Formidable Team Chevy Makes Strong Showing At NDRA Season Opener Erica Nocita Drives Chevy Cobalt Phase5 To First Career Raceday Pole PHOENIX, March 19, 2006 - The NDRA Sport Compact season got underway this weekend at Firebird International...
Formidable Team Chevy Makes Strong Showing At NDRA Season Opener Erica Nocita Drives Chevy Cobalt Phase5 To First Career Raceday Pole PHOENIX, March 19, 2006 - The NDRA Sport Compact season got underway this weekend at Firebird International Raceway with Chevy Cobalts making a strong showing in the three categories in which they competed.
In the newly formed Pro GT category, three GM-branded cars powered by ECOtec engines advanced to the semifinal round including 2005 Pro 4 Cylinder champion Gary Gardella in the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt, Texas' Bryan Jimenez, who was making his first appearance in competition in a Chevy Cobalt, and 2005 NHRA HOT ROD champion Ron Lummus who was driving a Pontiac Sunfire. Lummus was the eventual race runner-up.
With very little seat time in his new Cobalt, Bryan Jimenez made an auspicious debut for Team Chevy running a career-best elapsed time of 8.181 seconds during qualifying to take the No. 3 starting slot in the Pro GT division. After advancing to round two of the eliminations ladder with an 8.28 e.t., Jimenez was defeated by Ron Lummus.
"This new Chevy Cobalt is terrific racecar and a such a contrast to what we were running before, that we're experiencing a little bit of learning curve," said Jimenez. "What the car likes, how we need to tune it given the track conditions that we encounter, we're going to need a few more passes to get things dialed in a little more accurately. It was a great weekend though, and we were pleased with what a great package we have to race with and the great support we got on-site from the GM Racing technical staff. They're making our learning curve that much shorter.
"In the second round, we just blew the tires off as we were going into second gear. But like I said, not too bad a weekend with the new car. We're headed back to Houston tonight, we'll test this week out at Houston Raceway Park, and get ready for the first NHRA meet of the season in West Palm Beach. We had some great cars here this weekend and we expect pretty much the same when we go to Florida."
Gary Gardella entered raceday with his Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 4 position, and advanced as far as the second round of eliminations.
"We gave it our best shot this weekend and the crew did a heck of a job," said Gardella. "We wanted to get a win here for DuPont/Hot Hues, Red Bull and Chevrolet, but we'll go test before Florida and see if we can't get on a roll there. This Cobalt is easily capable of running consistent 7.90s on its worst weekend."
Erica Nocita claimed her first career No. 1 qualifying spot driving her Chevy Cobalt Phase5 to a 11.577 e.t. at a career-best speed of 122.93 mph in the NOPI Chic category. Nocita's ECOtec-powered Cobalt was nearly two seconds quicker than the next best car. She lost in round one of eliminations after she "broke-out" running 11.357 seconds, nearly a tenth of second quicker than her dial-in e.t., but the team was more than satisfied with the performance of their racecar during its first NOPI Chic appearance.
"The car was just too good today so there's no way that you can be unhappy," explained Nocita. "We struggled through electrical problems during qualifying and that established the higher dial-in, but given the improvements that we were able to make since Saturday, the car was incredible. We're pretty confident that we can run in the 10.90s in West Palm."
In Pro Outlaw FWD, Jason Hunt's team made a valiant effort preparing their Chevy Cobalt for competition, arriving at the race venue just in time to make the Saturday qualifying sessions. Starting in the No. 3 position, the Brut/Matco Tools Cobalt ran the quickest e.t. in the category on raceday in round one at 8.253 seconds, but Hunt was eliminated by a slower Chris Rado.
"It was a good effort by the race team," said Hunt. "We're still getting this car sorted out but the guys did a great job. This Chevrolet felt fine at the top end of the track and even though we didn't get the win, it gives us another page in our notebook. We're pleased with the progress we've made in such a short time and it's obvious we're doing very, very well."
The next stop for many of the Chevy Cobalt teams will be the NHRA Sport Compact season-opener in West Palm Beach, Fla., on April 1 - 2. It will also be the first race this year for Marty Ladwig who will add his car to an already formidable Team Chevy sport compact roster.