Gainesville: Chip Ellis preview

ELLIS EAGER TO GET OFF TO FAST START AT GATORNATIONALS INDIANAPOLIS (March 12, 2008) -- Schumacher Electric Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chip Ellis has gone through many changes since finishing just eight points shy of a championship last...

ELLIS EAGER TO GET OFF TO FAST START AT GATORNATIONALS

INDIANAPOLIS (March 12, 2008) -- Schumacher Electric Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chip Ellis has gone through many changes since finishing just eight points shy of a championship last season. With a new team, new sponsor and new crew chief, Ellis is eager to get back to competition at the NHRA Gatornationals this weekend, the third of 24 stops on the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule and the first of 17 races for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.

Late in 2007 Ellis left his former team after three years and joined Don Schumacher Racing, moving from his home in Georgia to be near the DSR shop in Brownsburg, Ind. Veteran tuner Steve Tartaglia is his new crew chief and Ellis will be competing aboard a Suzuki. Suzuki has partnered with DSR on an engine development program.

After the whirlwind of changes Ellis has gone through in the past three months, he's ready to get back to racing.

"I'm really excited," said Ellis, who tested at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta, Ga., this week. "I feel like it's my first race all over again in 2004. We're going to go out and just give it our best effort, try to qualify well and stick with the process of trying to make a good run. I think if we can do that then we'll be OK."

The Schumacher Electric Suzuki team tested twice in Valdosta, including several days prior to the Gatornationals, which was important to Ellis as he made the transition back to riding a Suzuki after three years aboard a Buell.

"We struggled a little bit trying to get the right clutch tune-up, but we finally got it and ran a 6.95-second elapsed time at 190 mph. That was our best run yet and we still haven't put any good engines in it yet. We haven't even scratched the surface. I've made 14 runs so far and each run gets a little bit better. It's a little different for me because I haven't ridden a Suzuki in a while, but I feel like I'm adapting right back. I'm feeling more and more comfortable on every run."

Ellis, who has finished in the top five in the point standings the last three seasons, is confident about the team's chances this season.

"We have all the resources in place to go out there and be competitive and I'm just excited to go out and be able to have a shot at a championship," he said. "Thanks to Don Schumacher, all the folks at Schumacher Electric and Steve Tartaglia. What a guy. He literally works his fingers to the bone. To be teamed up with a guy like that is exciting to me because I think he and I have a lot in common with our work ethics and we'll do whatever it takes to try and win."

A lot of attention has been focused on the new DSR development program involving the new Suzuki Hayabusa engine.

"We are really excited about the new Hayabusa engine that we are developing along with Suzuki," commented team owner Don Schumacher. "We hope to have that motor up and running on the dyno a little bit later this month and hopefully we'll have it in a bike soon after that. It should make the Suzukis more competitive with the Harleys and the Buells."

Veteran DSR crew chief Steve Tartaglia, who plays a big part in the development project, explained how it all began. "We went to Suzuki with the idea for a new motor around July of 2007 looking for someone to help us fund the program. We're actually going to build and develop the engine, race it and hopefully sell it. The main difference is the engine we run now has two valves per cylinder and the new Hayabusa engine has four valves per cylinder, which is the more current technology. The cylinder head is what is called a down-draft design, which again is more current technology than we're running now. The new engine is strictly a purpose-built drag racing engine. The two-valve engine we're running now is based on a production engine and we build it around that. Those are the biggest differences.

"It's going a little slower than we had anticipated," explained Tartaglia. "We were hoping to have an engine done by December and it looks like it's probably going to be the middle to the end of this month before the first engine is even fired up. From there it's just an ongoing development process. How long it takes to get the thing where it makes competitive power and is reliable is unknown. It may be a couple weeks. It may be a couple months. We have to build a whole motorcycle around it because it won't work with existing chassis."

Ellis will begin the season on the same two-valve Suzuki that set the elapsed-time national record last season, but he's excited about the Hayabusa development project. "We're supposed to run the new engine real soon," he said. "We're eager to get it in the shop and start working on it and I'm pretty fired up about it."

The Gatornationals marks the beginning of Ellis' fourth full-season competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He qualified fourth at the 2007 event, but lost in the first round of eliminations. The Florida native is looking for a better start this weekend.

"I like the track at Gainesville. It's awesome," said Ellis, a graduate of the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School at Gainesville Raceway, "I've run there a lot with the Pro Star races in the past. I've always liked the track and it's usually pretty fast there and I like going fast, so we should be OK.

"The important thing is to go out there and try and go rounds. If I can cut good lights and shift on time and we get the Schumacher Electric Suzuki tuned up good I think we can be there for the final round on Sunday. Our team is really working well together and everyone gets along and I've been having a lot of fun. I think we're going to do well."

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Don Schumacher , Chip Ellis , Frank Hawley , Steve Tartaglia