Erica Nocita's Chevy Cobalt Phase5
Earning Respect Among Grassroots Racers
July, 27, 2005 - It was an exciting moment for Erica Nocita when she heard the news that GM Racing had selected her to be the West-Coast driver of one of the two new Chevy Cobalt Phase5 racecars. In fact, Nocita has been nothing but a Chevy red bowtie enthusiast and competitor during her brief but highly successful tenure in drag racing, so when the opportunity came to drive one of the Cobalt Phase5 racecars, she jumped at the chance.
"I've always loved and raced Chevrolets, so when I heard we were going to do this with GM, I was extremely excited," said Nocita. "I couldn't believe we were going to get this opportunity. It was the best of both worlds to have the expertise and knowledge of working with the engineers at GM Racing and Chevrolet, and keep our style of racing. I was a little nervous and overwhelmed because it was the first time anything like this had ever happened to me, and sport compact was something new to our race team. GM helped me adjust to the Cobalt Phase5 and every time we had questions or needed help, they were right there. It's been a privilege - it's like getting called up to the big leagues. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity."
Nocita is a 21-year-old California native and a junior at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif., where she is pursuing a double major in business and chemistry. As a 16th birthday present from her dad, Al Nocita, she attended the Frank Hawley School of Drag Racing at Pomona Raceway in 2000, and she earned her competition license in 2003 enabling her to drive any car capable of running a quarter-mile in 7.50 seconds. She currently holds the title of the "Fastest Girl at Irwindale" Speedway and hopes to eventually work her way up to a seat in a Top Fuel dragster.
Where have you raced the Cobalt Phase5 this year? "We've done a lot of racing at Irwindale, and we actually won our first Summit Racing event in the Cobalt Phase5 there. We ran the car at Fontana for another race, but while I'm taking summer classes, we're staying at the local tracks. We have races scheduled at Palmdale, Bakersfield, Las Vegas and Pomona, along with two more events at Fontana. The Cobalt Phase5 is getting so much attention and people are blown away by its performance. It's gaining a tremendous amount of respect everywhere we race."
How easy to drive is the Cobalt Phase5? "The Cobalt Phase5 was a little difficult for me in the beginning because I had never driven a turbo car or a front-wheel-drive car. Those two factors combined made it a little difficult for my first two weeks in the car. But after that, I got it figured out and fell in love with the Cobalt Phase5. It's comfortable, it's fun and there's nothing difficult now about driving it. It's a blast to drive. The only thing I have to do is stay focused."
What do you like best about the Chevy Cobalt Phase5? "It's quick and it's consistent, and in drag racing, that combination is hard to find. We pretty much know what the Cobalt's going to do every time it goes down the track. There's not that 'what if' factor, and that's important to racers. This car is extremely consistent and once you get that first run in, and the tires heated, you're pretty much going to run within a couple of hundredths every time. That's gold to a bracket racer."
How about the ease of maintenance? "It's incredible. We have an SS '64 Chevelle and a tube chassis '66 Nova as well, and when things go wrong, we're replacing parts. With the Chevy Cobalt Phase5 we haven't had any problems. So far, a $2.00 trans brake button has been the extent of our repairs. We check the fluid, put fuel in it and away we go. That's a blessing for a racer on a limited budget. People don't realize how much things can add up, but the fact that we're not replacing parts all the time makes it so much easier to maintain the Cobalt Phase5. We're not breaking parts, we're not throwing away money and we still run the same number every time down the racetrack."
What are some of the best times you've run in the Chevy Cobalt Phase5? "Our best 60-foot, which we ran in the heat of the day, was a 1.68 and a 7.41 eighth-mile. The best quarter-mile we've run so far was an 11.97 at 118 mph - all this at only 20 lbs. of boost! That was at a Summit Racing event at Fontana (Calif.). It was a really hot day but we were thrilled with our performance. We want to run in the mid-to-high 11-second range, but we want to do it consistently. We're hoping to get down to an 11.60 or 11.70 e.t. which is very possible because we've yet to take weight out of the car. We can also play with the boost and the tires. There's so much we can still do. We've been really pushing it because I've been in school and it's hard sometimes to get everyone together because of my academic schedule. But now that I'm out for the summer we'll be running a lot more."
