Words by Darr Hawthorne
Photos by Zak Hawthorne
||You may have seen this
gentleman walking the staging lanes at an
NHRA POWERade race or at a local IDRC Sport
Compact race. He knows WJ, KJ, Jim Yates,
and the likes of Marty Ladwig and Nelson
Hoyos in Sport Compact racing. He's Fred
H. Simmonds, Marketing Manager for Drag
Racing at GM Racing. Between cell phone
calls from Jim Yates, racing that same weekend
at Phoenix, Fred kept up on every part of
the GM Drag Racing world with a very special,
very personal touch. He was as thrilled
that all the competitors in Pro Stock at
Phoenix were GM's in the second round as
that Marty Ladwig won his class at LACR.
Darr Hawthorne had a chance to interview
Fred at the recent IDRC Sport Compact race
at Los Angeles County Raceway and talk to
him about GM's interest in the Sport Compact
DRO: General Motors now has a great presence in sport compact racing, but is the thrust of GM racing on this level really important to the marketing of these cars?
FS: Everything we do in racing is relevant to marketing. When you really step back from GM's racing efforts historically, we're not racing to win trophies, we're racing to sell cars, 'cause we're in the car business.
It's really simple when you look at it from a business case standpoint, and the same thing I think is especially true here in sport compact drag racing. When you go look at the audience here at this event, very young, very diverse, we don't do a historically very good job of selling our products to this audience, so we're using our sport compact drag race team, as sort of a way to open the door from a positive standpoint to help showcase GM product, whether it's the Sunfire or the Cavalier or the Ecotec engine.
DRO: Has it made any difference in terms of your sales in this market?
It won't yet. We're not trying to sell a new
car today with this program. Number one, I think
when you look at the sport compact arena, from
GM's perspective, we're the new kid on the block.
This audience hasn't considered our showroom
products very well in the past, so we've got
to get them to consider us first, and then you
move through the purchase model to "hey, I think
I'll go buy one." We're not there yet, we're
just trying to get some awareness out there
that we've got a good product, that we've got
a good power train. The sales will follow.
DRO: Is this GM's first full year in sport compact racing?
FS: Well, we're starting our second year. We did last year to get our feet wet. We learned an awful lot with both the Cavalier and the Sunfire cars. This year we're going to step up the wick from a performance standpoint.
Now here at this event we've got one of our
display trailers here, we've got a brand new
sport compact display trailer under construction
right now that will debut in Palm Beach (Florida),
over the first weekend in April, which is the
second NHRA race. We're committed to this; this
is not a flash in the pan, this is the future
for GM's car business, when it comes to these