The oval track market has always run its own course. From the majority of its parts to the changing of the off-season, it’s quite a different animal. So from that perspective, its sales and marketing are different, too. We asked a few key players in that market for their take on the oval track market heading for the green flag of the 2008 season. We had two simple but telling questions for them – how do they see the overall market and how are they doing in their corner of that market?
Jim Davis of Professional Products in Hawthorne, Calif., sees the overall market and says, “From what I am hearing it has slowed down somewhat. Our line of products is holding up well which might be due to the fact that our parts are generally less expensive than the norm. So in a soft economy we may be seeing more purchases of our products than usual due to lower cost.”
His take on what he’s seeing at Professional Products goes like this. “We actually sell a wide range of performance products. The main categories are intake manifolds, harmonic dampers, throttle bodies, fuel delivery components and a few engine accessories. While all of these categories are showing growth, the most improvement has been in the throttle body and damper area. There are a number of reasons why the throttle bodies and dampers are on a fast growth track. Part of it is we have been expanding both lines so obviously the more part numbers you have, the more parts you will sell. But it also has to do with the normal progression of a new product line. When you introduce a new product line, it usually takes two or three years….or more…before it starts to really take off. While we have actually had throttle bodies for several years, we had a relatively short line. As we have added to the line that has improved our sales. But, then the whole line starts to gain more momentum as the customer base has had several years of experience, and they realize that we offer a very high quality product and they are experiencing nearly zero problems with them. Plus they can also realize a nice profit on them. So as the customer base gains confidence in the product, they start to order more. It can take a few years to get to this position with a new line.”
Davis offers what may be some tips on new product lines with, “And I am seeing the very beginning of this type of reaction to our fuel rail kits. Again, we have expanded the line which helps, but I really expect to see a big jump in the sales of these units in 2008 for all of the same reasons that we are seeing it with throttle bodies and dampers.”
“The biggest news we have right now is our recent line of fuel injection products…Of all the products I have introduced over the years with this company and previous companies I have been with, I have never seen the universal interest and acceptance that I am seeing with this product. Aftermarket fuel injection systems havebeen around for many years. It has always been a product that everyone wanted to see succeed. But in the past the various systems on the market always seemed to have certain obstacles that hindered growth. Too expensive, too complicated, too difficult to trouble shoot, and a number of other drawbacks.”
“Our system is a self learning system and is also a throttle body based system. So you essentially bolt it on in place of your carburetor, hook up a few wires, fire it up and drive it away. It dials itself in after a few miles of driving. And on engines under 500 horsepower, which will be 95% of the installations, no fuel return line is required. Putting a fuel return line in an older car is usually the most difficult part of installing aftermarket fuel injection on an older carbureted vehicle so eliminating that step vastly simplifies the job.”
So how is this new product doing? Davis says, “We have had a very large influx of orders on this system and we are scrambling to step up production to meet the demand. This line has the potential to possibly match or outstrip the entire rest of our line of products.”
Joe Burklund is marketing manager of QA1 in Lakeville, Minn., where they are known for their serious racing shocks. Burklund says, “The overall market for our segment, and we’re in the high performance racing segment, we are cautiously optimistic about it. We haven’t seen any big gains in the market but we’re holding our own. I’d say we’ve stayed about even and we see the market that way, too.”
QA1’s corner of the market is seen by Burklund as such, “We deal in high performance racing parts including shock absorber, springs, rod ends, and related suspension components such as ball joints. (They are getting ready to release a line of rebuildable, repairable ball joints.) The hot rod and drag segments are up. Circle track has been a little flat. Here’s where we’re cautiously optimistic. The economy will impact the racer in a number of ways, but not the market in certain ways. The racers are paying more to go to and from the track, so they’ll stay closer to home. But they’re still putting money into the racecars. Racers are still going to need to buy performance products.” QA1 is also involved with the off road industry and Burklund says he sees the same thing happening there, too.
Scott Miller, from TCI in Ashland, Miss., sees the economy in a similar vein and combines both answers when he says, “Overall, it’s a little slower than what we would like it to be, but we’re doing pretty good considering the economy. Over the last 24 months, our engineering group has rolled out some great new oval track racing drivetrain products that are receiving a tremendous response in the marketplace. By continuously pushing technology forward and reinventing our product line, TCI is able to weather the ups and downs in the economy better than many aftermarket/racing businesses. TCI caters to the stock car (asphalt and dirt), hobby stock, sport Mod classes and any other class that are able to run a performance-built automatic transmission.”
Their products may be even more niche than other oval track products in that track and sanctioning body rules determine their usage.
Jones Racing Products
Jones Racing Products in Ottsville, Pa., makes niche parts and assemblies for the belt driven aspects of race engines. CJ Jones says, “With the overall growth our company has seen in each of the different high performance markets, we think the market is still strong. I don’t see any reason the market would ever slow down. It is our objective to always keep a growing inventory! We currently offer thousands of combinations of in stock, off the shelf items to accommodate our customer’s needs.”
“We manufacture all of our products here, in our facility, which is a huge advantage for both a customer in need of a special part, and the customers who needs to order an item from stock out of our catalog. We have complete control over the manufacturing, which allows us to keep a watchful eye on our inventory. When we are running low on specific items, we quickly replenish them into our inventory; we do not need to rely on ordering it from somewhere else. We feel very strongly about having all the technology and the machining capabilities right here in our possession, it’s important so we can provide what our customers need exactly when they need it.”
“Being able to offer the belts, pulleys, and brackets plus every accessory any customer might need to outfit the front of their motor is a huge plus. From a customer’s standpoint, they know we can supply them with the right parts for any job. Street rodders rely on us to give them our race proven parts for their projects of water pump or power steering pump drives, to the more complex complete belt drives with air conditioning, power steering, alternators and water pump. Our belt drives provide the design and reliability for a full blown show car or everyday drivers.”
Jones goes on to describe their products and how they’re doing, “We have the high performance engine builders covered with complete kits, belts, pulleys and pumps for every combination, dry sump pumps, external wet sump pumps, and all types of water pumps as well as aluminum power steering pumps with or without integrated aluminum reservoirs. The mounting options we offer are endless with brackets for all the pumps and even a full line of motor plates. Top this off with our huge inventory of belts and all the Radius Tooth HTD, Serpentine, Square Tooth Cog, and V-Belt pulleys.We even offer the finishing touches of oil tanks, remote power steering reservoirs, water expansion tanks, fittings and filters plus a full line of tools. Every year our goal is to grow and we’ve accomplished that. We’re heading into our busiest time of the year and it still going strong.”
JE Pistons and Carrillo Rods
For hard core internal parts, we talked to Sean Crawford of JE Pistons and Carrillo Rods in Huntington Beach, Calif. He says, “We’re up in the circle track market. Our sales guys were out visiting engine builders in the Midwest and they all say their numbers are up. I know there is a strong concern about crate engines and spec engines. We’re keeping our eye on that.”
Current business is up at JE/Carillo and Crawford says, “As far as new products, we’re developing a new sprint car forged piston that would also be used with dirt late models. We’ve produced billet pistons for testing and analysis. We’ve had great success in those markets but we’re looking to proactively improve the design. We’ve also built a good reputation among NASCAR teams due to our participation in the NASACAR contingency programs. We’re also an exclusive NASCAR performance product. All of our participation and development has kept us quite busy over the past year.”
Ladies and gentlemen, start your sales!