POMONA, Calif., Oct. 21, 2007 - In an exciting finish to the 2007 season on Sunday, Team Chevy's Gary Gardella clinched his first NHRA Sport Compact Pro FWD title, and Marty Ladwig won the event in an all-Cobalt final round during the running of...
POMONA, Calif., Oct. 21, 2007 - In an exciting finish to the 2007 season on Sunday, Team Chevy's Gary Gardella clinched his first NHRA Sport Compact Pro FWD title, and Marty Ladwig won the event in an all-Cobalt final round during the running of the NHRA Sport Compact World Finals at Auto Club Raceway.
Gardella's NHRA Pro FWD championship came on the heels of his seventh consecutive final-round appearance. During that time, the Red Bull Chevy Cobalt driver earned four national-event victories that eventually catapulted him to the 2007 championship.
"I'm excited," Gardella said. "This is why we race. This is why we put in the long hours and make the sacrifices. I'm going to enjoy this championship for a long time."
Gardella came into Sunday's eliminator with his Ecotec-powered Red Bull Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 2 position after running 7.227 seconds at 198.99 mph. Gardella defeated Jerrold Rhodes in round one by running 8.971 seconds at 107.91 mph, and in round two, the Chevy Cobalt driver defeated Ed Bergenholtz and grabbed lane choice for the finals with a 7.265 e.t. at 196.44 mph. Barring a national-record run by Ladwig in the finals, Gardella's win over Bergenholtz all but locked up the 2007 crown for the 28-year-old New Jersey native.
"All season long we had a rough time," Gardella said. "We picked up the pace at Atco and Las Vegas where we had runner-up finishes. This was an awesome job by my Red Bull/Dupont Chevy Cobalt crew. I knew that it was too hot for Marty (Ladwig) to run the record in the finals. I lost the final round, but I won the championship.
"For seven years we have worked really hard and I didn't think it would happen this year because we had a new car and a new combination. The team just meshed and without the teamwork I could not have won the championship. I want to thank my family, especially my wife Megan. There are so many sponsors to thank; Red Bull, Dupont, County Line Auto Body, Chevrolet, Precision Turbo, Ecotec, K&N, NGK, Stef's, Manley, elf, Michkey Thompson and VP."
Ladwig came into the race with his Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 1 position with a 7.206 e.t. at a track-record top speed of 200.89 mph. Ladwig had a bye in round one of eliminations on Sunday and ran a track-record elapsed time of 7.176 seconds at 197.42 mph. In round two he defeated Jason Hunt with an 8.143 second run at 190.35 mph which eliminated Hunt from the 2007 championship chase. For the finals against Gardella, Ladwig needed a race win and a new national record e.t. of at least 7.14 seconds to move around Gardella for the Pro FWD title. In the final round, Ladwig's Chevy Cobalt crossed the finish line first with a 7.338 second e.t. at 199.43 mph. Gardella followed with a 7.485 second run at 194.44 mph. Ladwig's margin of victory was .188 of a second.
"It was nice to end the season with a win," Ladwig said. "We came out to set the record, but couldn't do that. It was a big thrash between rounds because we had to change the engine. I want to thank my crew who worked hard all year."
It was Ladwig's 16th career NHRA victory and his third career win at Auto Club Raceway. It was also his third victory this season in five final rounds, and unofficially he ends the year a short 14 points behind champion Gary Gardella.
"That was as exciting as it gets," Ladwig said. "We did about everything we could do. We were No. 1 qualifier, we won the race and we came pretty close to setting the record in round one. A couple of hundredths quicker and this may have turned out differently. At the same time, we had a great year and I want to congratulate Gary (Gardella) and his entire team for winning the 2007 Xplod championship."
-credit: gm racing