Nopi: GM Racing Budds Creek preview

Chevy Cobalt Drivers Jason Hunt, Brian Ballard, Look for Record-Breaking Weekend at Maryland NOPI 2 Don Nase Jr. Continues Reaching New Performance Milestones in ECOtec-Powered Pro Extreme Dragster BUDDS CREEK, Md., Aug. 22, 2006 - The NDRA ...

Chevy Cobalt Drivers Jason Hunt, Brian Ballard, Look for Record-Breaking Weekend at Maryland NOPI 2

Don Nase Jr. Continues Reaching New Performance Milestones in ECOtec-Powered Pro Extreme Dragster

BUDDS CREEK, Md., Aug. 22, 2006 - The NDRA (NOPI Drag Racing Association) Series heads to Maryland International Raceway this weekend for the Maryland NOPI 2 on Aug. 26 -27. MIR is the home racetrack for CSI Racing, and the Matco Tools Chevy Cobalt of Jason Hunt and the Turbo Street Chevy Cobalt of Brian Ballard. This will be the second stop this season for the NOPI XBOX series at this venue an hour south of the nation's capital. MIR is also the site where Hunt's ECOtec-powered Chevy set the Pro Outlaw FWD national elapsed time record of 7.461 seconds en route to what was then his second NOPI win of 2006.

"I think our program came up a little quicker than our initial expectations, especially when you consider the first few races when we had gremlins, parts breakage and were 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 did 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.). By the time we got to Budds Creek in May, and given the conditions we were racing in and our familiarity with the track, we were certain we could turn up the wick, and put up the big numbers."

So far this year, the Matco Tools Chevy Cobalt team has captured eight national-event victories (six NDRA Pro Outlaw FWD and two NHRA Pro FWD), advanced to nine final rounds and earned nine pole awards. In addition to the NOPI e.t. record at Maryland International Raceway, Hunt's Chevrolet also holds the Pro Outlaw FWD top-speed national record set last month at Epping, N.H., at 199.27 mph. This past weekend at the NHRA Sport Compact contest at West Palm Beach, Fla., Hunt's Chevy Cobalt set a track-record top speed of 195.27 mph.

"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 Hunt. "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 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."

Hunt, who has virtually locked down his second straight Pro Outlaw FWD XBOX Cup, will be looking for his third consecutive victory (going back to 2005) at MIR.

"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to turn this Chevy Cobalt into a consistent performer that would run close to the same number, round after round after round," said team-owner Charlie Schafer. "We hit on a competitive, consistent setup in April and we've been able to maintain that momentum run after run, race after race. We love going to Budds Creek because everyone on this team practically grew up there, so we know the track very well - we know how to prep the car for the what track has to give us.

"We have a couple of months behind us now where we've done nothing but race, and right now we feel we have a good handle on how well our ECOtec-powered Cobalt performs. We continue to learn what makes this car fast and what doesn't, and we were able to learn some things this past weekend in West Palm Beach. We feel the potential is certainly there to better the e.t. record again this weekend, and now we'll just have to see what happens."

Hunt's CSI Racing teammate Brian Ballard is also working toward the NDRA championship in Turbo Street. Ballard has driven his ECOtec-powered Chevy Cobalt to a trio of victories this season at St. Louis, Leicester (N.Y.) and Atco (N.J.), and a runner-up at Epping (N.H.).

"This Chevy Cobalt has just been a blast to drive, and the performance and the numbers we put on the board have been outstanding," said Ballard. "I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to work with, or a better racecar to drive. This has been a great opportunity, and hopefully this weekend, we can close the gap a little more with Sam (Mahdavi) and maybe even take the points lead. When you look at this class, and all the great cars that are trying to qualify at each race, then you get an idea of just how good the competition is in Turbo Street. That's why you need a fast, consistent racecar like our Chevy Cobalt has been during the past few races."

During his previous visit this year to MIR, Ballard was the No. 1 qualifier posting a career-best e.t. of 9.364 seconds at 154.69 mph, and last month he ran a career-best speed at Epping (N.H.) of 158.84 mph. As the series returns to Budds Creeks for its second stop this year, Ballard sits in second place with 716 points, just 14 points in back of first-place Mahdavi.

"The year is going along just as planned," said Ballard. "The car is consistent and going rounds, which is what the team built the car for. MIR is one of my favorite tracks, actually the team's hometown track. In the spring race, we were looking to get our first win in the new car and were well on our way with a No. 1 qualifier and quickest FWD street car pass ever (9.36), but luck wasn't on our side. We're pretty confident that we can change the results for the better this weekend.

"MIR has some of the best fans. We're looking forward to putting on a good show for all of the great Budds Creek spectators, and putting the team in the winner's circle while moving into the top spot in the points chase."

In the NDRA Pro Extreme category, Don Nase Jr. continues to blast his way into uncharted territory in the ECOtec-powered, dragster. The Jackson, N.J., resident has won nine races this season on the XBOX Cup tour, captured nine No. 1 qualifying awards, and at Epping (N.H.), set the NDRA e.t. national record for the category at 6.457 seconds. On his previous visit to MIR in May, Nase set the Pro Extreme top speed record at 210.14 mph.

"We're super excited about the progress of our program this season - it's come around very quickly," said Nase. "We're now the quickest four-cylinder dragster on the planet and we hold the quickest e.t. record in sport-compact competition. With ECOtec, we have a proven engine program, and we have a proven car that continues to approach national-record numbers with every run. Depending on the weather this weekend, we're expecting to go into the 6.20s or 6.30s, continuing toward that five-second barrier.

"I'd like to thank everybody involved including which is our main sponsor for the season, my crew, my wife Mary Beth, my father Don Sr., GM Racing, Roush Racing, Borg Warner Turbo Systems, Pro Torque, and all the sponsors who have supported our program."

Nase, the 2006 XBOX Cup champion in the Pro Extreme category, is looking forward to a return to MIR because he knows the track and weather conditions could be conducive to additional record runs.

"We'll make a couple of changes on the car, make some tuning adjustments on our ECOtec motor, and see if we can improve on that speed and e.t. record," said Nase. "We have a tune-up that will run 6.10 seconds, but because of the summer heat, we just haven't had the kind of track conditions that allow you to run those kind of numbers. Now with a full year under our belt running this car, and the oncoming cooler weather, we can't wait to get to the racetrack. At the same time, it's great to have a powerful, reliable motor where you're not replacing parts all the time. And the good thing is that we haven't really even pushed our ECOtec that hard yet. Maybe this weekend we'll have an opportunity to see just how fast this car can go."

The Maryland NOPI 2 on Aug. 26 - 27, at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Md., is the ninth race on the 10-event NOPI XBOX Cup schedule.

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