NASCAR named its first chief operating officer since 2006, hiring longtime automotive executive Brent Dewar for the position.
Dewar worked at General Motors for 30 years before retiring in April 2010 as senior vice president of global Chevrolet. He has been consulting with NASCAR since last year on transforming its competition with new approaches on rules, penalties, officiating and inspection.
“In Brent Dewar, we will add a seasoned leader with deep experience in the automotive sector, plus intimate knowledge of and passion for NASCAR as well as various other forms of motorsports,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said in a statement. “Brent brings creativity, drive, intelligence, operational acumen and a clear understanding of our assets and challenges to NASCAR. He’s a leader who’s naturally collaborative, an essential trait as we work more closely with the (manufacturers), teams, tracks, broadcast partners and others to grow the sport over the next decade.”
During his career at GM, Dewar oversaw its motorsports program and was involved in the company’s initiatives in adapting to digital and social media and putting an emphasis on green technology (he helped launch the Volt electric car).
Those also are key areas for NASCAR in a five-year plan aimed at rebuilding its fan base.
“I think that’s where I can really help, driving some of these initiatives to keep the core fan base while attracting more youth and multicultural audiences to the sport,” Dewar told USA TODAY Sports in a Wednesday morning interview. “I’m a fan who has been following racing since I was 9 growing up in Vancouver. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to tracks and so I’m very interested in how you can take racing to wherever the fan is, whether through digital, broadcast or other activities.
“We were early adapters at GM to new forms of media as it migrated into digital and social. Fans choose multiple forms of media, and we have to be contextually relevant in all of those. It’s a different world today.”
Dewar said the racing industry changed for the better after the 2008-09 economic downturn had driven an emphasis on providing value to the fans.
“It’s still an amazing value to go to a NASCAR race, and we have to get that story out there,” Dewar said. “I took my 7-year-old daughter to the Daytona 500, and it was great to see through her eyes what the next generation of fans sees.”
Dewar becomes NASCAR’s first COO since George Pyne, who wasn’t replaced after leaving NASCAR nearly eight years ago.
NASCAR also promoted three members of its executive team. Chief marketing officer Steve Phelps and senior vice president Steve O’Donnell both were named executive vice presidents, and general counsel Gary Crotty was elevated to chief legal officer.
Mike Helton remains as NASCAR president with oversight over racing operations. Dewar said he and Helton each will report to France.
“Mike and I have worked closely in the past year, and I have a great respect for him,” Dewar said. “We’re a team, and I’m here to help guide the business and marketing side. I’m a believer in technology, and relevant technology is a big part of the sport.”
Dewar, who will start his position Jan. 6, will be based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and plans to spend the first few months of the new year soliciting feedback from the industry.
“There are a lot of synergies we can bring together, and I’ve been a part of the NASCAR ecosystem for a long time,” Dewar said. “I have a great understanding of the challenges team owners have as they develop their teams, having worked closely with Roger Penske, Joe and J.D. Gibbs and Rick Hendrick.”
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