POMONA, Calif., Oct. 16, 2007 - What has turned out to be a three-way Chevy Cobalt battle for the NHRA Pro FWD championship will finally be decided, once and for all, at this weekend's NHRA Sport Compact World Finals at Auto Club of ...
POMONA, Calif., Oct. 16, 2007 - What has turned out to be a three-way Chevy Cobalt battle for the NHRA Pro FWD championship will finally be decided, once and for all, at this weekend's NHRA Sport Compact World Finals at Auto Club of Southern California Raceway. It's been one of the closest contested campaigns in the history of the series with only 37 points separating the top three in the points standings, but when the season comes to a conclusion Sunday night in Pomona, one of three Chevrolet drivers, Gary Gardella, Marty Ladwig or Jason Hunt, will be crowned the 2007 Xplod champion.
Charging like a runaway freight train, Gary Gardella has come out of nowhere to move into first place in the NHRA Pro FWD standings. Following two consecutive first-round losses at West Palm Beach (Fla.) and Richmond (Va.), the New Jersey native advanced to the semifinal round at the third event of the season at Englishtown (N.J.), and since then, he hasn't looked back. The driver of the Red Bull Chevrolet has advanced to six consecutive final-round appearances and has captured victories at the last four races on the tour.
"We've got a nice streak going, getting to the finals," said Gardella. "We're just trying to do that again. If we can, and barring no one sets another e.t. record, that would clinch the championship for us. At the same time, if the record is going to fall, someone's going to have to run a 7.15 or better, and right now, our Red Bull Chevrolet is the only car that has done that.
"Everything we've worked for this year is coming down to this one race and we're leaving nothing to chance. The rig left New Jersey on Saturday and should be in California in plenty of time to set up and have everything in place. I'm flying in on Thursday to get acclimated to the time change - I'm going to get plenty of rest and be ready to go when qualifying starts on Saturday."
As recently as the fifth race of the season at Las Vegas in July, Gary Gardella was staring down the difficult task of erasing a 122-point deficit with points leader Jason Hunt. A runner-up at that event in Las Vegas, combined with four straight victories, two at Indianapolis, one at Dallas, and one at Englishtown (where he collected an additional 20 points for setting the national e.t. record), have put the Chevrolet driver at the top of the Pro FWD standings.
"To win the championship would say a lot about all of the hard work and dedication this team has put into this program," said Gardella. "We were down a long way and never felt like we didn't have a chance to get back into the points race. These guys never gave up and winning this championship would mean an awful lot. Pomona is going to be a tough race, but everyone on this the Red Bull Chevrolet team is looking forward to the challenge."
Marty Ladwig is in second place in the Pro FWD standings. The Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt driver trails first-place Gary Gardella by 36 points and will be pulling out all the stops in an attempt to win his third NHRA Sport Compact title.
"We need to win the race and we need some other things to happen as well," said Ladwig. "We've come this far and reached a lot of the goals we set for ourselves, but the one goal we still need to reach is that 2007 Xplod championship. The Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt is running fast enough to win races. We just need to carry it all the way through at Pomona and then see where things stack up.
"There certainly is some pressure. When you're as driven and competitive as we are, and you see something like an NHRA championship within your grasp, an opportunity like this doesn't come along very often. At the same time, it's been fun, too. All the cars in the Pro FWD class have run great this year and whoever actually ends up winning the championship will definitely have earned it."
This year the Lucas Oil Chevrolet driver has won two races, advanced to four final rounds and set the national elapsed-time record on four different occasions. Ladwig will be looking for his first win at Pomona since 2005 when he defeated Jerrold Rhodes in the Pro FWD final round. Ladwig also won the NHRA Sport Compact Finals in Hot Rod in 2003 and he was runner-up in that category in '02 and '04.
"There's a lot of history at Pomona, and if you're a drag racer, this is one of the places where you want to win," said Ladwig. "The championship is on the line and I'm hoping that my experience and the number of times that I've raced there will help us get the job done."
With three wins and five final rounds to his credit this season, Jason Hunt will go to the NHRA Sport Compact World Finals in third place in the Pro FWD standings and with every intention of capturing his first Xplod title. Hunt trails Gardella by 37 points in the race for the 2007 championship and second-place Marty Ladwig by one point. He knows he'll need a little help in order to claim the Xplod crown.
"Our plan is to go to Pomona, win the event and let the rest fall where it may," said Hunt. "At the same time, this has been the best season, by far, in NHRA Pro FWD drive. The best competition, the most fun to watch, from a fan's perspective, and we've been able to keep our Matco Tools Chevrolet in the race all the way to the very end.
"We're a little disappointed with our performance here recently because we've let a few good opportunities get away from us. We could have done better. As a team we are very competitive and don't want to lose, but we're also realistic and know you can't win them all. Gary (Gardella) has a great streak going, and like anything all things must come to an end. Hopefully the time is now! We won't be leaving anything on the table."
-credit: gm racing