Mark Kent answers media questions as new director of GM Racing
MICHAEL GARDNER , MANAGER, MOTORSPORTS, HERITAGE AND PERFORMANCE COMMUNICATIONS "Mark is not a stranger to the motorsports scene. In the late eighties and early nineties he held engineering and program management positions for our IMSA GTU and SCCA Trans-Am programs. He spent the bulk of his 25-year career in powertrain engineering and recently led the engineering design team that was responsible for GM's Northstar V8 engines. As you'll see, he has a strong technical background and a true passion for the sport. I'll turn this over to Mark now."
MARK KENT , DIRECTOR, GM RACING "Good afternoon, I'm excited to be here. It's a great time to be here in racing at General Motors and I'm really looking forward to the challenge. With that, I'll take your questions."
DETROIT FREE PRESS: JUST WONDERING, WE TRUST YOU WON'T BE JOINING ANY NASCAR TEAMS SOON?
KENT: "No, I don't plan on that. I'm GM to the bone and I plan on staying here for a while."
DETROIT FREE PRESS: UNDER YOUR REIGN, WHERE WILL GM RACING HEAD? I KNOW THAT THERE IS A LOT OF DIVERSITY THERE WITH NASCAR, ROAD RACING, OVAL RACING, DRAG RACING, GRASSROOTS RACING, ETC. WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE RACING PROGRAM GO?
KENT: "Right now we're focusing our efforts on production-based vehicles and we have a lot of new and exciting products coming out like the Pontiac GTO that we want to showcase in the Grand American series. You'll see us get into more production-based racing in the near future that will get us closer to the vehicles we're selling."
DETROIT FREE PRESS: FOLLOWING UP ON MY LAST QUESTION, DOES THAT MEAN LESS FOCUS ON IRL AND OVAL RACING AND MORE FOCUS ON STREET RACING AND PERHAPS SOME OF THE OTHER DRAG RACING CLASSES?
KENT: "Right. As you are probably aware, we're actively involved in sport compact drag racing, a really great venue for us to showcase the Chevy Cobalt. Like I said, the GTO and CTS.V in road racing series and the Corvette in the ALMS series are some wonderful venues for us to showcase our vehicles. R ight now, that's the direction we're heading."
MONTEREY COUNTY HERALD: HI MARK, BACK ON THE IRL PORTION, GM ANNOUNCED THE PULLOUT AND THEN YOU HAD A VERY STRONG SHOWING IN THE OPENER THIS PAST WEEKENED. IS THE INTENTION OF CHEVROLET TO PULL OUT ALL TOGETHER OR IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF A RETURN IN THE FUTURE ONCE THE SPECS ARE KNOWN FOR THE NEW ENGINE CONFIGURATION THAT THE IRL WANTS?
KENT: "Right now the performance that we saw last weekend really wasn't that big of a surprise. As you may recall, late in the year last year, the engine was quite competitive. You know, the team was quite competitive. So, we weren't surprised, we are cautiously optimistic. But even with a great performance this year, which we're looking forward to, in fact, we're committed to going out strong here. We have not pulled back any resources and we're working very hard to make that effort this year a winning effort. But our focus, like I mentioned earlier, is to get more into production-based racing. But, you can never say never. If you look back over the history of open-wheel racing, manufacturers have come and gone. You may recall Chevrolet getting out in the nineties and then we're back in IRL. We've been with IRL the entire time, which is a remarkable accomplishment in itself. So, right now we're going to plan on going out on top here and if things change down the road, you know, we're definitely not ruling that out."
MONTEREY COUNTY HERALD: FOLLOWING UP ON THE GRAND AM PORTION OF PRODUCTION-BASED RACING, ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE A STRONGER PRESENCE NOW IN GRAND AMERICAN? PONTIAC IS WHAT'S COMING TO MIND; PONTIAC SWEPT THE TOP FOUR PLACES LAST WEEKEND AT HOMESTEAD. IS THE GRAND AM SERIES AND AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES.ARE THOSE TWO SERIES ONES YOU'RE GOING TO GET BEHIND EVEN STRONGER?
KENT: "We do have some really good teams out there running GM products. We plan to continue that. We're also going into the Grand American venue there with the GTO. We're going to expand our road racing presence as we move forward here."
MONTEREY COUNTY HERALD: THANK YOU.
KENT: "Thank you."
DETROIT FREE PRESS: MARK, JUST IN VIEW OF YOUR COMMITMENT TO ROAD RACING AND PRODUCTION-BASED VEHICLES, WOULD YOU LIKE, PERSONALLY, TO SEE SOME SORT OF RACE BACK HERE IN DETROIT AND THE DETROIT METRO AREA? I MEAN A DOWNTOWN RACE WITH A PRODUCTION-BASED SERIES WOULD BE PRETTY SPECTACULAR AROUND THE CITY IF A VENUE COULD BE FOUND AND AGREED UPON.
KENT: "That's a really good question. Mike (Gardner) mentioned earlier that my roots go back to road racing. So I do remember the Trans Am races we had down through the downtown Detroit area, actually running around the Renaissance Center where we are today. I think it would be a great opportunity and I know there's a great appetite in the Detroit area for motorsports. So, I think that would be a great thing to have happen."
DETROIT FREE PRESS: JUST A FOLLOW UP, WHAT WOULD HAVE TO HAPPEN? OBVIOUSLY, THE BIG THREE WOULD NEED TO GET TOGETHER. HOW WOULD YOU LOBBY FOR SUCH AN EVENT TO COME TO DETROIT? I KNOW THERE ARE SOME TEAMS THAT WOULD PROBABLY LOVE TO COME HERE. IT'S AN OBVIOUS SITE, BUT WHAT HAS TO BE DONE?
KENT: "I guess, in all honesty, I'm so fresh in this job that I don't have an answer for that for you today. I'd be glad to look into that and get back to you."
DETROIT FREE PRESS: OKAY, MARK, I APPRECIATE THAT. THANK YOU.
MICHAEL GARDNER "We appreciate it. As Mark indicated, or I don't know if you did indicate in the beginning that you will be at Sebring."
KENT: "Right, I'll be down at Sebring. I'm trying my best to get out to as many races as I can. But with as many venues that we race in, it's hard to get back to the same venue very frequently. I was down in Daytona a couple of weeks ago. I was at Miami last weekend. I'll be at Sebring-not this weekend but the following weekend and at Bristol a little bit after Easter. So, I'm looking forward to getting out to the races and like I said, looking forward to seeing more of you face to face and get to know you better."
MICHAEL GARDNER "Thanks everyone for joining us."