GM Racing Heads To Pomona Raceway For NHRA Sport Compact World Finals Marty Ladwig Looks To Top Previous FWD Performance Marks In ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt POMONA, Calif., Oct. 18, 2005 - It all started in early March with the highly ...
GM Racing Heads To Pomona Raceway For NHRA Sport Compact World Finals
Marty Ladwig Looks To Top Previous FWD Performance Marks In ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt
POMONA, Calif., Oct. 18, 2005 - It all started in early March with the highly enthusiastic introduction of the GM Racing/Chevy Cobalt racing lineup during a media luncheon at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Seven months later the GM Racing team heads back to the West Coast for the 5th annual NHRA Sport Compact World Finals at Pomona Raceway, the conclusion of another outstanding campaign that resulted in multiple on-track victories and new performance benchmarks in both elapsed time and speed. In 2005, the Chevy Cobalt continued a grand tradition that has made the red bowtie synonymous with winning on the drag strip.
"Through the success of our factory and factory-supported teams, GM Racing has proven the reliability, durability and high-performance capabilities of our production-based components in an extremely competitive environment," said Carmen Smith, GM program manager for sport-compact drag racing. "Our goal at GM Racing is to make GM products the hardware of choice among sport-compact drag racers, and everything we do in testing or on the racetrack is another step toward reaching that objective."
After winning back-to-back championships (2003-04) in the NHRA HOT ROD category, it didn't take long for Marty Ladwig to get comfortable in the Pro FWD/Pro Outlaw FWD Chevy Cobalt. Ladwig and his GM Racing teammates made drag racing history at Atco (N.J.) Raceway on May 15 when the ECOtec-powered Chevrolet became the first front-wheel-drive car in history to break the magical 200-mph barrier in a quarter mile, running an unprecedented speed of 202.02 mph in a final-round victory over Jason Hunt. Ladwig's Chevrolet also ran the quickest elapsed time in the history of the Pro FWD category during round one of eliminations at Englishtown (N.J.) on Oct. 2, stopping the clocks in 7.316 seconds, and at the NDRA World Finals at Norwalk Raceway Park (Ohio) on Oct. 16, the affable Texan ran his quickest elapsed time ever at 7.292 seconds.
"It's really amazing, though, when you think about the horsepower we're harnessing out of this four-cylinder ECOtec," said Ladwig. "Even after four years of competition, we're still only scratching the surface as far as the potential of what this engine can do.
"It's been quite an awesome experience and a privilege to be able to drive this Chevy Cobalt, and to be a part of a race team that was the first to go over 200 mph and to run 7.361 seconds - two of the fastest performance numbers ever recorded. When we ran 7.31, our whole focus was just winning the round - we weren't really worried about the time. When they told me what our Cobalt actually ran, that was pretty neat. It was very smooth and didn't feel that quick, but the car has always had the potential to go that quick, it was just a matter of getting everything put together to run that fast. From the times we had run the day before in qualifying, we felt pretty good about posting a decent time. The quickest ever in Pro FWD, though, was quite a thrill.
"At Norwalk (Ohio) you could tell this Chevrolet was on a really good pass, and to run the fastest elapsed time by a front-wheel-drive car was a great experience. Halfway down the quarter-mile I started smiling because I knew this Cobalt was on a terrific run. The car left great, launched hard, and down track it started pulling so I knew it was on something good. All year long we knew we had a really good car, and the potential has been there to run the big numbers. To finally achieve that toward the end of the season says a lot about the dedication of this crew. They slugged it out all year, kept pounding away at it and we finally achieved one of our main goals - to run in the 7.20s. I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys than I am of this race team. They're sharp, very talented, and I'm just the lucky one who gets to take the ride. We're looking forward to racing again this weekend at Pomona (Calif.). We'll get to see if we can do this all over again at the NHRA Finals."
In addition to his career-best elapsed time and speed, Ladwig and his GM Racing teammates have also stayed busy keeping their Chevy Cobalt in the winner's circle. On the eve of the season finale at Pomona Raceway, Ladwig has rung the victory bell at four events (Las Vegas/NHRA, Atco/NHRA, Bristol/NOPI, Norwalk/NOPI) and posted three runners-up (Phoenix/NOPI, Las Vegas/NHRA, Englishtown/NHRA). The GM Racing team is the defending champion in the Pro FWD category at Pomona, and Ladwig's last runner-up in HOT ROD came at the '04 Finals.
