2006 Memories from the GM Racing Team

Dec 04 2006 admin News Comments Off on 2006 Memories from the GM Racing Team

Standing on the pit lane wall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, waving the American flag as Corvette Racing won its class for the fifth time. That was easily the best!

General Motors experienced another memorable racing season in 2006, capturing 13 racing championships and setting new records in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, NHRA POWERade Series and Rolex Series GT class, to name a few. In total, GM Racing scored five manufacturers championships and eight drivers titles – building on the success of the previous years and setting the stage for 2007.

GM Racing managers and executives involved in all facets of motorsports competition where GM races share their favorite memories from a 2006 season past:

Mark Kent – Director, GM Racing

“I have favorite moments in nearly every venue in which we race. This year brought many memorable moments for me, including standing trackside at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Jimmie Johnson drove his Monte Carlo SS to his first Cup championship,watching Kevin Harvick hoist his Busch Championship trophy and standing at the starting line as Greg Anderson and Jason Line dueled it out at Pomona in their identical Pontiac GTOs. I was also at the season finale events when the Chevrolet Corvettes and Pontiac GTOs captured their championships in ALMS and Grand American GT competition, respectively. It was also a memorable year in SCCA racing with a successful debut of the Pontiac Solstice in SSB competition.”

“With so many great GM racing successes, it’s hard to pick one moment as my ‘favorite’. However, if forced to do so, there is one moment that I will never forget. I was fortunate enough to be able to stand on the winner’s walkway at Le Mans, looking down at tens of thousands of fans from around the world cheering for the Corvette Racing drivers as they celebrated their third-straight GT1 championship. It’s an experience beyond words… you have to be there to feel the excitement and to see the faces of not only the fans but the drivers, their teams and everyone involved in one of the greatest races in the world.”

Pat Suhy – Group Manager, NASCAR (Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series)

“The best thing for me is winning the Daytona 500. That win set the tone for our new Monte Carlo SS race car success for 2006. Probably the next thing after that was winning at Las Vegas with Jimmie Johnson. We focused our efforts for the 2006 Monte Carlo SS on downforce tracks like Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the way Jimmie ran that race – the way all the Chevys ran in general – gave me a great deal of satisfaction to know that we had done the right things. We really helped our teams in their mile-and-a-half track performance. Those are the two big ones that really stand out.”

“Breaking our own win record was the icing on the cake. We had nine different drivers win races for a total of 23 wins. Now that NASCAR is doing away with the ‘Modern Era’ that record may change but we’re still up there in terms of wins as a percentage. If you look at winning 50 races out of 96 in Cup, Truck and Busch,that’s a number that may stand for a long, long time. Jimmie winning the championship is just more icing on that cake.”

Steve Wesoloski – GM Racing Road Racing Group Manager

On Corvette Racing:

“The highlight was winning Le Mans again. Having originally come to Corvette Racing from the production group on what I thought was going to be a short-term assignment, to stand on the podium at Le Mans for the second straight year was very special. I’m hoping to repeat that experience again.”

“I was very pleased with how Corvette Racing maintained its composure and focus in spite of the rule changes and performance adjustments imposed throughout the season. The team just pushed harder and worked harder to achieve its goals.”

On Team Cadillac:

“It’s a very difficult environment in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge series dealing with the REWARDS weight when you’re successful and with the performance balancing adjustments over the season. Team Cadillac worked hard and the championships again came down to the final race of the season. Andy Pilgrim was in contention for the drivers’ title right to the finish, and he tied for second place in points. That showed the consistency of a champion, and his first win with Team Cadillac at Road Atlanta was huge. But the single moment that stands out was Ron Fellows’ last-lap pass for the win in Long Beach.”

Alba Colon – Program Manager, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series

“This has been an amazing year for us with Jimmie winning the championship and all the wins we achieved this year. Winning the drivers and manufacturers championship and breaking our win record was very special. Another key moment was when John Darby (technical director, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series) called me to the NASCAR trailer and told me our ‘07 engine was approved. For me that was one of the best moments of the year.”

“Another great thing that happened this season was our driver development test because we were able to work on developing a new generation of Chevrolet drivers.”

