GM Racing Englishtown preview

Marty Ladwig Hopes to Drive ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt to Old Bridge Raceway Park Winner's Circle Two-Time NHRA Sport Compact Champion Looks to Take Over Pro FWD Points Lead ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Sept. 26, 2006 - Chevy Cobalt driver Marty Ladwig...

Marty Ladwig Hopes to Drive ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt to Old Bridge Raceway Park Winner's Circle

Two-Time NHRA Sport Compact Champion Looks to Take Over Pro FWD Points Lead

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Sept. 26, 2006 - Chevy Cobalt driver Marty Ladwig will try to close a narrow points deficit with Ed Bergenholtz in the Pro FWD category this weekend at the NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The quarter-mile Jersey strip has been good to Ladwig over the years, and with two races remaining on the schedule, the two-time NHRA HOT ROD champion (2003-04) needs to pick up a little over 20 points on the first-place Bergenholtz to take over the lead position in the standings.

"We're right in the thick of the championship battle - the tightest title chase in the NHRA Xplod series," said Ladwig. "We're only one round behind Bergenholtz so it's easy to understand why we're excited about going to Englishtown. We've had good momentum all season long and have been slowly cutting into a lead that once was as large as 120 points. We've been chopping it down to where we are now, and with two races left we're looking pretty good."

Ladwig's two NHRA championships in the HOT ROD category occurred while driving for the GM factory team, but this season the Lucas Oil Chevy driver is trying to pick up his first title as a team owner/driver, something the native Texan would find especially gratifying.

"Winning the championship would be awesome, and to do it with our own team would be even more special," said Ladwig. "This is what I've always planned for. I'm looking forward to trying to win it all and to having a good race at Englishtown. We made some changes on the Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt to try and get a little more e.t. our of the car. The main goal will be to leave there accumulating more points than Bergenholtz, and at the same time, trying to win the race."

Since 2003, Ladwig has made at least one final-round appearance each race season at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Competing in HOT ROD in 2003, Ladwig won the spring event by defeating Jo Jo Callos in the finals, and later in the fall, he was runner-up to New Jersey's very own Gary Gardella. At the spring event in 2004, Ladwig's ECOtec-powered Pontiac defeated Mike Crawford in the final round of HOT ROD, and last fall in the Pro FWD class, his ECOtec-powered Chevy Cobalt was runner-up to Bergenholtz. Ladwig also earned No. 1 qualifying honors in HOT ROD in 2003 and last fall in Pro FWD.

"We're ready to get back to a facility where we have the potential of running our best times," said Ladwig. "We've already raced at altitude in Denver, and in the heat of Las Vegas and West Palm Beach, now it will be good to race again where the conditions are a little more favorable to quick elapsed times and fast speeds.

"The main strategy for us at Englishtown will be to qualify the best that we can to get a good position on the ladder. We've had a couple of minor electrical problems that we've worked through, but we have a lot of experience racing at Englishtown and know what to expect there when the conditions are good. It could be very fast, and if it is we want to have our Lucas Oil Chevrolet at the front of the pack."

Of all of the drivers in Pro FWD competing this weekend at the NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals, New Jersey native Gary Gardella probably has the most knowledge and experience at the Old Bridge quarter-mile. The driver of the DuPont/Hot Hues Chevrolet got his start racing at Englishtown, and over the years, it's become a favorite testing facility for the Jackson, N.J. resident, which is precisely where he spent last week fine-tuning his ECOtec-powered Cobalt.

"Englishtown has always been a great place for me to race," said Gardella. "This is a big weekend for us, it's a home race and we always want to do our best there.

"We've been battling gremlins all year long but that's something that happens even to the best teams. We finally got the boost control right, we finally got the transmission right and we got the motor program right. With the car making a lot more power and hitting the parachute at about 1100 feet, we ran a 7.78 in testing - and that's hitting the chutes early. The next lap we made a full pass and went a 7.741 at 180 mph. The speed was down but now we're trying to figure our what to do with the additional power. We're reengineering everything to progress with the sport and this season has been a year of growing pains. Last time out in testing the first three hits were all quarter mile passes with good solid numbers - 7.78, 7.74 and 7.75. Then we concentrated on our eighth-mile numbers because that's probably been our biggest issue this year. We ended up running our best eighth-mile numbers ever - consistent 5.01, 5.02-second laps."

After capturing three national-event victories in HOT ROD in 2005 and making five final-round appearances (including a runner-up at the fall Englishtown event), the win column has been elusive to Gardella this season, but he's hoping to change that around this weekend.

"The competition had been fierce this year in Pro FWD, but it's been great," said Gardella. "This is what drag racing is all about, races being decided by thousandths of a second, and it's nice to see the number of cars competing this year. It's fun for the fans and it's fun for us, although it keeps us working hard just to keep pace."

Gardella earned his first career No. 1 qualifying award at Englishtown in the fall of 2003 and then went on to defeat Marty Ladwig in the finals that year to claim his first NHRA victory at the New Jersey venue. Gardella was again the No. 1 qualifier in the fall of 2005, and this past May, he recorded a career-best e.t. (in NHRA competition) of 7.742 seconds.

"This whole year we've had our fingers crossed, but going into Englishtown this week, the confidence is back with everybody on the team," said Gardella. "From the tuner, to our mechanics, to even our truck driver, everyone is excited about this event. We're really trying. A lot of teams would have given up by now, but with two NHRA events left on the schedule, and a NOPI race at Norwalk, our goal is to win out the remainder of the season."

The fifth annual NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., on Sept. 30 - Oct. 1 is the ninth race on the 10-event schedule.

-credit: gm racing

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