INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 3, 2007 - It was a spectacular, national-record setting weekend for Team Chevy's NHRA Sport Compact contingent of Ecotec-powered Cobalts during the running of the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 3, 2007 - It was a spectacular, national-record setting weekend for Team Chevy's NHRA Sport Compact contingent of Ecotec-powered Cobalts during the running of the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Before qualifying began early Saturday morning, three Chevy Cobalts driven by Marty Ladwig, Jason Hunt and Gary Gardella were in a virtual dead heat for the 2007 Xplod Pro FWD championship. When the final flag fell at this legendary race facility early Monday night, there was still a tight three-way battle between the three Chevy Cobalt competitors, but with a new name at the top of the leader board.
For the second time in two weeks at this venue, Gary Gardella drove the Red Bull Chevy Cobalt to an NHRA Sport Compact national-event victory, and by doing so, improved his chances of winning the 2007 Xplod Championship. Gardella entered the first round of Pro FWD eliminations on Sunday night qualified in the No. 1 position after running a career-best elapsed time of 7.156 seconds at 201.91 mph. It was the first time this year that the New Jersey resident had started an NHRA eliminator from the No. 1 spot.
In round one, Gardella defeated fellow Chevrolet driver Bryan Jimenez with a 7.242 e.t at 195.76 mph, and then ran a bye run in round two to advance to the all-Chevy final against Jason Hunt. In the finals, Gardella's Chevy Cobalt launched first with a blistering .028 reaction time and then never relinquished the lead, crossing the finish line in 7.335 seconds at 197.59 mph. Hunt's Matco Tools Chevy Cobalt followed with a 7.412 e.t. at 200.02 mph. It was Gardella's second NHRA Sport Compact victory this season and his fourth final-round appearance.
"I almost jumped on the roof of my car I was so happy," said Gardella after winning the 53rd annual U.S. Nationals. "Other than getting married this was the happiest day of my life. We worked so hard to get here and my team didn't give up. The Red Bull Chevy Cobalt team is the hardest working team in Sport Compact Drag Racing. As a driver, I was a little nervous competing in front of that crowd - that's the most people I've ever raced in front of. I cut a .028 light and that was it. I was hoping to cut a good light because I knew I would need it to beat him. We had the quicker e.t. in the finals and we go back-to-back at Indianapolis. How many people can say they've won at Indianapolis twice in the same year, let alone twice in two weeks?
"We had a tough time learning this car. Our background was in running a different type of unibody car. Once we got over the hump with it, we got on a roll. We feel like we have a little streak going and we want to keep it going at Dallas. I want to win this championship for Red Bull, GM Racing and Chevrolet."
Jason Hunt advanced to his fourth NHRA final round this season and it was the first time this year that he had lost in the championship heat. Even though Hunt qualified his Chevy Cobalt in the No. 3 position with a 7.190-second run at 200.59 mph, it was his qualifying e.t. that will stand as the new national record. Hunt was the only one of the three Chevy drivers including himself, Gardella and Marty Ladwig, to back up his time with another run within one percent during the race weekend (as required by the NHRA to establish a national record). He did it in round one of eliminations with a 7.249 second e.t. at 199.94 mph. The 20 bonus points for the national record and the final-round appearance against Gardella moved the Matco Tools Chevy Cobalt driver back into first place in the NHRA Xplod Pro FWD standings.
"Other than not winning the race, everything went great for us this weekend," said Hunt. "We came in, ran our best e.t., made it to the finals and got back the points lead. The only thing we missed out on was winning the U.S. Nationals, but there's always next year an d with the reception we got, I think there's a good chance we'll be back next year at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
"I was blown away by the response we got from the crowd and the fact they ran us in front of everybody else before the final round. It was an honor to be here and I think Gary (Gardella) and I put on a good show. We're looking forward to racing in Texas. The last three races are going to be interesting. We'll be fighting tooth and nail to win the championship."
Marty Ladwig entered raceday in first place and qualified in the No. 2 position with a 7.175 e.t. at 199.97 mph, but a broken rotor in round one of eliminations Sunday night against Ed Bergenholtz ended his quest for a U.S. Nationals crown.
"We fired up the car just before we came to the staging lanes and everything was fine," said Ladwig. "When we tried to start the car in the staging lanes it wouldn't fire. They gave us plenty of time to stage the car but we couldn't get it done. Ed (Bergenholtz) was a terrific sport and waited as long as he could. To say we're disappointed is an understatement. The conditions we're incredible last night and we really felt we could back up our time for the record. Our next shot will be in Dallas and we'll be ready."
-credit: gm racing