Chevrolet's Gary Gardella Puts Winning Streak On The Line ECOtec-Powered Cobalt Driver Looking For 12th Straight Victory ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Sept. 26, 2005 - The Lucas Oil NHRA Sport Compact Fall Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is...
Chevrolet's Gary Gardella Puts Winning Streak On The Line
ECOtec-Powered Cobalt Driver Looking For 12th Straight Victory
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., Sept. 26, 2005 - The Lucas Oil NHRA Sport Compact Fall Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is one race that Chevy Cobalt driver Gary Gardella has been looking forward to all year. In any given season, the 26-year-old Jackson, N. J., resident and his racing entourage are frequent visitors to the storied venue in Monmouth County, a facility, along with Atco Raceway, that Gardella considers his drag racing home. But because of scheduling conflicts and other appearance commitments, this weekend's contest will be the Gardella Racing team's only stop this year at the Old Bridge.
"Englishtown is my favorite place to race," said Gardella. "You could blindfold me and I could find my way around that place. It's a great facility with a lot of history and I've always enjoyed going there. Plus, it's one of the first tracks I ever raced on so that makes it even more special. We haven't raced at Englishtown at all this year and usually we race there about three or four times. We want to make sure when we go there that we go big and put on a good show for all of our racing fans and supporters, so we'll be doing a big hospitality program with DuPont.
"Given the right conditions, I feel like records could be broken there. There are some new things we'll be trying with the car, but our Chevy Cobalt will basically be the same car we've run all year. We're just waiting to put it on a well-prepared racetrack in conditions that will be conducive to great times and speeds."
To put it mildly, the 2005 sport-compact racing campaign has been a banner season for the energetic and highly popular Chevrolet racer. A big reason for Gardella's success this year has been the consistent, commanding performance of his ECOtec-powered, candy-apple red Cobalt. Gardella opened up the season at the NOPI event in Phoenix where he was the Pro 4 Cylinder runner-up to Ron Lummus. At the NHRA HOT ROD contest at West Palm Beach, Fla., Gardella tallied is second runner-up of the year to Lummus, but since then the Chevy Cobalt driver has settled for nothing less than the winner's circle, capturing 11 consecutive events (combining NHRA HOT ROD and NOPI Pro 4 Cylinder), 10 No. 1 qualifying awards and his first NDRA championship.
Gardella credits the research and development work of GM Racing engineers on the Hydra-Matic transmission and the ECOtec engine, the durability and performance of the Cobalt's powertrain, and the ability of his race team to adapt and adjust to a new racing package for his program's success this season.
"Most of our on-track performance comes from the hard work that GM Racing has done in the past - the R & D work on the engine and the transmission," said Gardella. "With the exception of the first test session this season when we broke maybe a transmission or two, we haven't had any problems, or broken any trannys at an event at all. That's the biggest problem racers have when they go to these tracks, having good reliable parts, but it's a problem we don't have and that's because of the work of GM Racing. This Hydra-Matic transmission is the way to go - I was shocked at how good it was. Like a lot of racers over the years we watched this transmission get better, and better and better. Now we're lucky enough to work with the GM Racing team and all that R & D is paying off for us as well.
"The ECOtec engine is incredible and we don't even have it set on kill - we're only using 35 to 36 pounds of boost. Being on all these hot tracks this summer, we haven't been able to throw a lot of power at the car. We've been successful at basically fine-tuning the car going down the track, changing the starting line rpm, specifically second-gear boost, so there are minor things we're doing but it's certainly not complicated.
"The guys I have working with me are great. We've had the advantage of running this Cobalt now for almost a full year and we know what it takes to get it right. Over the winter we'll be doing some testing, and by next spring when we come back, I'm confident you'll see some really strong numbers out of this car."
With this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals, Gardella knows that keeping his 11-race winning streak alive against the stiff competition in the HOT ROD category won't be easy. But it's a homecoming Gardella looks to make the most of, and he's confident that the Ecko/Hot Hues Chevrolet team will be prepared for their latest challenge.
"This may be our toughest event yet because we'll be facing a Bothwell team that ran in the 7.80s in Las Vegas," said Gardella. "We haven't been that fast, but we also haven't been on a track or in conditions conducive to quick times and fast speeds. Englishtown is going to be a great event, and it may all come down to reaction time and who leaves first.
"With 11 straight wins (NHRA & NOPI), this season has been a dream come true, especially when you look at how well this Hydra-Matic transmission has performed on the hot tracks we've raced on - Memphis, St. Louis. The air temperature at those two events was 105, 110 degrees with track temps at 150, 155 degrees, and we were still running 8.10 seconds and 8.00 seconds consistently. As the weather cools down, we're starting to go faster and faster. At Englishtown I think we'll be able to put a little more power back into the car. If we can creep up on the tune up with each round, I'm confident you'll see our Ecko/Hot Hues Chevy Cobalt run faster and faster with each session, and if we make it to the finals we can step on it."