DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Chevrolet may have pulled out of NASCAR had the sanctioning body not agreed to redesign race cars and make them more relevant to consumers.
NASCAR President Mike Helton and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said Saturday that they had talks with the American automaker that made it clear things needed to change to keep Chevrolet happy.
But Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, said the auto giant never threatened to walk.
"We're not going to walk in and threaten we're going to leave anything," Ruess said. "We're going to have great conversations about what we're going to do, so that's the way we'll approach it."
Helton and Hendrick, though, believe it could have happened had NASCAR not developed the new "Generation 6" car that resembles those on showroom floors.
Speaking at the unveiling of the 2014 Chevrolet SS at Daytona International Speedway, Helton said Chevrolet "backed us in a corner and said, `Here's what you guys need to think about doing' and causing us maybe to react a little bit ahead of our own schedules. But it worked, and it worked well."
Hendrick echoed those sentiments.
"I think Mark Reuss said that if we can't be relevant, we don't race," Hendrick recalled. "So we had a lot riding on that. I think that's when everybody started talking, and Ford and Toyota. But Mark pushed the button with NASCAR, and I'm glad he did. It's sure paid off."
Drivers, owners, NASCAR, fans and manufacturers have raved about the retooled cars, which have better styling and more unique front ends that offer brand identity. It remains to be seen how they will alter racing.
The real payoff could come down the road, with the new race cars possibly improving showroom sales and creating more interest in racing.
And if not for the changes, Chevy may have pull out.
"I think there would have been a good chance," Hendrick said. "Matter of fact, I'm fairly sure they might have. I think once they made their point that if they were going to be in the sport, it had to be relevant to what we sell. You look at what they spend at the tracks and they want to showcase their products."