George Gillett Jr., the new majority owner of Gillett Evernham Motorsports, is best known as the owner of the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL and co-owner of Liverpool of the English Premier League.
But Gillett says his interest in NASCAR is a natural outgrowth of his family background.
“What brought me here to NASCAR is a love of cars,” Gillett said. “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 (race car) driver. We sponsored cars. We went to the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Lazier (in 1996). We’ve been in the sport a long time.
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"In the mid-70s, (former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr.) 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.” Gillett also has lots of ideas to increase NASCAR’s popularity.
“We’ve got auto dealerships all over the country and we have millions of people coming in,” he said. “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.”
GEM has also gone international in Nextel Cup, signing former open-wheel driver and Quebec native Patrick Carpentier, who finished 33rd in his Cup debut last Sunday in Phoenix.
“The driver development area is an area that we feel very passionately about,” Gillett said. “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, who bring both a new skill set and a personality. I think that’s good for the sport.”