Gary Gardella Looks to Duplicate Championship Season With ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt New Jersey Resident Confident of Team's Chances in 2006 PHOENIX, March 6, 2006 - To say that 2005 was a breakout year for Gary Gardella would certainly be an...
Gary Gardella Looks to Duplicate Championship Season With ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt
New Jersey Resident Confident of Team's Chances in 2006
PHOENIX, March 6, 2006 - To say that 2005 was a breakout year for Gary Gardella would certainly be an understatement. The 26-year-old driver of the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt won 10 of the 11 NOPI contests he entered last season (he was runner-up at the season-opener in Phoenix) en route to his first Pro 4 Cylinder championship, and three of the five NHRA HOT ROD events in which he competed (he was runner-up twice). In addition, the recently married New Jersey resident earned 11 No. 1 qualifying awards (NOPI/NHRA combined) and set the Pro 4 Cylinder national e.t. record at Norwalk in October with a run of 7.781 seconds. Trying to exceed last year's performance will be difficult, but Gardella is ready to enter the '06 campaign with a clean slate and a determination to defend his '05 title.
"I'm looking forward to being back on the track and racing again," said Gardella. "We have a few new guys, a new atmosphere, and I think this year is going to be so much fun for the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt team. We want to go out to Phoenix, run fast and put on a good show. (Crew Chief) Jon (Perry) has studied a lot of the data from last year when we were racing on hot racetracks, and he feels confident that we can improve our performance at those venues. We want to make sure this Chevrolet goes fast regardless of where we're racing."
Fans of the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt can also look forward to a new paint scheme on the car designed by legendary motorsports artist Sam Bass. The new look ECOtec-powered DuPont/Hot Hues Chevrolet will run in competition for the first time this year at the NOPI Spring Break Nationals in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 18 - 19.
How did the test session go in Bradenton (Fla.)? "We were very happy with the test session even though we didn't have the consistency we had all year in 2005. We had a couple of minor problems with the car, which is what you expect with a test session, and for that matter, it's where you want problems to occur. We found a bunch of small imperfections with the car, a couple of things with the boost control, and we got everything worked out again. We did try some different gear ratios with the transmission, and found out what tire combination will work best for us. With the NOPI series this year we're allowed to run a W tire, which is a wider 10.5-inch Mickey Thompson, and we were testing that specific tire. We were also running a large 74mm turbo, so we had a lot of things we threw at the car that were new. You saw us go all year long in 2005 making minor changes on the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt, and to go into this first test session with a new turbo, different tires, and different ratios on the tranny, all added up to affect the consistency of the car. It's the same car as last year though with a new look - it's looking pretty good. We did run in the 7.80s on a difficult racetrack so that gave us some encouragement. I can't wait to get our Cobalt out to Arizona to see what we can really run and hopefully you'll see this Chevy running in the 7.70s all year."
Talk about the different look we can expect on the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt. "DuPont and Hot Hues brought in Sam Bass who created an incredible rendering for the racecar that looks sharp. We were sorry to see the candy-apple red scheme go away but this is a truly remarkable paint job. Our Chevy Cobalt is looking beautiful. We've got a first-rate organization and our goal is to display that on and off the racetrack. We've been working really hard. We also purchased the GM Racing transporter and spent a lot of time working on that, put a nice paint job on it, and it's come around nicely. We're pretty excited for the upcoming season."
How is the race team shaping up from a personnel standpoint? "Brent Schultz, who did a terrific job for us in 2005, went home to Michigan and is back with Roush. He's a great guy and he'll be working as a trackside advisor for all the GM teams, so we'll still get to see him at the races. Anytime Brent is at the racetrack it's always a big help. We have another full-time guy helping Jon Perry this year - Mike Whitney. Mike has many years of experience working with Bothwell Motorsports, and he learned a lot from those guys. Mike is definitely a crew-chief-type talent and we're happy to add him to our roster this year. He'll bring a lot to our team. Jason Moletti is another individual we've added to the team, and Jason will work part-time and do some traveling with us. He's a sharp kid, and as a whole I'm lucky to have all these guys working on our Chevy Cobalt in 2006."
