Three-Way Chevy Cobalt Battle for NHRA Pro FWD Championship Takes Center Stage at the U.S. Nationals Team Chevy's Ladwig, Hunt and Gardella Return to Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 28, 2007 - The NHRA Sport Compact makes its second visit of...
Three-Way Chevy Cobalt Battle for NHRA Pro FWD Championship Takes Center Stage at the U.S. Nationals
Team Chevy's Ladwig, Hunt and Gardella Return to Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 28, 2007 - The NHRA Sport Compact makes its second visit of the year to O' Reilly Raceway Park for the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. It will be the first time that the Pro FWD category has competed at the Labor Day Classic, but more importantly it will give a trio of Chevy Cobalt drivers another opportunity to stake their claim to the 2007 Xplod Championship with only four races remaining on the calendar.
Marty Ladwig currently leads the standings in the NHRA Pro FWD standings, and during the series' most recent visit to Indianapolis two weeks ago, the driver of the Lucas Oil Chevrolet advanced to his third final-round of the year and reset the national e.t. record for the third time this season at 7.261 seconds.
"The race two weeks ago gave us a lot of good information on how to run our Lucas Oil Chevrolet at Indy," said Ladwig. "Even though both races will count for the same number of points, it's going to be quite a thrill to look up into those grandstands and see all the fans. All year long the Pro FWD category has put on a great show for the fans with national record times and speeds at almost every race, and close side-by-side competition in front-wheel-drive configured cars powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. I think the fans at the U.S. Nationals are going to like what they see and I can tell you that all of us in the Xplod Series are looking forward to this opportunity."
While racing for the GM factory team during the first half of the decade, Ladwig captured two NHRA Sport Compact titles in HOT ROD, and then made the move to Pro FWD in 2005 when he finished second in the standings. Last year, Ladwig acquired his own race team and with the backing of Lucas Oil and Chevrolet, the Texas resident captured a national-event win at Denver and was runner-up at Richmond. The growing pains from 2006 are beginning to pay huge dividends for one of sport compact racing's most successful drivers.
"This year, we had a brand-new car," said Ladwig. "Even though it took us a little while to figure it out, we caught on pretty quickly to what our Ecotec-powered Chevrolet was going to like and that was apparent when we had the back-to-back record-setting wins at Richmond and Englishtown. What's amazing is that this new Cobalt still shows a lot more potential and with every race we keep creeping up on what it takes to run quicker and faster.
"I've always wanted to be the first in the Pro FWD category to run in the sixes, but the perfect storm for that will be a good track, great weather conditions and our ability to tune the car to where it needs to be. Maybe we'll see that later this week in Indianapolis, maybe we won't, but if we can continue making progress, then sooner or later it's going to happen."
With 15 career NHRA Sport Compact victories and 26 final rounds, Ladwig is hoping to add a U.S. Nationals trophy to what has already been sterling tenure in the sport
"It will take consistency to win the championship and having all of our parts ready to make changes when we have to," said Ladwig. "These cars are very finicky, using brand-new technology, and we have to have things made that aren't readily available. We use very strong axels, the tires are different, the transmissions are different, the setups are different - very little that applies in rear-wheel-drive drag racing applies to our cars. Everybody is learning something new every race and the performance jumps up at every event. Just two years ago people were struggling to run in the 7s and now we're on the verge of running in the 6s. When you stop to think about it, that's really pretty incredible."
Closely on the heals of points-leader Marty Ladwig is Matco Tools Chevy Cobalt driver Jason Hunt, who is hoping to win his first NHRA Pro FWD title. Hunt has the most victories this year in the category picking up wins at West Palm Beach (Fla.), Atco (N.J.) and Las Vegas. During the series' last visit to Indianapolis two weeks ago, the resident of Crofton, Md., set an NHRA Pro FWD national speed record at 202.64 mph. He has six career NHRA victories and has raced in 10 final rounds.
"After our last race here we need to make up some points," said Hunt. "We had a nice tune-up in Budds Creek (Md.) last weekend where we were just trying some new things on the car. We ran some great e.t. there, but something tells me it's going to take a little more if you want to win the U.S. Nationals. In the past, most of us have only come to the U.S. Nationals as spectators, and you can bet that the adrenaline will be pumping and that everyone will have their best stuff for this one. We can't wait for that first run down the track."
"Our Chevy Cobalt has done everything we've asked it to do this year," said team-owner Charlie Schafer. "Our Ecotec engines have provided us with the horsepower to win races and now it's crunch time. To win the U.S. Nationals, and the championship we're going to have to stay consistent, go rounds, and at the end of the day at Indy, be in a position to win the race."
With his win Pro FWD win two weeks ago at O'Reilly Raceway, Gary Gardella became more than a wild card in the Xplod Championship chase, and now the Team Chevy driver finds himself entrenched in a three-way, red bowtie battle with Ladwig and Hunt. Since the beginning of the season, the driver of the Red Bull Chevrolet has slowly crept back into the points race beginning with a pair of runners-up at Atco (N.J.) and Las Vegas before breaking through for his first NHRA win of the year two weeks ago at Indy.
"We needed that win at Indy to stay in the race," said Gardella. "The guys have done a really good job getting a handle on this Red Bull Chevy Cobalt. It took us a little longer than we had hoped to get it figured out, but right now, it's the best car I've ever had with unbelievable horsepower and incredible aerodynamics. We have four races to make up a 100-point deficit with Marty, and going back-to-back at Indianapolis would go a long way toward making that happen. Plus, who doesn't want to be the first Pro FWD driver to win the U.S. Nationals?"
The 53rd Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway park in Indianapolis is the seventh race on the 10-race NHRA Xplod Championship Series for the Pro FWD category.
-credit: gm racing