CSI Racing has ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt in Pursuit of Dual Championships Team Prepared for Seven Contests Over the Next Eight Weekends July 5, 2006 - A busy pair of months in July and August, and sport compact events slated for seven of the...
CSI Racing has ECOtec-Powered Chevy Cobalt in Pursuit of Dual Championships
Team Prepared for Seven Contests Over the Next Eight Weekends
July 5, 2006 - A busy pair of months in July and August, and sport compact events slated for seven of the next eight weekends promises to test the meddle and endurance of Jason Hunt and the CSI Racing/Matco Tools/Brut Chevy Cobalt. The demanding schedule includes five NOPI contests lined up along the Eastern Seaboard beginning with the NOPI North Carolina Nationals on July 8 - 9 at Rockingham Dragway, and two visits to NHRA venues with a stop at the Las Vegas Sport Compact Nationals on July 14 - 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and a return to West Palm Beach, Fla. on Aug. 19 -20.
The results from the next few weeks of competition will go a long way toward determining the final outcome of the '06 campaign, but after an early-season adjustment period used to get a new racecar up to speed, both Hunt and team-owner Charlie Schafer like where their program sits as the year moves beyond the halfway mark.
"I think we came up quicker than our initial expectations, especially when you consider the first few races when we had gremlins, parts breakage and we were just trying to learn a new car," said Hunt. "The team has worked together for a long time so we have a good history, but we began running a car that's nothing like anything we've raced in the past, and we ended up doing very well in a short amount of time. With the GM engineers helping us and getting us up to speed on the new Cobalt, testing it and working hard, it all came together for us at Valdosta (Ga.).
"We had an idea what we wanted to do with the racecar at our first two outings, but we didn't have any data because the car was different from what it was in 2005," explained Schafer. "It was 250 pounds heavier, it had different tires than what were run last year, just a number of things in the rules changes that basically gave us a whole new way to look at the car. We went to the NOPI race in Georgia, got everything going and the car responded beautifully driving from A to B without breaking, going rounds and providing us with data. We started tweaking the car a little more, went to Englishtown and really put the hammer down."
It took just two events for the CSI Racing crew to hit upon a setup that resulted in both consistency and outstanding performance numbers, and that combination put the Matco Tools/Brut Chevy Cobalt in the Pro Outlaw FWD winner's circle for the first time this season at the NOPI Nationals in Valdosta. Another big win followed at the NHRA event in Englishtown, N.J., on May 7 that also saw the ECOtec-powered Cobalt establish both ends of the Pro FWD national record with an elapsed time of 7.519 seconds and a speed of 195.19 mph. Two weeks later at the NOPI meet in Budds Creek, Md., the Matco Tools Chevy Cobalt team were at it again, setting a new NDRA national record at 7.461 seconds en route to a No. 1 qualifying effort and the race win.
"Our goal was to turn this Chevy Cobalt into a consistent performer that would run close to the same number, round after round after round," said Schafer. "I can get a chassis down the track, all tube chassis are similar to some extent, but for what I don't know, I bring in people who do know. I rely on my team and my crew to do their jobs, and that is why we've done as well as we have. At this point in time, we're very happy with where we are and with what we've been able to do. The fun thing is that we're still learning this car and all the little ins and outs of it. We feel right now we have a good handle on how our Matco Tools Chevrolet performs and feel we can go faster. You become addicted to trying to go faster and while we're still learning, we're also trying some new things as well that in the long run, will make us better."
As the weather begins to grow much warmer and the pace of the schedule quickens, the CSI Racing team moves into the second half of the season with an already impressive record that includes four wins (three NDRA, one NHRA), one runner-up (NHRA), five No. 1 qualifier awards and re-established national records in both series.
"All we've been trying to do is maintain the momentum we established at Valdosta," said Hunt. "Not really pushing to go faster, but pushing to go rounds. We had little blips like at St. Louis where we had a waste gate leaking, but we only got to run one round that day and would have found it much sooner with more laps on the track. The track was also hot there and was beginning to go away. In Denver we ran real well, except for a couple of minor issues, we ran 7.50 twice that weekend at 10,000 feet of adjusted altitude, so we were real happy. In the meantime, we'll continue to keep up with our maintenance, test, try to stay consistent and try to carry that momentum forward. We have Rockingham (NOPI), then we have Las Vegas (NHRA) and then we have about six races in a row after that. We'll try to keep running with what's worked for us, and we'll work hard to keep going rounds.
"There's a lot of stiff competition in NHRA Pro FWD with Gary (Gardella), and Marty (Ladwig) and Bryan (Jimenez) - there are a lot of good drivers to contend with. If we have some more good luck we might have a chance at the NHRA championship, but realistically, we're shooting for a top-three, and anything better than that is gravy. On the NOPI side, obviously we're trying to win the championship, and right now that's looking pretty good. Our original plan didn't include running the full NHRA schedule, not because we didn't want to, but because of budget constraints and learning how to run the car. That's all changed now and we're going to run all of the remaining NHRA events."
Even with their early success this year, the team continues to inch forward in order to accomplish their preseason goals with their sites firmly set on the NDRA Pro Outlaw FWD title and a run at the NHRA Pro FWD crown.
"Running a 7.20 by the end of the year, with the additional weight requirements on the car, would be quite an accomplishment and something we'd be very, very proud of," said Hunt. "The main thing is that if we do run a 7.20 then we'd first like the car to run in the 7.30s all day long. To run a 7.20 and then to be watching because we've broken something doesn't do us any good. In NHRA we need to be consistent and go rounds. If we can creep up on it with the opportunity to push it in the finals, that's fine. But during race weekend, and during eliminations we'll go fast enough to win rounds, and right now 7.50s seem to be what it takes. We know our competition is going to get quicker, we just hope we can stay one step ahead."
"Certainly going 200 mph is a possibility but right now going rounds is our main priority," explained Schafer. "If we can do that without stressing parts then that's what we'll do. We have to keep an eye on our budget the whole time we're racing and if we don't have to stress parts to accomplish our goals, then we're not going to."