Racing, technology drive new NASCAR COO Dewar
December 11, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
Long-time auto industry executive helped develop innovative competition plan
Related: Official news release
Brent Dewar watches NASCAR races with his 7-year-old daughter, and always finds it interesting to see what parts of the sport interest her the most. In his new position, he'll have an opportunity to examine similar feedback -- although much larger in scope.
NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France announced Wednesday that the longtime General Motors executive would be NASCAR's new chief operating officer, part of a restructuring of the sport's executive team. Steve Phelps, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, has been promoted to executive vice president. Steve O’Donnell, senior vice president of racing operations, has also been promoted to executive vice president. Gary Crotty, general counsel, has added the title of chief legal officer.
The new face among the changes belongs to Dewar, who isn't really new to NASCAR at all -- he was very active in the motorsports side during his tenure at GM. More recently, as a consultant, he helped shape the innovative changes announced this past summer within NASCAR's competition department. He begins at NASCAR in January, and will be based in Daytona Beach, Fla.
"Brian and the leadership have really set a vision for growth and change," Dewar said. "I've had a chance through my consulting practice to be up close and personal with that. So the role I'm going to play is to work with this great team of folks they've put in place and try to accelerate the change process."
Although Dewar helped review NASCAR's competition department as a consultant, his background is more specifically in marketing and brand management. As chief operating officer, he'll work in a number of areas that have become a priority for NASCAR, such as increasing the star power of drivers, appealing more to the youth market, and putting the best possible product on the race track.
"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," France said. "Brent brings creativity, drive, intelligence, operational acumen and a clear understanding of our assets and challenges to NASCAR."
Dewar's most recent position was managing partner at the consulting firm Whitby Advisors. The transition from consultant to chief operating officer for NASCAR happened naturally, he said.
"Because of the heavy involvement of technology -- and that's something I'm personally passionate about, technology -- it just kind of evolved," Dewar said. "I could see how committed they were to the change process and what's going on. How can you say no? It's a great company and a great brand, and at the end of the day, it's about racing. I've been a fan of all forms of racing since I was about 9."
A native of Vancouver, Canada, Dewar first became hooked on racing after watching clips on the old ABC program "Wide World of Sports." He met a friend who was into drag racing, and soon enough was a regular at the drag strip in a nearby town. His passion for cars and racing led him to GM, where his assignments spanned everything from operation and product development to marketing and media. His final position there was a global one, which made him responsible for four regions and 130 markets.
"It's hard to get into the auto business from the West Coast," said Dewar, who is now a United States citizen, and most recently made his home in New York. "But I think it's part of fate and destiny that made it happen."
Dewar is the second recent executive hire made by NASCAR with strong ties to automotive manufacturers. In April, longtime GM executive Gene Stefanyshyn was hired as vice president for innovation and racing development, and tasked with driving improvements in racing performance. Although Dewar and Stefanyshyn were familiar with one another during their respective long tenures at GM, they worked in different areas and were often stationed in different countries.
NASCAR has worked to enhance its relationship with the manufacturers that compete in the sport, an effort that produced the more brand-identifiable Generation-6 car, which debuted this past season. It all goes to show, Dewar said, that there are racing enthusiasts on both sides.
"At the end of the day, they're cars on the race track," Dewar said. "My entire career was designing, building cars, the marketing input into cars. And the brand that I came from, racing was important to the brand in a variety of different forms, and NASCAR was a great venue to showcase our product.”