Hidalgo feels at home for Cajun SPORTSnationals

NHRA Stock Racer Hidalgo Feels At Home As No Problem Raceway Park Prepares To Host NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals BELLE ROSE, La. - It takes Jimmy Hidalgo's '97 Chevy Camaro a little more than 10 seconds to speed down the quarter-mile drag strip at...

NHRA Stock Racer Hidalgo Feels At Home As No Problem Raceway Park Prepares To Host NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals

BELLE ROSE, La. - It takes Jimmy Hidalgo's '97 Chevy Camaro a little more than 10 seconds to speed down the quarter-mile drag strip at No Problem Raceway Park. In early March he powered his car, which he affectionately refers to as "The Country Dog," to the national record for elapsed time in his class in NHRA's Stock Eliminator (10.68 seconds).

Believe it or not, he enjoys a 55-mph ride just a little more than his 120 mph-plus top speed on his record-setting run.

Hidalgo actually favors the five-minute ride from his home in Donaldsville, La., to No Problem Raceway Park. As southern Louisiana's premier multi-purpose auto racing facility, the track provides a welcome escape for Hidalgo, a self-proclaimed gearhead who also happens to be in the top echelon of NHRA Stock competitors, a two-time NHRA National Event winner.

With his home-court advantage, Hidalgo is one of the pre-race favorites for the inaugural NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals, April 23-25 at No Problem Raceway Park.

The NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals, an NHRA National Event designed to showcase NHRA Sportsman competitors exclusively, features a guaranteed purse of more than $50,000 and competition in six NHRA Lucas Oil Series categories, including Competition Eliminator, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street. NHRA Lucas Oil Series National Event points will be awarded to drivers in all categories except Super Street.

Hidalgo, who earned both of his NHRA victories during the 2002 season (Gainesville, Fla. and St. Louis), says a win at his home track would be his best yet.

"To win this race in my backyard would be really special," said Hidalgo, who receives sponsorship support from Valvoline, Richmond Gear and Goodyear Tires in his racing efforts. "I can tell you that winning a race is just the best thing in the world, and I would definitely like to experience that feeling in my home town. One thing is for sure, we are going to have fun gunning for it."

When he's not out chasing championship points in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series at tracks around the country, or managing his auto dealership, Hidalgo's Used Cars, he is a regular fixture at No Problem Raceway Park.

"We have our own motor-home spot at the track because it is so close to our house," said Hidalgo, who recently introduced his son, Jimmy Hidalgo, Jr. ("Country Pup") to the world of NHRA Stock racing. "We do quite a bit of bracket racing there so we know the track very well. It's going to be a really great race and a good time for everybody. I can't wait."

The last time NHRA contested the SPORTSnationals was in 1986 in Bowling Green, Ky. Hidalgo says the sportsman community approves the event's revival.

"I am really glad the NHRA added this race to the schedule," he said. "I wish we could have three or four of them at different tracks across the country. All of the sportsman racers love class racing and shootouts, and that is what this event is all about. Plus, the race offers all of us a chance to earn some points toward the national championship."

The event is expected to produce a field of more than 400 cars. Track and NHRA officials have an exciting race schedule planned for the weekend, which includes national record runs for all classes, class eliminations, special shootouts and professional-category exhibitions.

"The track owners have really been working hard on the track to get it ready for this race," Hidalgo said. "They've done a lot of extra work and the track looks really sharp. It is as good as anywhere you would want to go race. The starting line has a lot of traction, there's plenty of paved pit space and there's even a sports bar underneath the timing tower. It just doesn't get any better than that."

Or tougher on the track. Hidalgo knows he has his work cut out if he's going to win in front of his friends and family. The competition in Stock is incredible. When race cars run that quick, things can change pretty fast. The national record he set in March was reset three weeks later and he's still looking for his first victory of the '04 season.

"It's going to be a tough race because all of the heavy hitters are going to be here," he said. "Dan Fletcher, Lee Zane and Peter Biondo and a bunch of the best pure drag racers in the world will be there. I might have the home-court advantage so to speak, but these guys are good. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Tickets are $20 each day. For ticket information, contact No Problem Raceway Park at (985) 369-3692. For additional information, check nhra.com or noproblemraceway.com.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Peter Biondo , Dan Fletcher , Lee Zane