How was the off-season? "With getting married and moving into a new home it was very busy. But with the help of my family and teammates, it's all gone pretty smoothly. The two full-time guys, Jon and Mike, keep the race team running smoothly while I concentrate on my duties as the shop manager at County Line Auto Body, which is our business. We do about 60 to 70 cars a week and it keeps us busy. My father started it from the ground up and it's a heck of a business. He's supported our racing program from day one. Without County Line Auto Body I couldn't race. The race team never stops, though, and I take care of the paperwork and stuff like that. Jon and Mike go full grind on the racecar. I also get a lot of support from my mother, my brother, they all go to as many races as they can. And my wife, she's incredible and a big help. She's a school teacher and will try to get to as many races as she can."
What do you expect in 2006? "I expect to see a lot more tough competition. With us on the grind all winter long we're hoping to come out strong and advance to the final rounds from the very beginning. We're looking at '06 as a clean slate and we're starting from scratch. When Greg Anderson won all of his races in 2004, he a had a rough time at the beginning of '05 - and you know he wasn't home sleeping. Anything can happen and that's why we like to start off with a fresh new look and run strong from the very beginning. Of course, there are going to be a few bugs to be worked out. Last year our Chevy Cobalt was so consistent, but that was because of the prior research and development on behalf of GM Racing. With Brent Schultz on our team last year, he already had three years working on ECOtec and the Cobalt during his time with Roush, and that experience was invaluable."
What does you schedule look like for 2006? "We'll certainly be looking to defend our Pro 4 Cylinder championship in NOPI, but we'll also be running NHRA Pro FWD. The rules in NHRA HOT ROD have been changed, limiting us to a small turbo and they also wanted us to add 200 pounds to the car. Therefore, I feel we can be just as competitive in Pro FWD, and with the consistency of our racecar, I think you'll see us win some races there too. Consistency is everything in front-wheel-drive racing, and I think you'll see a lot of teams pick up their game this year. A lot of teams will be running their same cars from last year, and with all the testing that's been done it's going to make everyone better. We're going to start off the NHRA schedule at West Palm Beach, and if we do well at the first few races, it's going to be hard not to run for the Pro FWD championship as well. I have an extremely dedicated team that likes to race, so they're up to the challenge and we're looking forward to running the NHRA schedule."
With all the events on the East Coast it really works well for you from a logistics standpoint. "It really does. We live in a great area for sport compact racing, and the East Coast is a virtual Mecca for the sport. We have Englishtown (N.J.), Atco (N.J.), Budds Creek (Md.), and Richmond (Va.) only a few hours from the shop and then a little further we have Bristol (Tenn.), Norwalk (Ohio) and West Palm Beach (Fla.) - this is a great place to be if you're racing NOPI and NHRA Sport Compact."
Do you like a schedule where you're racing every weekend? "Let me tell you, I love drag racing. I love traveling and I love drag racing, and there's nothing I'd rather be doing. The weekends we have off I'll probably be at a POWERade race. It's going to be a lot of racing, but like I said, I don't know how to live a slow life. I just love it, and it will only make us better and make our business better."
What do you hope to accomplish in 2006? "Ideally, to defend our NOPI championship, win the NHRA title and hold all of the performance records at the end of the year. More importantly is to make our marketing partners happy and show as many people possible what DuPont's Hot Hues brand is all about - and I want to see it on more cars in 2007. Also, without County Line Auto Body, we wouldn't be racing, plus we also get great support from Chevrolet, Red Bull, Manley and Ecko Unlimited. Without these companies and their support, I'm not racing."
What's the long-term plan for Gary Gardella? "I see Gardella Racing participating in NOPI and NHRA Sport Compact racing for the long haul. I also see us venturing off and possibly trying some different things, like maybe Pro Stock, if we can get the support, or maybe even circle track racing. We have a lot of great sponsors and maybe someday we can take them to some other series."