"The great thing about this sport is that you never know what to expect, and that is especially true when trying to determine the performance of these Chevy Cobalts," said Ladwig. "The awesome thing about this series and these types of cars is that nobody knows what the limits are. Every time you think they can't go any faster, they go a lot faster and a lot quicker. We haven't even come close to that performance wall. Every time we learn something or try something different, we go faster. It's an exciting time to be a part of this sport, to see the growth that is taking place and to see GM Racing's commitment toward making it more easily accessible for anyone who wants to participate."
With just one race left to catch Pro RWD points leader Brad Personnet, Matt Hartford will be pulling out all the stops in his twin-turbo, GM High Feature V6-powered Chevrolet in pursuit of the NHRA Xplod championship. Hartford trails Personnet by 110 points, and regardless of the final outcome from this weekend's event, the Summit Racing Chevrolet driver has already experienced his share of success on the racetrack in 2005.
"We've taken our baseline program and tweaked on it week in and week out," explained Hartford. "Mylon Keasler, our crew chief and engine builder, is working night and day on just our engine program to make sure that between races we're finding additional power. The GM High Feature V6 was a brand-new, undeveloped engine in 2004 and over the last two seasons we've been able to turn up the wick to around 1600 horsepower with our twin-turbo configuration. We've gone through a lot of parts and a lot of trial and error to get where we are now, but it becomes a matter of making everything run together consistently and that's the key to being successful."
In NHRA Pro RWD competition this season, Hartford's Chevrolet rolled to wins at Englishtown (N.J.) and Topeka (Kan.), and a runner-up at Atco (N.J.) It was also at the Atco event where the Summit Racing Chevrolet gave Hartford his career-best e.t. and speed with a run of 6.523 seconds at 215.05 mph.
"After the Las Vegas race in April, we went back to the drawing board and came back strong by going to the next three final rounds, and winning Topeka with Greg Anderson and our two Summit Racing cars. That was a high point and winning a true NHRA national event was something I'd never done before. Plus we had to beat three of the best cars in the category to do it, taking out Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the points to take the points lead. There were no gimme rounds and every one of them had to count.
"A year ago we were looking for 50 horsepower at a time, but now if you can average two across the board, you're happy with it - it's getting harder and harder to find. We're in a constant learning process and if it weren't for my crew and everyone that helps us, we couldn't do this."
It was a breakout year that Gary Gardella always dreamed about, but in his first full campaign behind the wheel of the ECOtec-powered Chevy Cobalt, the New Jersey resident gave fans of the red bowtie a season to remember. Competing in just five of the 10 scheduled NHRA Xplod races in the HOT ROD category, Gardella made the most of the opportunity by capturing three national-event victories (Atco, Denver, West Palm Beach 2), two runners-up (West Palm Beach 1, Englishtown 2) and the pole at Denver. In addition, Gardella completely dominated the NDRA Racing Series, capturing 10 victories in the Pro 4 Cylinder category, advancing to all 11 final-rounds, earning nine No. 1 qualifying awards and winning the 2005 NOPI championship. Running just half of the NHRA schedule, Gardella is currently tied for third place with Kenny Tran in the HOT ROD standings and will end the season no worse than fourth when the final points are tallied Sunday night.
"That's such a big accomplishment for this team, for Chevrolet and for GM Racing," said Gardella. "What we were able to achieve this year should open a few eyes to what you can accomplish with GM Racing hardware. We were able to win the NOPI championship because our Cobalt was fast and consistent every race out, and that's because of the construction, reliability and tune-ability of the Hydra-Matic transmission and the ECOtec engine. When we had the chance to race in the NHRA HOT ROD class, we made the most of it. I'm really proud of my guys, to be part a part of the GM Racing team and to be able to race a Chevy Cobalt in competition."
The 5th annual Nitto NHRA Sport Compact World Finals at Pomona Raceway on Oct. 21 -23 is the 10th race on the 10-event NHRA Xplod Racing tour. Highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Thursday, Nov. 3, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern.