Burk's Bowtie Blast!

It’s not all bad news

After almost a hundred years of being involved in auto racing it appears that there will no longer be any direct Chevrolet company or factory involvement in auto racing.
I base that statement on the news I’ve been seeing for the last several days that announced GM’s dropping of various sponsorship directly connected to auto racing.

As part of General Motor’s exit from bankruptcy the company has severed virtually all of its contractual involvement with auto racing. And by all, we are talking about GM leaving NASCAR, the NHRA, road racing sponsorships, sponsorship deals with Daytona International Raceway, and Bruton Smith’s Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway.

The bankruptcy judge ended GM deals with the NHRA Pro Stock teams owned by Victor Cagnazzi, Ken Black, Kurt Johnson and the Tony Pedregon Funny Car team. In NASCAR Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace all lost their deals, and there are others too numerous to list here but you get the idea. GM is out of the racing business to concentrate on trying to build and sell cars the American public can afford and will buy.

The old saying that was used for years to justify the huge amounts of money that GM spent in all forms of racing from the 24 hours of LeMans to the Daytona 500, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” has officially been retired.

But let’s not break out the black crepe and drape the Bowtie with it right away. I think GM’s move was arguably way overdue. The investment in racing that GM had was probably way ahead of any reasonable return on investment it delivered. But back when they made these deals, GM was drunk with money and cash flow. 

When the crash came it was very difficult for the managers -- who had developed personal relationships with sanctioning bodies, race teams, race track owners and even drivers and knew that, in many cases, that relationship with GM was a large part of their budget – to tell them “Sorry we have to cut you loose.”

But the fact is that GM was losing millions of dollars a week with the old business plan and, without drastic changes and a huge injection of the taxpayers hard earned cash, was going to cease to exist. So they declared bankruptcy and a judge with no personal ties or relationships simply made decisions based strictly on profit and loss.

Having said all of that, I don’t think things are as bad for we Bowtie fans as you might think. There is some good news out there for Chevy fans and the company. In June, for the first time since 1993, Chevy’s Camaro out-sold Ford’s Mustang. That alone indicates to Chevy that there remains a market for a high-performance coupe.

GM’s Bob Lutz said recently that the company is considering bring the Australian version of the Pontiac G-8 to the U.S. as a Chevy Caprice. Also, as far as I know, the GM High Performance division is alive and doing well and they’ve told me and others that GMHP is profitable and not going anywhere.

So, what does all of this mean to the professional racer, the average hot rodder or hobby racer? No one knows the answer to that question positively, but here is what I think will happen.

GM involvement with professional racers will revert to what we had in the mid-1950s and early 1960s. There will still be some engineers at GM working on making go-fast parts for the Camaro, Caprice, or whatever. GM High Performance will still develop, build and sell speed equipment to the Chevy racer and, as in the ’50s and ’60s ,there will be racers or teams with a “backdoor” source for GM parts and technology.

I think GM will continue to keep the ‘Vette a high-performance leader. There will probably be a “Super Sport” Camaro and Caprice, especially since the Camaro is selling so well.  

But I’m certain that it will be a very long time, if ever at all, before GM returns to the level of involvement in professional auto racing they’ve had over the last three decades.

Racing isn’t going to suddenly disappear and neither will high-performance street cars. There will be a demand for fast production cars and aftermarket speed parts and I believe that Mr. Lutz and the Chevy brand especially will pay attention to that part of their market.

So, the announcements GM and the Chevy folks have made and the relationships they have terminated in the past few days didn’t signal the end of Chevy as a force in the racing world, but it did signal that the GM and especially the Chevy brand is entering a brand new world and those of us who buy, race and drive our beloved Chevys had better pay attention to the changes and learn to live with them. In the words of the Borg, “Resistance is futile.”

Max Chevy covers all automotive things Chevy. A new issue of MaxChevy.com is published every other month and is updated weekly.



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