ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Oct. 7, 2007 - Team Chevy's Gary Gardella captured his fourth straight Pro FWD victory on Sunday at the Sixth annual NHRA Sport Compact Fall Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Gardella's final-round win over Marty ...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Oct. 7, 2007 - Team Chevy's Gary Gardella captured his fourth straight Pro FWD victory on Sunday at the Sixth annual NHRA Sport Compact Fall Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Gardella's final-round win over Marty Ladwig, plus the 20 points he received for setting a national elapsed-time record, moved the New Jersey native from third place in the points standings to first place for the first time this season.
"It doesn't get any better than this," said an exuberant Gardella following his record-setting victory on Sunday. "To get the win and both ends of the record at my home track, after every thing we went through at the beginning of the year, I knew this Red Bull Chevrolet team could get it done. My guys never gave up, they kept at it, even when we were so far down in the points that we couldn't see the top. Now we're in first place with one race to go. Our work isn't done yet, though. We'll go to Pomona and see if we can close the deal. We're confident that we can but we're not taking anything for granted."
Gardella entered raceday with his Red Bull Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 2 position after posting a time of 7.227 seconds at 200.23 mph. Gardella defeated Bryan Jimenez in round one of eliminations with a national-record elapsed time of 7.159 seconds at 202.30 mph and rolled to a 7.217-second run at 202.52 mph during a bye in round two. In the all-Cobalt final against Marty Ladwig, the Red Bull Chevrolet driver left nothing on the table and crossed the finish line with a winning 7.175-second elapsed time at a new national-record top speed of 202.79 mph. Ladwig's Lucas Oil Chevrolet followed with a 7.256-second run at 192.58 mph. Gardella's margin of victory was .089 of a second or approximately 25 feet at the white stripe.
It marked the 10th career victory for Gardella on the Xplod Sport Compact circuit, his second career victory at Raceway Park at an NHRA-sanctioned event and his fourth win this season. Unofficially, the Red Bull Chevy Cobalt driver holds a 35 point lead over second-place Marty Ladwig with only one race left to be contested. It was also the first time this year that Gardella has established a national e.t. record and the sixth time this season (the fourth consecutive race) that a driver in an Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt has set the national e.t. record in the Pro FWD category.
"This Red Bull Chevy Cobalt got us to the winner's circle," said Gardella. "We've got a little bit of cushion between first and second place heading into Pomona, but not much. I can tell you for a fact that neither Marty (Ladwig) or Jason (Hunt) are going to sit idly by and let this slip by them without a fight. But we'll be ready. Our Ecotec-powered Cobalt is the fastest and most consistent it's been all year, and my driving at the last four races hasn't been bad either. That's a pretty nice package to take into the final race at Pomona."
Marty Ladwig advanced to his 27th career NHRA final round, his fourth final-round appearance this season and his second straight at Raceway Park by starting out of the No. 1 qualifying position. During Saturday time trials, Ladwig's Lucas Oil Chevrolet ran a 7.197 second e.t. at 200.68. The raceday pole position gave the San Antonio, Tex., resident a bye in round, but he left nothing back and put up his best time of the weekend at 7.173 seconds. In round two Ladwig defeated fellow Chevy Cobalt driver Jason Hunt running 7.182 seconds at 200.44 mph to Hunt's 7.360 second e.t. at 199.08 mph. The round-two win over Hunt enabled Ladwig to advance to his sixth career final-round appearance at this venue.
"This is certainly a race we felt like we could win," said Ladwig. "What really hurt us was not leaving here with the record - that's a 40-point swing considering we ran quick enough in round one to set the new mark. But Gary (Gardella) ran the 7.15 in the pair ahead of us and he earns the 20 points instead of us.
"It's tough to leave here without the win and the points lead, especially considering how well we ran on Saturday, and even here today. But we'll take time to regroup, get our Lucas Oil Chevy ready for Pomona in two weeks and see if we can't get back into first place. What matters most is who is in first place after the last round of the last race and we'll have an opportunity to give it one more shot at Pomona."