Team Chevy Looks To Continue Record Setting Ways at NHRA Sport Compact Springnationals Chevy Cobalts Established Both Ends of Pro FWD Performance Mark Two Weeks Ago in Richmond ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 1, 2006 - As a first-year team owner on the...
Team Chevy Looks To Continue Record Setting Ways at NHRA Sport Compact Springnationals
Chevy Cobalts Established Both Ends of Pro FWD Performance Mark Two Weeks Ago in Richmond
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 1, 2006 - As a first-year team owner on the NHRA Sony Xplod circuit, Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt driver Marty Ladwig is beginning to a find a competitive consistency that now puts him toward the front of the Pro FWD points standings. As the series sets up shop in New Jersey this month (first for the 6th annual Nitto Springnationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park on May 6 -7 and then for the 5th annual Northeast NHRA Sport Compact Nationals in Atco, N.J. on May 20 - 21), the San Antonio, Tex. resident feels the pieces of the puzzle are moving into place for a run at a third driver's title.
"The main goal is to win the championship," said Ladwig. "I was fortunate to do it twice before as a driver with GM, but now as an owner it presents a completely different challenge, and it's something I'm really enjoying - it's very satisfying. Right now we're just trying to win some races and remain close to the front."
Following a first-round loss at the season-opening event in West Palm Beach, Fla. on April 2, Ladwig left the Sunshine State pretty encouraged by the potential of his ECOtec-powered Chevy Cobalt, and looking forward to the series' next stop in Richmond, Va. on April 22- 23. With limited runs on the racetrack at Virginia Motorsports Park due to a washout of Saturday qualifying, Ladwig wasted no time getting his Chevy Cobalt tuned in on raceday, powering his way to a national record elapsed time of 7.872 seconds during a round one win over Gary Gardella. Ladwig then advanced to the finals, where he lost by .044 of a second on a holeshot to Ed Bergenholtz, even though the Lucas Oil Chevrolet ran a quicker elapsed time by nearly .15 of a second.
"At Richmond we established that we could be a front-running team," said Ladwig. "We set a national e.t. record, we advanced to the finals, and overall we established a consistency with the Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt that made it extremely competitive. Our goal now is to keep that momentum going and to win a race. Lucas Oil stepped up in a big way for us and now we want to keep the ball rolling. I'm enjoying the challenge of being a car owner and haven't been this excited to go racing in years. When you put in all the work and effort, the results are very gratifying. That only pushes you to want to do more. It's a lot more fun than just driving.
"Ed's (Bergenholtz) jumped off to a good start but we're not too far behind and we've proved that we can run as fast as anybody. We're pretty confident that the pieces are all in place that will enable us to maintain the kind of consistency we established in Richmond. We have everything we need to keep our Chevy Cobalt at the front and we want to continue to do that so that we can put ourselves in position to win races, and hopefully, the championship. There are still seven events left so it's definitely going to be an exciting chase all the way to the end."
Ladwig's past success at Englishtown will come as no surprise to the rest of the Pro FWD competition. The two-time NHRA HOT ROD champion (2003-04) posted NHRA victories at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in the spring of 2003-04 and runners-up at the fall contests in '03 and '05.
"I'm looking forward to racing again in Englishtown," said Ladwig. "It's a place where you can really run fast and the fans there are very much in tune with what's going on in the pits and on the track."
With the help of teammate and longtime friend Lyle Jackson, plus the support of GM Racing's on-site technical staff, Ladwig is confident that his first win as a car owner/driver is just around the corner.
"It's definitely more fun when you're doing the work, when you're responsible for the tune-up, and when the additional responsibility of trying to make the car go fast fall on your shoulders," said Ladwig. "There are certainly more things going on in your head at the starting line than just being the driver.
"Getting the input from the GM-support team definitely helps a small program like mine. When something happens I can have somebody from GM either point me in the right direction, analyze some data, or even provide a spare part that I may need. It's nice to be able to lean on their knowledge and experience. Lyle and I have been racing locally for a long time, and he's been a huge help at the racetrack and at the shop."
Comparing his early-season performance slump to that of a struggling Major League hitter, New Jersey native Gary Gardella would like nothing more than to have a bases-clearing performance this weekend at Englishtown. Some pre-event testing at Atco Raceway (N.J.) may have been just what Gardella needed to get him through this rare dry spell.
"After the season we had in 2005 we've been somewhat disappointed by our start this year," said Gardella. "But that's why they call it drag racing. Trying to get every factor of the racecar working in sync so that you can make that fast run, and to do that consistently is a challenge this team is up for. It's like a baseball player going into a hitting slump, and sometimes it's hard to work these bugs out of the car. You just have to keep taking your cuts and not give up.
"We tested the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt out at Atco Raceway (N.J.) last Tuesday night. The first hit off the trailer was a 7.92 (second) and that was with low power, and not a lot of boost in the car. The second pass, which was about a half-an-hour later, we ran 7.82. We've figured what our problem was and I'm confident we'll run fast in Englishtown. We've been working with the Hydra-Matic engineers, the transmission guys, and learning how to give this car a little bit more power. From a performance and stress standpoint, we're bringing these transmissions into uncharted territory. The Hydra-Matic team has a great product to begin with, and we're working with them to make the best product we can available for the public."
With his string of recent success at Englishtown, Gardella has made the famed quarter-mile at the Old Bridge a second home. The 27-year-old resident of nearby Jackson, N.J. made his first start in the sport compact ranks at Englishtown in 2001. His first NHRA pole came at this venue in October of 2003 and he garnered his second career victory here in 2003. In 2005 he was runner-up to Ron Lummus at the fall contest.
"This is a big month for us," said Gardella. "We would've tested every single day until we got the car right for Englishtown. My family goes out there, friends, sponsors, and we definitely want to put on a good show. Everybody who's stood by us this year deserves a win and hopefully that's what we're going to give them next week in Englishtown. We want the Pro FWD championship and we're working hard to get that done."