GM Racing Northeast Nationals preview

GM Racing/NHRA Sport Compact Northeast Nationals Presented By General Motors ATCO, N.J., May 12, 2004 - Don't let anyone try and tell you that Marty Ladwig has a weight problem. Even with the NHRA's recently mandated 2000-pound minimum on all...

GM Racing/NHRA Sport Compact Northeast Nationals Presented By General Motors

ATCO, N.J., May 12, 2004 - Don't let anyone try and tell you that Marty Ladwig has a weight problem. Even with the NHRA's recently mandated 2000-pound minimum on all GM Ecotec-powered HOT ROD category racecars (which includes Ladwig's Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire), you'll be hard-pressed getting the defending NHRA Sport Compact champion to go on a diet anytime soon. And in response to the new load requirements, Ladwig and his GM Racing teammates responded by capturing their second victory of the season two weeks ago at Englishtown (N.J.) in what turned out to be another record-breaking performance.

"The Pontiac Sunfire is such a outstanding platform to work from that we were able to adjust to the substantial increase in weight, take the new mandate in stride and overcome the challenge," said Ladwig. "In order to compensate for the extra weight, GM Racing engineers have been working diligently to find more horsepower and transfer that additional power to the ground. The goal is to stay ahead of the competition because although we're currently in first place, none of the other teams are going to sit still and concede anything.

"The GM Hydra-Matic transmission has been able to carry us down the racetrack with smooth, consistent runs, and is a primary reason why we were able to adjust to the new NHRA weight mandate. We had a good program with the transmission last year, but this season, with the assistance of Steve Coleman from GM Powertrain, the race team has done an outstanding job increasing the reliability and strength of our production Hydra-Matic. It's truly remarkable how the Hydra-Matic was able to handle the increased weight. The Ecotec engines have always provided our Pontiac Sunfire with outstanding horsepower, sometimes more than we could use, but the production-based Hydra-Matic has been the essential element in fully utilizing all of that Ecotec horsepower."

This weekend, the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Racing series returns to southern New Jersey and Atco Raceway for the 3rd annual Northeast Sport Compact Nationals presented by General Motors. The 39-year-old Ladwig is the defending champion at Atco Raceway and also earned one of his five low-qualifying honors in 2003 at this event.

"I've always like racing in South Jersey," said Ladwig. "Atco Raceway is a place where you can run well and set records. The conditions there will be very similar to what we experienced in Englishtown. Atco Raceway is a sea-level facility, with usually good air and track conditions, and the times and speeds you'll see this weekend will be indicative of that."

It's only May, and already it's been an outstanding race campaign for Ladwig and his GM Racing teammates. The orange and blue Ecotec-powered Pontiac has rolled to the No. 1 qualifying position at the first thee races and posted victories at West Palm Beach (Fla.) and Englishtown (N.J). The NHRA implemented its new weight requirements on all Ecotec-powered cars when Ladwig's Pontiac Sunfire scorched the national e.t. record at West Palm Beach with a run of 8.082 seconds during a final-round victory over Chris Gore. In addition to the new weight requirements, the NHRA also declared that a new e.t. record would be recognized at the Spring Nationals in Englishtown, which Ladwig's Pontiac reestablished with a run of 8.184 seconds.

"We didn't start building the new racecar until after Thanksgiving," said Ladwig. "The GM Racing team has basically taken a brand-new car, and in a very short amount of time, created a machine that's run like a rocket ship at the first three races. When you look at the car and see the engineering that went into its development, you then begin to understand why I was so confident about how well the car would run. We were able to learn and capitalize on the testing we did prior to the start of the season. Since our Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire was a new racecar, that was essential. From Day 1, we were able to find a strong setup with the car which is evident with our performance over the last eight weeks. With two wins in the first three events, we're pretty confident heading into Atco Raceway.

"The fun part this season has been racing against the great teams and drivers that come out each weekend to compete. We're in a race for the championship and currently have a slight edge in the points standings, but there are seven contests left to be decided and anything can happen."

