GM Racing season preview

Team Chevy's Sport-Compact Drag Racers Look Toward Another Exciting Year Chevrolet's Formidable Lineup of Drivers and Champions Ready for a Record-Breaking Season DETROIT, March 6, 2007 - A formidable list of teams, drivers, and current and ...

Team Chevy's Sport-Compact Drag Racers Look Toward Another Exciting Year

Chevrolet's Formidable Lineup of Drivers and Champions Ready for a Record-Breaking Season

DETROIT, March 6, 2007 - A formidable list of teams, drivers, and current and former champions comprise Team Chevy's sport-compact roster for 2007, promising to bring another exciting season of race victories and record-setting performances to the red bowtie. With the continued refinement and evolution of Ecotec horsepower, and the aerodynamic and user-friendly sophistication of the race-prepared Cobalt, Chevrolet looks to build on its already impressive sport-compact legacy.

"It's going to be another great year for Team Chevy's sport-compact program," said Carmen Smith, GM Racing program manager, sport compact drag racing & drifting. "I expect that our pro-level cars will, once-again, reset the benchmark for performance in the Pro FWD class. Through good performance on and off the track, all of our teams will continue to build a positive image for Chevy Cobalt, the Ecotec engine, and Hydra-Matic transmission.

"We're continuing to make our sport-compact racing platform more user-friendly and accessible, and this spring, we will launch a new version of gmtunersource.com. We're moving to a blog format so it will be easier to provide tech updates to fans and racers. This will be a great source of information, as well as fun stuff like photos and screen savers."

One of Team Chevy's shining stars in 2006 was Jason Hunt who captured his second consecutive NDRA Pro Outlaw FWD championship with a dominating performance that included seven wins in seven final rounds. Hunt's Chevrolet was practically unstoppable last season on the NDRA circuit despite the fact that he did not enter his Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt at the series' first event at Phoenix and the season finale in Norwalk, Ohio.

Hunt set a new (NDRA) Pro Outlaw FWD national elapsed-time record of 7.461 seconds at Budds Creek (Md.) in May, and a new top speed mark (NDRA) of 199.27 mph at Epping (N.H.) in August. On the NHRA Pro FWD trail, Hunt's appearances were limited to a handful of events, but even at those, his Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt was a force to be reckoned with. The Maryland native earned three No. 1 qualifying awards, two national-event victories and advanced to four final rounds. He set a national elapsed-time record of 7.519 seconds at Englishtown (N.J.) in May and established a national speed mark of 196.44 mph at Las Vegas in July. Even with his limited NHRA appearances, Hunt still made an impressive run at the 2006 Xplod title, but a back injury in September sidelined him for the season's last two races and he finished 6th in the standings.

"We want to take the same methodical approach to this season as last," said Hunt. "The competition is stepping up and we plan on staying ahead of them. We will be trying to win the championships in both NHRA and NDRA this year, which has not been done before. We had some great results testing in the offseason and we're looking forward to turning up the wick."

Marty Ladwig fielded his own sport-compact team for the first time in 2006 and added to his extraordinary resume. The Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt driver captured a win in the NHRA Pro FWD category at Denver, a runner-up at Richmond (Va.), and earned No. 1 qualifying honors at Atco (N.J.) where he set a track-record e.t. of 7.706 seconds. Ladwig ended the '06 campaign in second place in the NHRA Xplod standings to record his fifth straight top-five finish. The Chevy Cobalt driver has also won at least one event every year since 2002.

"I'm really looking forward to this season," said Ladwig. "Lucas Oil has stepped up our program with a new two-year contract and the funding to build a new car. Unlike last year's unibody design, our new Chevy Cobalt will be a full tube chassis car, purpose-built for the Pro FWD class and keeping in line with GM Racing's goal of creating a more user-friendly platform. With the support we're receiving from Lucas Oil, Chevrolet and GM Racing, I am very confident that we will enjoy another successful season as well as a better shot at the 2007 championship."

One of the most successful sport-compact drivers to strap on a helmet Ladwig made drag racing history in May 2005 at the NHRA Sport Compact Northeast Nationals in Atco. Ladwig's Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt became the first front-wheel-drive car to break the magical 200-mph barrier when he ran the unprecedented speed of 202.02 mph in a final-round victory over Jason Hunt. That 200 mph run is just one of several career highlights for the San Antonio, Tex., resident that includes two NHRA HOT ROD championships (2003-04), 13 NHRA national-event victories, and notable achievements in NHRA HOT ROD and NHRA Pro FWD/NOPI Pro Outlaw FWD. At the 2005 NDRA season finale in Norwalk, Ohio, Ladwig's Chevy Cobalt ran the quickest elapsed time in the history of the Pro Outlaw FWD category stopping the timers in 7.292 seconds, and his 7.124 second e.t. at the 2005 NHRA finals in Pomona is the best-ever in the NHRA Pro FWD class.

"Besides our new car, the other big news for Ladwig Racing is that we'll be teaming with Julie Stepan and her father John," said Ladwig. "Julie will be making her Pro Class debut in NHRA All Motor. She was the 2006 NHRA Sport RWD champion and she has 13 NHRA wins. We're excited to have Julie on board for this year."

Chevrolet's Gary Gardella won just about everything he entered in 2005, including the NDRA Pro 4 Cylinder championship. Gardella's 2005 campaign included nine wins on the NDRA circuit to go along with 10 final-round appearances and eight No. 1 qualifying awards. e was equally as punishing on the NHRA circuit where in his limited appearances, the Chevy Cobalt driver captured three national events, advanced to five final rounds and finished fifth in the standings.

