In this edition of EPARTRADE’s ‘5 Questions with Racing Industry Executives’, we talk to Mark Melling (pictured above on the left, with Richard Freeman, owner of Elite Motorsports, and driver Erica Enders), the fourth-generation leader of Melling Manufacturing.
[Note: The interview was completed and first published before the coronavirus pandemic.]
Melling has long been an icon in the field of high-performance engine parts, but it also serves the global transportation industry with original equipment and aftermarket parts. Based in Jackson, Michigan, Melling is renowned for its engineering, product development, and distribution capabilities. The business began in 1946, when George Melling and his son Ben began producing aftermarket oil pumps. In 1975, Harry Melling, the third generation of the family, took over, and his passion for NASCAR racing led him to sponsor driver Benny Parsons.
Thirteen years later, the Melling Racing team, owned and managed by Harry Melling, won the NASCAR Winston Points Championship with driver Bill Elliott. The Melling team still holds the track record for the fastest qualifying speed at the Talladega Superspeedway and the Daytona International Speedway. And at Melling Manufacturing, the Melling Select Performance line began serving the racing and performance markets, producing billet oil pumps, camshafts, timing components and other valve train components. Taking over as CEO and president in 1999, Mark Melling has proven a bold and strategic leader.
Melling was brought up in the environment of racing, and while the Melling NASCAR Team disbanded in 2002, in June of this year, Melling Engine Parts partnered with Front Row Motorsports and racer Michael McDowell for the Firekeepers Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Melling said he was “thrilled to get involved with NASCAR again. Teaming up with Michael and Front Row Motorsports gives us the chance to stay close to our racing roots while promoting our performance engine parts brand.”
The 2019 NHRA MelloYello Drag Racing Season marked the third season of the partnership between Elite Motorsports and Melling Performance. Melling related that the company’s association with Pro Stock has been a positive experience in getting out the word about Melling Performance parts, particularly their billet oil pumps.
1. Tell us how you got started in racing?
MARK MELLING: It was a family thing. When I was a freshman in high school, and all through my high school years, if I would get good grades on my classes, my father would take me to Talladega Superspeedway, to Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, to Charlotte. He was the owner of a Winston Cup team back then, and a bunch of executives from Melling Tool would all go to the races. As a teenager, to be included in that was just a big thrill for me, and a lot of fun. Attending the races, being a part of that, it all just continued to keep me interested in racing, and in the business of racing. I really grew up in that business.
I’ve been doing this for quite a long time, but it doesn’t matter; I still get nervous as all get-out at the start of a race. Whether it is the start of the race for a dirt car we are sponsoring, or a car for the NHRA that we are sponsoring, you still get nervous and excited every time. And that means it’s still a lot of fun.
2. What is the most exciting thing to you about the motorsports industry today?
MM: We were NASCAR guys for a long time. And now we are sponsoring a car in NHRA. Change is exciting, and we are really enjoying being around a motorsport that’s different than the circle tracks we used to be around. While it is really similar to the circle tracks, the NHRA today is much like NASCAR was in the 1980s – it’s a lot about personalities and people.
3. What motivates you daily in your job?
MM: For me, a lot of the motivation is in the history of the company. When you are fourth generation in the company, you have a lot of motivation to make sure you’re not the one who is screwing up.
4. What recent new technology or advancements in racing excite you most?
MM: I think what is exciting for us is the LS blocks. The change from 350 to the LS blocks has allowed us to come up with a lot more products for the market that are new, and that has been the most exciting thing to us. We have different solutions for that engine because it is relatively newer than some of the other engines. I think if you look at all our LS pumps, we have from high volume to low volume pumps. We have a lot of different things that we can provide out of Melling to fit your needs, and really customize to your engine and your build, really see what you are looking for.
5. What should everybody in the racing industry know about your company?
MM: I would say that not a lot of people know that we do as much with OE manufacturing as we do with racing. So, we are a good bridge company between the aftermarket and the OE, and that helps develop us for what is coming down in the future with engine technology. And, we are just a really steady company at the end of the day. We are here today, we were here generations ago, and that’s kind of how we approach business. Conservative but steady, and we’re built to last for the long run.
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