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Team Chevy's Sport Compact Contingent Heads to Virginia for NHRA Sport Compact Nationals Chevrolet's Hunt and Ballard Lead Their Respective Categories; Ladwig Looks for Another Final Round RICHMOND, Va., April 17, 2007 - With the drivers...

Team Chevy's Sport Compact Contingent Heads to Virginia for NHRA Sport Compact Nationals

Chevrolet's Hunt and Ballard Lead Their Respective Categories; Ladwig Looks for Another Final Round

RICHMOND, Va., April 17, 2007 - With the drivers rested, their cars tested and crew members ready for the next round of drag racing competition, Team Chevy's Sport Compact contingent heads to Virginia Motorsports Park for this weekend's Virginia NHRA Sport Compact Nationals.

Coming off a strong performance at the season's first meet at Moroso Motorsports Park that included a race win in the Pro FWD category, Jason Hunt takes his Matco Tools Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt to VMP in first place in the points standings, and a slight performance advantage over the rest of the category. Hunt captured his fourth career NHRA national-event victory at West Palm Beach, and he and his CSI Racing teammates are looking forward to their first trip on the improved VMP racing surface.

"It was a great feeling to come away from Moroso with a Wally," said Hunt. "All the hard work the team put in over the winter on the Matco Tools Chevrolet paid off big. What we learned from the season opener was don't stray to far from what we know, and take it one step at a time. That way we didn't lose much in qualifying. We haven't had any additional time for testing because we've been preparing back-up parts so that we're more prepared on raceday. We'll do more testing after the Virginia event to get ready for Englishtown."

In late February and early March, track officials at Virginia Motorsports Park undertook some additional grinding operations on the racetrack and the extra effort has greatly improved the levelness and texture of the racing surface along the entire quarter-mile.

'We really don't know what Richmond's new surface will do for our tune-up," said Hunt. "We have not run there since last year. The good thing is that nobody else in Pro FWD has either.

"We will go with what we know in the first qualifying session and make changes from there. We hope to be at the top of ladder Saturday night, but really, the main thing is come Sunday, we treat each round like it's the most important thing to us. At the end of the day I hope to have our Chevy Cobalt in the winner's circle."

"Getting the win at the NHRA season opener was great, but it's only one race," said team owner Charlie Schafer. "The competition this year is strong, and every round counts, so we need to be ready every time we take Matco Tools Chevy to the starting line. The repaved surface brings an unknown mix to the equation because our data is based on past races there. The management at VMP has always done an excellent job giving us a great surface and I expect this one should be pretty fast as well."

Marty Ladwig debuted a new, purpose-built Pro FWD Chevy Cobalt in Florida. A strong performance in qualifying and in the first round of eliminations there has the Texas resident hoping he can return to the final round for the second year in a row at Virginia Motorsports Park.

"After our last event in Moroso, I'm really looking forward to our upcoming event in Virginia," said the two-time NHRA champion. "We learned a lot about our new Chevrolet at the first race and hit upon a pretty good base in which to work from. Right now we're just prepping our cars and making sure everything is fresh for the race."

Since his first championship season in 2003, Ladwig has captured 13 national-event victories and advanced to 23 final rounds, including a runner-up last year at this event to Ed Bergenholtz. He's finished in the top five of the points standings (Hot Rod and Pro FWD) for five consecutive years.

"I can't wait to get on the track in Virginia," said Ladwig. "I've heard that it's really smooth and that bodes well for our high-horsepower, Ecotec-powered Chevrolets. My experience tells me that it could be really, really fast; national-record fast, so stay tuned. We did well there last season with a runner-up, and I'm hoping to do a little better with a win this time around."

After some post-Moroso testing and some refreshing of their GM Hydra-Matic transmissions, Bryan Jimenez' feels confident that his Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt is ready to step up this weekend at Virginia Motorsports Park.

"We learned a lot in West Palm Beach," said Jimenez. "We are making a little bit more power than we were last year, but with all the testing and racing we've done, our transmissions have been taking a beating. After the race, our Hydro-Matic transmissions were sent away to GM Powertrain for some freshening up, and I'm confident they'll be ready for this next round of competition. We've tested the car, the engines and our transmissions and we're pleased with the results. We ran some of our best numbers in testing which makes us even more excited about going to Richmond.

"We expect to have a great race. With the combination of the terrific racing surface and hopefully, excellent weather, our Ecotec-powered Chevrolet should run some good numbers."

Gary Gardella will also be looking for his first win of the year when his Red Bull Chevrolet takes to the track at VMP.

"We got some real good data to look at from the Moroso event, and we're working through the typical new-car stuff," said Gardella. "I'm confident we'll be able to get a handle on it pretty quickly, but it's going to take a few more passes to get the car where we want it. Track time and experience with the car will make us better and that will come with time."

With his win in the Quick 16 category at West Palm Beach, Brian Ballard enters the Virginia Sport Compact NHRA Nationals with a foothold on first place in the Eastern Division standings. The K & N Filters Chevy Cobalt started the race from the top half of the field when he qualified his K & N Filters Chevy Cobalt in the No. 8 slot with a 9.650 second run at 149.27 mph, and then methodically made his way through a field of challengers to capture his first win in the ultra-competitive sportsman category.

"The win in Moroso just gives me more confidence for the remainder of the NHRA season," said Ballard. "I was a little sketchy at the first race since I wasn't sure how I would be able to adapt to the new class. I feel that I will be much more comfortable at the next race and hope to ride the wave of success the team is on so far this year. I am going to try my best to put the K&N Matco Tools GM Racing Cobalt in the winner's circle again for the whole team."

Marty Ladwig's teammate, Julie Stepan, made her debut in the All Motor category driving a second Chevy Cobalt out of the Lucas Oil Racing camp. Stepan qualified eighth with a 12.55 second run at 104.93 mph and defeated No. 1 qualifier Leslie Armendariz in round one before losing to Norris Prayoonto in round two.

"We learned a lot about our All Motor car in West Palm Beach, so hopefully we will continue to improve our times," said Stepan. "I enjoy being competitive so I'm defiantly looking forward to the second race of the season."

The Virginia NHRA Sport Compact Nationals on April 21-22 at Virginia Motorsports Park in Richmond, Va., is the second race on the 11-event NHRA Xplod Sport Compact circuit.

-credit: gm racing

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