Last year, the New Jersey native cooled down, advancing to just three final rounds combined in both NDRA and NHRA. But he posted a career-best elapsed time of 7.565 seconds and speed of 186.15 mph at Englishtown (NHRA) in September when earned No. 1 qualifying honors. Gardella finished in fourth place in the NHRA Pro FWD standings and in fourth place in the NDRA Pro Outlaw FWD standings.

"We have a lot of new things going on this year including our new 2007 Chevy Cobalt built by S & W Racecars," said Gardella. "We've tested and have it ready to be competitive, and we're looking forward to having a great year. Our primary sponsor this year will be Red Bull. They stepped up pretty big and you can expect another new paint scheme on our car for '07.

"We're looking forward to coming out this year and seeing if we can recreate some of that magic that we had in '05. We had some minor mechanical issues that we ran into last year, and in drag racing you have to be spot-on perfect to win. We've tested getting our new 2007 Chevy Cobalt ready, and I've never felt as comfortable in a racecar as I do this one. It's been easy for me to drive, and going back to a clutch car was as smooth as I expected - that's just something you don't forget how to do. I ran a clutch for so many years and this was like being home again."

Bryan Jimenez was new to the Team Chevy camp in 2006, so it's only fitting that the Houston, Tex., resident had his best season ever as a sport-compact competitor. The driver of the Everyone's Mortgage Chevy Cobalt scored his first career victory at the NHRA event at Atco, advanced to the final round at the NHRA season-opening contest in West Palm Beach (Fla.), and then posted a runner-up at the NDRA eliminator in Valdosta (Ga.), and a runner-up at Rockingham (N.C.). Jimenez also drove his Ecotec-powered Chevrolet to a career-best time and speed of 7.721 seconds at 183.34 mph at the second NHRA Englishtown event in October. He finished in third place in the NHRA Pro FWD standings and in sixth place in the NDRA Pro Outlaw FWD standings. With a full season of experience behind the wheel of his Chevy Cobalt, you can expect Jimenez to be a contender in both sport-compact racing series.

"After the success we experienced last year, we're expecting great things in 2007," said Jimenez. "We knew our new Chevy Cobalt was going to be an incredible racecar so we weren't that surprised when we improved as quickly as we did. Everyone on this team is pretty confident that we can get even better, but the competition level is going to be so fierce, with so many good cars, that it's hard to say just where each team will end up. You're going to need your 'A' game at every event. We're ready to mix it up a little and let the chips fall where they may."

After winning three straight titles in the NDRA series (2004-2005 in Turbo 4 and 2006 in Turbo Street) you can once again expect Brian Ballard's Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt to be an on-track monster. In the nine contests in which Ballard raced, the Chevy Cobalt driver captured five national-event victories (St. Louis, Rockingham, Leicester, Budds Creek, Norwalk), advanced to six final rounds and earned five No. 1 qualifying awards. Ballard ran a career-best elapsed time of 9.282 seconds at Norwalk (Ohio) and a career-best speed of 158.84 mph at Epping.

"I'm confident that we can pick up right where we left off last season, but running consistently and winning rounds will be the key," said Ballard. "We started a little slow last year, and then we came on like an roaring freight train and rode that momentum to the TurboStreet championship. We'll come out of the gate better prepared this year and hopefully we can charge to our fourth consecutive title."

In the NDRA Pro Extreme category, 2006 champion Don Nase Jr. blasted his way into uncharted territory in the GM/Ecotec-powered, DVDAvenue.com dragster. The Jackson, N.J., resident won nine races last season on the NDRA tour, captured nine No. 1 qualifying awards, set an NDRA elapsed-time national record of 6.457 seconds at Epping, and a Pro Extreme top speed record of 210.14 mph at Budds Creek.

"We've been working on a new ProTorque torque converter and an experimental turbo wheel design for AirWerks," said Nase. "We've also been breaking in some new crew members. We're determined to defend our NDRA Extreme Compact championship, and we want to give our sponsors the bragging rights to the best four-cylinder drag car in the world, and the first sport-compact car to break into that elusive five-second zone. We're super excited to see some of the new competition coming out this season in our class, and we are also going to run some Top Dragster over in the IHRA. We've added five races to our schedule this year so it will be interesting to see what kind of effect that has on our overall program. If we keep our heads down and stay focused on the tasks at hand, it should be another great season for the DNR Team."

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. But in 2006, she made most the of the opportunity to compete against some of the country's finest bracket racers, working her way toward a pair of national-event victories and a well-deserved NHRA Quick 16 East title. In addition, the senior at Azusa Pacific University earned No. 1 qualifying honors at Denver and ran a career-best e.t. and speed at the October event in Englishtown.

"GM has provided us with the resources to take our Chevy Cobalt to the next level of performance," said Nocita. "We'll be running a similar Ecotec engine package to that of Brian Ballard and Jason Whitfield, and the increased performance means we'll be going faster. We also enjoy the continued support of Chicago Title Insurance and BG Oil Products, and look forward to another amazing season with them as a part of our team. Good Neighbor Pharmacy, who came on board toward the end of last year, will also be a part of our team for the entire 2007 season!

"This season we'll be focusing our efforts on West Coast races," said Nocita. "We'll be running IDRC events, Battle of the Imports, Summit Series events, as well as the NHRA Sport Compact races in Las Vegas and Pomona. Not that the East Coast wasn't an awesome experience, but with the way my personal schedule is structured, racing on the West Coast will be enough to provide us with a challenging schedule."

California's Jason Whitfield will also be heating up the competition west of the Rockies with his Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt. Whitfield will be entering his 13th season on the tuner circuit and will race in IDRC and select NHRA and NDRA events on the west coast.

"The offseason was very productive for us and the improvements we made to our Chevy Cobalt will be evident as soon as we hit the track," said Whitfield. "It's going to be a great season, and like everyone else at Team Chevy, we can't wait to get started."

-credit: gm racing

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