The support of Sierra Chevrolet. "Sierra Chevrolet has been a great sponsor and has bent over backwards to help us. They're a local dealership in Monrovia, Calif., and because we're local racers with one of the new Chevy Cobalt Phase5 racecars, they saw the opportunities in being involved. We bring the car into their showroom for display when we're not racing, have it available for promotions, for luncheons, anytime we can provide them with coverage. Sierra Chevrolet has been a tremendous partner and it's awesome having them on board with the Cobalt Phase5 and our other two Chevrolets. In addition to Sierra Chevrolet, Chris Shevlin of Chicago Title has been a long-time sponsor of our team and has really helped to keep things running."
Is the Chevy Cobalt Phase5 winning over your peers? "The longer we race with the car the more people become interested in the Cobalt Phase5, what we're doing with it and how easy it is to race. They saw us win a Summit race in June, and we kept putting up the same consistent numbers run after run after run. Now that we've shown what the car can do, the interest has been overwhelming. This Cobalt Phase5 has been a big, big attraction at the racetrack. A lot of kids are asking where they can get one, where they can get parts, and how to build one. When they do, we make sure they have a copy of the GM Sport Compact Performance Build Book. Now even the old timers are coming over to see what we're doing. They can't believe what we're able to do with our four-cylinder ECOtec engine. The bracket racers aren't used to competing against a turbo-configured racecar that is so consistent and can get down the track. Now that the Cobalt Phase5 and ECOtec engine have been proven, more and more people are becoming interested in the car and how well it's doing."
How did you get started in drag racing? "It seems that I was racing before I could walk. We've always raced dirt bikes and cars because my dad has always raced and had involved us kids from the very beginning. He decided to get a muscle car for my older sister for high school, a '64 Chevelle Malibu, and I kind of took it over when I went to high school. Pretty soon after that, the drag strip at Irwindale was built and dad thought it might be fun to race out there. He's a tremendous car enthusiast, so I've learned quite a bit from him over the years. When I got my license, my dad took me out to Irwindale to run the Chevelle. It only ran 10 seconds on the eighth-mile, but I was hooked. For my 16th birthday, my dad and I went through the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School at Pomona. After the Hawley school, and once I had made a few more passes, we gradually made the Chevelle a little bit faster. Later on, I took over my dad's '66 Chevy Nova SuperComp car, and we made it quicker and quicker. I've been racing for about five years now, slowly working my way into the sport with the goal of still having a good time doing it. That's why I fell in love with the sport because it gave me a lot of quality time with my dad, my brother, and my sisters. It's a family affair and it's teamwork. We're all learning and we're all trying to make great passes. We have three cars on our team, and when one's not doing well we're all kind of bummed out. But when one of use does well, it's a big celebration. It's so much fun and gives us the opportunity to spend the day together."
Who are the family members that race? "My older sister, Kristy Roblee, just moved back into town, and she raced the '64 Chevelle before I did. Kristy raced with me when I was running the Nova, but she got married and moved a way. My little brother A.J., he's 16, he also runs the Chevelle and he's doing really well. He just went to the final round of the King of the Hill, which is a local bracket race. He only has a few runs under his belt, but he's a drummer so he has excellent hand-to-eye coordination. My younger sister gave it a shot as well, and even though she doesn't have the passion for it that the rest of us do, she has a great time. We're all out there all the time. P.D. Selders, a friend of my mine since we were babies, drives for our team now. I love to get my friends involved because I can't imagine anything more fun than racing the way we do it."
Where are you going to school? "I'm a junior at Azusa Pacific and pursuing a double major in business and chemistry. I plan to go to pharmacy school after that. Racing is a lot more fun than school, but I figured I had better have a solid backup. My mom is the rational one in the family and doesn't hesitate to remind me that there's more to life than racing. It used to be that I would spend one day of the week at the track, and now I spend five or six days at the track and it drives her crazy. So I told her I would keep my end of the deal and finish school."
What are some of your long-term racing goals? "I would love to be a driver for a big team, but to be honest, my family and having fun racing is more important to me and is something I wouldn't want to give up. I would love to have our team stay together forever, but I would welcome the opportunity to drive for another team as long as I'm driving a Chevrolet. I'm also studying to be a pharmacist, but racing is something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life."