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Erica Nocita Returns to Pomona Raceway with Quick 16 East Championship in Hand Chevy Cobalt Phase5 Driver Wins NHRA Title During Her First Year Competing in the Class POMONA, Calif., Oct. 17, 2006 - Last April, when California native ...

Erica Nocita Returns to Pomona Raceway with Quick 16 East Championship in Hand

Chevy Cobalt Phase5 Driver Wins NHRA Title During Her First Year Competing in the Class

POMONA, Calif., Oct. 17, 2006 - Last April, when California native Erica Nocita flew all the way across the continent to drive her Chevy Cobalt Phase5 in her first NHRA Sport Compact Quick 16 race at Florida's Moroso Motorsports Park, she couldn't have imagined that six months later she would be crowned the category's Eastern champion. Making the most of the opportunity this season to compete against some of the country's finest bracket racers, the 23-year-old Nocita worked her way toward a pair of national-event victories which resulted in a well-deserved 2006 NHRA Quick 16 East title.

"We weren't even shooting for the championship," said Nocita. "We wanted to enter some races, try to get some points and see where we landed. After the win at Englishtown (N.J.) in May someone told us that we were in contention for the championship, and we were stunned. After that, everything kind of fell into place for us. The championship is a testament to just how good our Chevy Cobalt Phase5 can be, to the hard work of our race team and to all of the technical and engineering support we received from GM and Chevrolet."

Utilizing the steady performance of her Chevy Cobalt Phase 5, and capitalizing on her West Coast bracket-racing experience, Nocita scored her first win of 2006 at her debut event in West Palm Beach (Fla.). It was an impressive victory against an ultra-competitive field of cars that demonstrated Nocita's savvy driving skill, as well as the reliability and consistency of her ECOtec-powered Chevrolet.

"The Chevy Cobalt Phase5 is perfect for Quick 16 competition because it is so consistent," said Nocita. "We were used to running in a strict bracket where you can't break out at all. To run the Quick 16 class was kind of interesting because you get a .5 (five-tenths) of a second cushion. Bracket-racing consistency means everything and our goal wasn't to run eight or nine seconds every pass, our goal was to stay in the low 11s, run that number every time and have a little in the bank so that if we needed to, we could bump it up. The great thing about knowing we were going to run our number is that even though some of the other guys had faster cars, they couldn't duplicate that number a lot of the times. We knew our Chevy Cobalt Phase5 would run the same number every time and in bracket racing, that's gold."

One month after her win at West Palm Beach, Nocita turned in another impressive performance at the NHRA Sport Compact Nationals in Englishtown, N.J., and scored a second-consecutive national-event victory. Starting from the No. 13 position, the senior student at Azusa Pacific University (where she is pursuing a double major in business and chemistry) posted steady numbers all afternoon en route to the race win, putting her one step closer to the Quick 16 East championship.

"Our goal this year was to win at least once," said Nocita. "To win two back to back at West Palm Beach and Englishtown was something we didn't expect. Even as good as our Chevy Cobalt Phase 5 performed, we achieved far beyond what we expected. I've wanted to win a 'Wally' since I started watching drag racing, so winning at West Palm Beach was an emotional and exciting time for me. But taking the win at the first Englishtown race was just as exciting. I'd heard a lot about the competition there, and for years had seen the track on television, so that was another great moment."

In addition to crediting her team members, Nocita gives recognition to Team Chevy's Gary Gardella and his race program for transporting her Chevy Cobalt Phase5 during the eastern portion of the NHRA Sport Compact national-event schedule, and to Charlie Schafer's CSI Racing team for providing Nocita the use of Brian Ballard's Turbo Street Chevy Cobalt at key events. Ballard's ECOtec-powered Chevrolet allowed Nocita to earn No. 1 qualifying honors at the NHRA Sport Compact Mountain Madness Nationals in Denver. In that same car, she ran a career-best elapsed time and speed of 9.629 seconds at 150.73 mph on Sept. 30 at the recently completed NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals in Englishtown, N.J., and advanced to the semifinals where she nailed down her first NHRA crown.

"I can't thank Gary (Gardella) and Charlie's (Schafer) team enough for the assistance they provided," said Nocita. "Along with the GM Racing crew, they all made it possible for us to get to where we needed to be and make it happen. Running ECOtec-powered Chevy Cobalts allowed me to go quicker and faster than I had ever been. Not only did Charlie let us use their car, but at Englishtown, they brought out the whole CSI Racing team to help us. Running that fast was a blast. I mean, we were flying and it has us thinking we may want to step up a little with our Cobalt Phase5. They had the car set up perfectly. It was bittersweet, we lost the race but we won the championship.

"I'm still waiting for someone to tell me I'm dreaming. Everyone on the team, my dad, my mom, we still can't believe it's happened. We had Good Neighbor Pharmacy come on as a sponsor on our Chevrolet for the last part of the year and they will be on the car for next season. All of our sponsors, Sierra Chevrolet, GM, Chevrolet, Chicago Title, Barney's Restaurant's, BG Oil, they've all been good to us and it's good to give them back a championship for all of their support."

Nocita is looking forward to returning to the familiar confines of Pomona Raceway and this weekend's Nitto NHRA Sport Compact World Finals. Not only is Pomona Raceway Nocita's home track, but it is where the Chevy Cobalt driver saw her first drag race, and where she made her pass down a quarter-mile drag strip while attending the Frank Hawley School of Drag Racing in 2000. With the Quick 16 East championship mantle already in tow, and the crowning of the series champions on Sunday night, this is one homecoming she'll remember.

"I always look forward to racing at Pomona," said Nocita. "We're expecting a great weekend because we've done a lot of work on my Chevy Cobalt Phase5, so we'll see what happens. After Pomona we'll run the Battle of Imports and an IDRC event at Palmdale. This race will be especially fun since I'll have my teammate, Pete Selders, battling for the Quick 16 West championship."

Next May, Nocita will graduate from Azusa Pacific University, and after that she hopes to enroll in pharmacy school at the University of Southern California. Although it's been tough this year keeping her school work and racing career in balance, 2006 is one season she'll never forget.

"With everything that's happened this year, we've been overwhelmed, but in a good way," said Nocita. "Next year our plan is step up our Cobalt a little bit. We're planning on running fewer East Coast events but we'll hit the West Coast hard, although that's what we said this year. You always have a plan, but the plan is open to change, so we'll just see where next year leads us. I have no doubt, though, that we'll push ourselves to be just as successful next year as we were this year."

-credit: gm racing

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Series Drag
Drivers Frank Hawley