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Team Chevy's Gary Gardella Staying Busy During NHRA Sport Compact Break Competition Resumes with four Chevy Cobalt Drivers Battling for an NHRA Xplod Pro FWD Title LAS VEGAS, July 10, 2007 - It's been a little over five weeks since Team Chevy's...

Team Chevy's Gary Gardella Staying Busy During NHRA Sport Compact Break
Competition Resumes with four Chevy Cobalt Drivers Battling for an NHRA Xplod Pro FWD Title

LAS VEGAS, July 10, 2007 - It's been a little over five weeks since Team Chevy's contingent of NHRA Sport Compact competitors took to the strip at a national eliminator at Atco Raceway on June 10, but Pro FWD title contender Gary Gardella has found plenty to keep him busy in the interim and it includes more than prepping his Ecotec-powered Cobalt for the remaining five events on the schedule.

Just prior to the running of the Northeast NHRA Sport Compact Nationals in Atco, N.J., the 28-year-old New Jersey native took part in a special exhibition event pitting his NHRA Pro FWD Chevrolet against Red Bull Air Race World Series pilot Kirby Chambliss. The two faced-off in a series of synchronized eliminator rounds that featured Gardella's Ecotec-powered Cobalt and Chambliss' EDGE 540.

"I went from a standing start trying to reach 200 mph in less than 7.5 seconds and Kirby was coming in at about 120 mph," said Gardella. "It was really something to get a glimpse of his plane just a few feet above my 1400 horsepower Chevrolet.

"When I started drag racing I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to do something like this. But this was fun, and maybe a little too close to call at the finish line when it was all said and done. I'm pretty sure it was the first time an NHRA Pro FWD car had ever raced an airplane. It was definitely out of the ordinary and not your typical drag race, but we got some phenomenal feedback from tuner fans all across the country."

Watch video: Gary Gardella and Kirby Chambliss at Atco Raceway on June 6 - 7 -

Gardella then took his Red Bull Chevrolet out to the NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., on June 22 and joined NHRA Pro Bike rider Ed Krawiec (who also hails from the Garden State) for a photo shoot that is part of a project to stop illegal street racing. Since April, Gardella and Krawiec have been working with Trooper Steven Slimowicz, from the New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, and Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, on a proactive plan to get the word out to their target demographic.

"The New Jersey State Police is sponsoring an anti-street-racing campaign," explained Trooper Slimowicz. "We selected Gary and Ed in an effort to target the 17-to 22-year-old age group, and we're partnering with the NHRA and these two drivers to get the word out that there are three drag strips in the State of New Jersey where racing is safer and where racing is legal. The aim is to create awareness of the sanctioned tracks and to keep racing off the streets."

The State Police safer-racing program will include the two drivers in a specially produced poster that will be distributed to New Jersey high schools.

"Each poster will include a schedule of open race dates at the three tracks including Englishtown, Atco and Island Dragway up in Northern Jersey," said Gardella. "There's absolutely no excuse for racing on the street, especially when it is so convenient to take your car to one of the outstanding facilities we have nearby. The cool thing about it is that if you want to, you can literally find a track and race almost every single night of the week. That's how I got started. I didn't street race. I worked on my car all week and then went to Englishtown every Wednesday night to race with family and friends.

"We live in a great area for drag racing, and although I'm a little biased, I think New Jersey is the best state for this sport. The tracks are always packed during the week for a test-and-tune session. You can hardly walk through the pits, and when we take our Red Bull Chevrolet out, we have to set up our pits like it's a normal race weekend." 

Watch video: Gary Gardella photo shoot with the N.J. State Police at Englishtown, June 22 -

The NHRA Sport Compact tour now turns west toward Nevada where the series will descend on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NHRA Las Vegas Sport Compact Nationals where air temperatures exceeding 100 degrees are sure to provide tuning challenges for the competitors. Gardella currently sits fourth in the Pro FWD standings and hopes to begin the process of closing a 122-point deficit with first-place Marty Ladwig.

"At the beginning of the year, it took us awhile to adjust to our new Chevy Cobalt," said Gardella. "At Englishtown, we finally got everything worked out and I was fortunate to run 7.36 at 198 mph. Now I think we'll be back on track for the rest of the year. We still have a lot of work to catch Marty (Ladwig) and Jason (Hunt), and with the summer crunch on us, it's time to go to work. We need to start making the moves that will get us to within a few points of the leaders. Our Ecotec-powered Chevrolet will run in the high 7.40s, low 7.50s on a hot racetrack so we're confident we have what it takes to get back into the points race. Hopefully, we can keep battling because the opportunity is there and I know this team has the ability to win the 2007 Xplod championship.

"By the end of the season I think you'll see 12 cars fighting for eight starting spots and that will make it even more interesting. For Marty Ladwig to run in the 7.20s at over 200 mph, and the rest of us so far running in the 7.30s, that's putting on a good show for the fans who come out to see us. And a national record can happen at anytime."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Eddie Krawiec