The Pro FWD category is certain to generate the same dramatic display of performance that has been produced in the first three events. While Lisa Kubo's Ecotec-powered Saturn Ion continues on its record-breaking pace, Nelson Hoyos is confident that his Chevrolet Cavalier is fine-tuned, race-ready and prepared to tighten the gap.

"Our Chevy Cavalier has run outstanding 60-foot, 330 and eighth-mile increments," said Hoyos. "But from the eighth-mile on is where we're seeing a programming problem in the black box that is interfering with the fuel-delivery system. There's nothing wrong with the motor, it's making enormous horsepower, almost 1200 on the dyno, but it's a matter of getting the in-car ignition box reprogrammed and we're confident that everything will be in place this weekend.

"The Saturn team has done very, very well, accumulating over 400 points and winning the first three races. Therefore, we need to put ourselves in a position to run strong from here on out in order to close that gap. This event is crucial and has the potential to be a momentum boost for our race team. They have done so much work on the car, have really busted their tails on this thing and really deserve a win. If we can get that accomplished this weekend, that will fuel the fire to go faster, stronger, harder and farther. This team has provided me with an absolutely fantastic racecar and the program is working well. Getting rid of that nasty little bug in the black box will completely turn our program around."

Hoyos is the current Pro FWD title holder and defending champion at the Northeast Nationals. In 13 national events since the beginning of the '03 campaign, the Hoyos-piloted Chevrolet has posted eight victories, advanced to every final round and accumulated 29 round wins against six defeats for an average of .829. But to the ever-competitive resident of Hollywood, Fla., second-place is never enough, and Hoyos is determined to do his part in getting the orange and cinnamon Chevrolet back into the winner's circle.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we can run at the front of the pack," said Hoyos. "Our incremental times to the eighth-mile are consistently the quickest in the category. Taking what our car ran in the back half at the end of 2003, from the eighth-mile to the finish line, if we can recover just that portion of the power in the engine, this Chevy Cavalier will be a consistent 7.80 e.t. racecar. At this time, the Saturn team has been the one accumulating the most points, so it's pivotal that we reverse those roles this weekend. Plus, it would give our guys the boost and the lift they need to run strong from this race forward."

For the second consecutive year, the GM Racing program will be a part of a Pro FWD contingency that will compete in front of thousands of fans in the NHRA Extreme Rush. The first of two Extreme Rush exhibition events will be contested during the O'Reilly Summer Nationals on May 27 - 30 at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan.

"We were really excited to be able to participate in last year's 'Extreme Rush' events, and we were fortunate to win one of them," said Hoyos. "For us, as GM Racing, as Chevrolet, as Ecotec engines, it's important to do very well at Heartland Park and to help showcase what our race series is all about. We also want to show everyone an engine package and a car package that is available to everyone who wants to race, and maybe open a few more eyes to the possibilities inherent with the NHRA Summit Racing Sport Compact series. As a driver, I want to leave Topeka with a "Wally" and be able to say that GM Racing, Chevrolet and Ecotec did it again. We won't shift from our normal routine. The only difference is that we'll be doing it in front of a lot more people. It's going to be a great challenge and we're looking forward to it.

"I've talked to a lot of racers and they're amazed that we run as fast as we do with a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive racecar. They're even more amazed when they find out our Ecotec engines generate over 1,200 horsepower. They can't fathom that so much energy can be produced from a 2.0L engine. Then they see that our slicks are on the 'wrong end' of the racecar and that's what finally blows them away."

The 3rd annual Northeast Sport Compact Nationals presented by General Motors will be held May 15 - 16 at Atco Raceway in Atco, N.J. Television coverage can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, June 6, beginning at 12:00 p.m. (ET).

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 325,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in more than 190 countries. In 2003, GM sold more than 8.6 million cars and trucks, nearly 15 percent of the global vehicle market. GM's global headquarters is at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at www.gm.com.

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