Dayne Pierantoni – Program Manager, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

“The best memory for me, definitely, was winning the Silverado 350K at Texas Motor Speedway this year. We had three trucks in the top five that night and it was the first time we’ve won that race since it was renamed the Silverado 350K. Winning at a Chevy-sponsored track with your product’s name on it is a great feeling. Seeing Clint Bowyer win his first Truck race was great too.”

“It was good to win at a mile-and-a-half track. Those are extremely competitive, especially with Toyota’s presence in the series. Four of the races we won this year were at tracks like that so that’s something we’re really proud of.”

Doug Fehan- Program Manager, American Le Mans Series

“Standing on the pit lane wall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, waving the American flag as Corvette Racing won its class for the fifth time. That was easily the best!”

Dave Spitzer – Program Manager, SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT

“The first highlight has got to be Ron Fellows’ performance in Long Beach. He started fifth, picked off the guys ahead of him one by one, and then hounded the leader for lap after lap. We were counting down the laps for him, but we learned later that he couldn’t hear us on the radio, so he was managing his tires and his race strategy on his own. When Ron saw the white flag, he set up the pass for the lead on the last lap, using a part of the race track that hadn’t been used by anyone else in the race. Amazing!”

“The other highlight was filming the ‘Trickle’ television commercial with the Cadillac CTS-V race cars. We spent two days in California’s high desert with over 100 production people. The fun part was that in take after take, Andy Pilgrim won the ‘race’ for the cameras. To then have that become reality a few weeks later when Andy won at Road Atlanta was very special.”

Jim Lutz – Program Manager, Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series

“With the way the season began for our Daytona Prototype program it was great to see how our teams rebounded and were in serious contention for the DP manufacturers championship until the end of the season. The beginning of the season wasn’t easy – we had numerous hurdles to overcome but our teams never gave up. The level of competitiveness compared to the previous year was increased but the effort shown by all of our teams was unparalleled. I’m really very pleased to be a part of this program.”

“The highlight, of course, was a ‘triple crown’ with the Pontiac GTO.R – Bunting and Lally took GT drivers championships while TRG took the team championship and we won our first-ever Rolex Series GT manufacturer title. Now we’re looking forward to next year with a new race car.”

Ken Wasmer – Program Manager, Grand-Am Cup Series

“I have four memories that stand out in my mind. The first would be taking first and second place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The champagne tasted really good that day. Second would be winning (again) at Mid-Ohio. We took the pole position there and out-pitted the entire field. Third would be winning half of 10 races this season, and the last would be winning at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut while directing pit strategy from a hotel room in Indiana. I’ll elaborate on that last one since it’s a little unusual.”

“Three days before the race, I was involved in an accident which crushed my left leg and was unable to fly to the race. My son had a soccer tournament in Indiana that weekend, so I went with my family down to the tournament – my wife drove us down since I could not drive. From the hotel room in Indiana I had daily conference calls with the team to review outcomes of practice sessions, etc.”

“On race day, I logged on to Grand-Am’s website, which offers live timing and scoring. Via my laptop tracking race info (looking at gaps, etc.) I was able to determine best pit window. Our PR manager Dave Arnold called me on his cell phone with various updates which might not normally come thru the web. With Dave’s phone I was able to speak to the trackside engineering crew, whose phones didn’t work at the track.”

“The team relayed feedback on fuel used and miles per gallon from the drivers. So other than not standing directly next to the team in the pits, I had most of the same data I use at the track to call the pit window and pit stops.”

“The rest, as the saying goes, is history – at any rate, the entire team worked very well under the unique circumstances and the crew executed flawlessly.”

Fred Simmonds – Marketing Manager, Drag Racing

On his recent return from GM’s participation in a USO-sponsored trip to Germany to visit wounded American troops with select NHRA drivers for the second year.

“We started planning this visit to Ramstein (Air Force base), Germany, from the day we got back from last year’s trip. Our mission is quite simple: tell the troops how much we appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made so that all of us in the U.S. may enjoy the many freedoms we have. They’re doing an awesome job under daunting circumstances, and we want them to know just how proud we are of the work they’re doing for America.”

Release Date: December 4, 2006