hard on our fans. I do think that the cost of fuel and the national economy are two serious issues that effect and awful lot more than motorsports racing."

WHAT HAS BEEN THE CANADIAN FANS REACTION TO YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE SPORT AND IS IT GOING TO RAISE AWARENESS IN CANADA? "I think you'd have to ask some of the media from there, but based on what I'm seeing there is tremendous excitement. I met two of the French-Canadian press here yesterday. In fact one of them came up and thanked me because I think he got a new assignment and he really likes it. There is tremendous interest. You go on TSN and whether it's Villeneuve or Capentier or whatever there is tremendous interest. I think there is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for motorsports racing. If you ever come to Montreal, either for the Formula 1 or that Busch race, I mean it is unbelievable. The participation of the fans, the energy and passion, it's the same thing that the Canadians have motorsports racing has."

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO INTEGRATE STRATEGY BETWEEN THE TWO TEAMS? "I don't want to be impolite, but if we had some creative ideas, and I don't have very many, but if I had a good one I don't think I'd be sharing it today."

ARE THERE WAYS THAT YOU MIGHT BRING NASCAR TO YOUR OPERATION OR WAYS THAT YOU MIGHT CROSS POLINATE THE FAN BASES? "Okay, I'll give you an idea. We've got auto dealerships all over the country and we have millions of people coming in, you can imagine that we'll start to use some of that kind of an experience and whether they are Dodge dealers or not we've got 50 cars left over from this year that you might start to see on the floors with some video and so forth explaining what auto racing is and see if we can't bring some new fans into the sport.

"The driver development area is an area that we fell very passionately about. I think you'll see us do some interesting things in driver development. I think you'll see us create a whole new television series on driver development with a whole new thought and idea. I can't really go any further, but we've got a number of brilliant young drivers -- male, female, national and international already signed up for the series. I think you'll see us doing some fun things there.

"As you look at what it takes to win in this sport the idea that we're all dealing with a relatively small number of athletes and they all sort of rotate. I don't think that's very healthy for the sport. I think we are going to be looking at bringing some new people like Patrick Carpentier, and who bring both a new skill set and a personality. I think that's good for the sport."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Patrick Carpentier , Ray Evernham