Nelson Hoyos, Marty Ladwig, Lead GM Racing Team Into Sport Compact Mile-High Nationals DENVER, Colo., June 3, 2004 - Drag racing legend Warren Johnson once quipped that the air at Bandimere Speedway is so thin that even the birds prefer walking.
Nelson Hoyos, Marty Ladwig, Lead GM Racing Team Into Sport Compact Mile-High Nationals
DENVER, Colo., June 3, 2004 - Drag racing legend Warren Johnson once quipped that the air at Bandimere Speedway is so thin that even the birds prefer walking. At an elevation of 5,860 feet, it is easy to see why the feathered creatures would prefer an alternative form of transit than what they are accustomed to. For the GM Racing sport compact drag racing team, adjusting to the reduced oxygen level will be just one of the challenges faced when it makes its first visit to the NHRA Sport Compact Mile-High Nationals on June 12 -13.
"In an internal-combustion engine, air equals horsepower and at that altitude, we'll have to make some pretty dramatic changes with the engine-management system to compensate," said Pro FWD Chevy Cavalier driver Nelson Hoyos. "We can make good power with the available air there is, but it will not be as much as we have at sea level or even when we're racing at say, a 1000 feet of altitude. The elevation at Bandimere Speedway is another 600 feet over the mile-high mark (5,280 feet) and even when the POWERade Funny Cars run there, they are well off their normal times and speeds. You won't see the 7.80 and 7.90 passes in Pro FWD that we've been used to running all year. "We're actually going into Denver early to test on the Wednesday prior to the event to get an idea of the adjustments we'll have to make. Turbo cars work a little bit differently than naturally-aspirated cars because we're actually pushing air very similar to the way a supercharged car does. We're not as dependent on ambient air pressure the way a carbureted car or an All Motor Car would be, where there is significantly less air available at that altitude. But you have to make tuning changes to adjust. Our challenge is that we've never raced at that altitude at any race we've ever gone to, so we have exactly zero data to work from. It will be imperative for us to have a good, solid test session under our belt so that we can make the right adjustments."
Many of the competitors at next weekend's NHRA Sport Compact event will be racing for the first time in the hyper-elevated atmospheric conditions of Bandiemere Speedway, where success will warrant changes in more than just the engine tune-up.
"We need air not only to create horsepower but to keep the car glued to the racetrack," explained Hoyos. "Our Chevy Cavalier body has been massaged very, very well, and we have a lot of aerodynamic enhancements to keep it stuck to the surface. If you've seen the passes we've made this season, you'll attest to the fact that there has been a lot of work done to make this Chevrolet even better. This car goes down the track straight as an arrow and doesn't do anything funky. This Cavalier is heaven-sent, it just drives straight and easy, and it's no big deal. That will also change at Denver because not having the air thickness to push over and under the car the way that we're accustomed to, we'll have a difference in how the aerodynamics work on the racecar. We may have to be a little more aggressive on our wicker bill, and we may have to be a little more aggressive on some of the other things on the underbody of the car to assist it in adhering itself to the track surface. "Based on the fact that the motor will not make as much power at that elevation, our gearing will need to be changed as well. You set things up a little differently when you make 1200 horsepower as compared to win you produce 900 to 1000 horsepower. Our GM Racing team has already been on the chassis dyno with the car, they have made some changes, and a couple of different gear sets have been prepared. This beautiful Xtrac gear box lets us swap ratios out in about 20 minutes without any major issues, so we'll be able to test some different gear packs to find the one that works best at that elevation." When he pulls his Ecotec-powered Chevy Cavalier into the staging lanes at Bandimere Speedway, Hoyos will be looking for his first victory of the 2004 NHRA Sport Compact season. This year, the defending NHRA Pro FWD champion has posted four runner-up finishes, is second in the current points standings, and looking to close the gap on first-place Lisa Kubo. "The guys on this GM Racing team are wicked smart, so I'm sure we'll be real close to where we need to be," said Hoyos. "As far as the car itself, the Chevy Cavalier will perform just as well because the track at Denver is very good, it has great traction, it is very smooth and I'm sure the car will work extremely well. We just need to make some changes to the air and fuel mixtures at the boost levels we're running to compensate for the lack of air. "This is a venue I think we're all looking forward to. Not having ever raced at Bandimere Speedway, it's always fun going to a new racetrack just to see what it's all about. It's a world-class drag racing facility and one we can't wait to get to. I'm going into Denver without any preconceived notions. Since we have never raced there before, we're not 100 percent sure what to expect. As a team though, we're much more prepared than anyone else, and as such, we may have a little less difficulty, through preparation, of overcoming any unforeseen obstacles. I'm pretty confident we're going to do well in Denver. We need to do the best we can to keep this Ecotec-powered Chevrolet out in front and in position to contend for the championship."
Pontiac Sunfire driver Marty Ladwig comes to Denver in first-place in the HOT ROD standings after posting a pair of wins at West Palm Beach (Fla.) and Englishtown (N.J.). Ladwig has a 121 point lead over second-place Mike Crawford and holds a 124 point margin over third-place Gary Gardella. Ladwig hopes to extend the points gap as the season heads for the Denver halfway mark. "So far the season has been great," said Ladwig. "We have a couple of wins, we've set and reset the national elapsed-time record multiple times, and we have managed to maintain our points lead since taking over first at West Palm Beach. You can't really ask for much more than that, although our primary goal will remain to win races and to extend our lead toward the championship. "Our Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire is immaculately prepared and is an outstanding car to race. I have so much confidence in the guys on this GM Racing team that when I get into the car, I don't have to concentrate on anything else except driving it past the finish line. It's great to have a team that prepares and provides me with a first-class racing machine, and the fact that I get to drive it is a bonus beyond what I ever could have imagined." While Ladwig has never competed at Bandimere Speedway, he's confident about the team's prospects for the upcoming event and looking forward to getting back into his Ecotec-powered Pontiac. "Because of the altitude, we'll be making some changes in the tune-up and the engine combination," said Ladwig. "For myself, we've had about a month since we last raced, so I'm pretty excited about getting back in the car. I'm definitely restless and eager to get going again, and I'm looking forward to strapping back into that Pontiac Sunfire. Mainly the most important thing going to Denver will be preparation of the racecar. One of the things I'll have to do is change my starting-line procedure. Because of the torque converter, the power will come up differently and I'll have to compensate for that as far as my driving. "For me, I'm living a dream. I get to drive a Pontiac Sunfire in competition, having a full-time ride as a drag racer, so everything for me is just about perfect. All I'm thinking about everyday is getting back in that car and racing again. Waiting to get that feeling again, to sense that acceleration and the excitement of driving an Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire."
The NHRA Sport Compact Mile-High Nationals on June 12 - 13 at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, Colo., is the fifth race on the 10-event Summit Racing Sport Compact tour. Television coverage can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 1, beginning at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.