INDIANAPOLIS, March 26, 2003 - For nearly 40 years, Herbert A. (Herb) Fishel, executive director of GM Racing, has been a powerful behind-the-scenes force in American motorsports. On May 25, 2003, Fishel will be on center stage at the world's ...
INDIANAPOLIS, March 26, 2003 - For nearly 40 years, Herbert A. (Herb) Fishel, executive director of GM Racing, has been a powerful behind-the-scenes force in American motorsports. On May 25, 2003, Fishel will be on center stage at the world's largest single-day sporting event when he drives the Chevy SSR Official Pace Vehicle at the start of the Indianapolis 500.
"Driving the Chevy SSR Indy 500 Pace Vehicle as I enter the 40th year of my career is a tremendous honor," said Fishel. "I'm going to make the most of this opportunity. If I can take 1,000 people around the track in the month of May, I'll do it!
"When I was growing up in the Carolinas in the '50s, every Memorial Day I would set up a card table in the front yard, take an AM radio out there and have lemonade," Fishel recalled. "I'd sit there and write down the 10-lap results listening to Sid Collins, the voice of the Indy 500. The Indianapolis 500 was the greatest race in the world, and it still is. As a symbol of this country and a symbol of greatness, the Indy 500 is it."
As a youth, Fishel dreamed about an Oldsmobile engine winning the Indianapolis 500, a dream he helped bring to reality in 1997 when a GM-designed Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V-8 powered Arie Luyendyk to victory.
He has played a role in every GM factory engine program at Indy over the last three decades, from stock-block Chevy V-6s and V-8s, the Buick Indy V-6 and the first-generation Chevy Indy V-8 to the IRL Aurora V8 and second-generation Chevy Indy V-8. These GM engines have won 12 of the last 15 Indianapolis 500 races, 63 of 66 IRL races from 1997 through 2002, and a total of 149 races through the 2002 season.
"During Herb's career at General Motors, he had a greater influence on the Indianapolis 500 than most people realize," said Tony George, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I am excited for Herb that after 40 years in motorsports with GM, he will have the opportunity to realize a lifelong dream by pacing the Indy 500.
"During the 20 years I have known Herb, I have witnessed many of his contributions to motorsports at Indy, at Le Mans and in Winston Cup. I have personally benefited from his experience, knowledge and guidance, and I am proud that, together with GM, I can help Herb fulfill his dream."
Fishel is responsible for the engineering resources and program management of GM's North American racing programs. He has been the executive director of GM Racing since the group was formed on Oct. 8, 1991.
Fishel earned his engineering degree at North Carolina State University in 1963, but his preferred place of study was the race tracks that dotted the Southeast. After graduation, Fishel realized his dream of working for an automobile manufacturer when he moved to Detroit to join the Chevrolet drafting department. He was assigned to the Chevrolet Product Performance Group in March 1969, where he began working on major racing programs with many of his childhood heroes, including American racing legends Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson. By 1973, Fishel was responsible for engineering heavy-duty parts for Chevrolet's high-performance engines.
After a stint at Buick Special Products Engineering (a period in which Buick won consecutive NASCAR championships in 1981-82 and launched its turbocharged Buick V-6 Indy car program), Fishel returned to Chevrolet in 1983 as staff engineer - product promotion, in charge of all Chevrolet motorsports programs. In December 1984 he was promoted to director of Chevrolet Special Products, which became the Chevrolet Raceshop in 1988.
"I have always believed that there is a mutually beneficial relationship between racing and the automotive manufacturers," said Fishel. "That has been a guiding principle throughout my career. What's good for racing should be good for the automotive manufacturers, and what's good in our business should be good for racing. I have always been committed to GM's involvement in the Indy 500."
Fishel has directed GM programs that have won championships in top professional racing series and premier events around the world, including consecutive Le Mans wins with the Corvette C5-R. He played a key role in Chevrolet's unprecedented achievement of nine straight NASCAR Winston Cup Manufacturers' Championships (1983-91) and in GM drivers winning 21 of the 24 Winston Cup titles from 1979-2002. Under Fishel's guidance, GM won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, becoming the first automaker to win auto racing's "Triple Crown" in more than three decades.
In 1997, Fishel was named by Hot Rod magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the first 50 years of hot rodding. He has also been recognized by Racer magazine as one of the dozen most influential people in racing. A resident of Clarkston, Mich., his hobbies include collecting racing memorabilia and driving his immaculately restored Chevrolet V-8-powered street rod.