Ladwig's Ecotec-Powered Pontiac Captures Second Consecutive Victory - Kubo's Ecotec-Powered Saturn Lowers Pro FWD National Record To 7.836 Seconds
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 2, 2004 - Marty Ladwig won his second race of the season after driving his Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire to a final-round victory over Mike Crawford. It was Ladwig's sixth career national-event win, his 10th final-round appearance and his second straight visit to the winner's circle at this event.
The 2003 NHRA Summit Racing HOT ROD champion came into today's eliminator qualified in the No. 2 position after running 8.335 seconds in time trials on Saturday. Ladwig defeated Ishmael Gonzalez in round one, had a bye run in round two, and then eliminated No. 1 qualifier Gary Gardella in the semifinals after posting an 8.185 e.t. at 174.50 mph. In the championship heat against Crawford, Ladwig's Pontiac Sunfire crossed the finish line in 8.184 seconds at 174.30 mph. Crawford's Dodge followed in 8.388 seconds at 177.16 mph.
"We were trying some different things with the tune-up yesterday, and consequently, we got away from our base setup," said Ladwig. "Our strategy today was to go back to what worked for us two weeks ago in West Palm Beach, and as such, the car came back today with back-to-back 8.18s.
"In the finals, we were spinning the tires hard, but the car charged hard all the way down the racetrack- the e.t shows that. Once again our Ecotec engines were the class of the field this weekend and our GM Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions performed flawlessly. It's an outstanding feeling to come out of here with our second win in two years."
To promote greater parity in the HOT ROD class, the NHRA mandated a 2000 pound minimum on all GM Ecotec-powered racecars in the category effective with this event. Although faced with the highest imposed weight requirement of any engine/car combination in the class, Ladwig's AK Racing teammates responded with a precise, consistent raceday setup that propelled the 39-year-old Texan into the winner's circle for the third time in the last four events.
"That just goes to show how great a racecar this Pontiac Sunfire is and what an outstanding job this team has done to make it so competitive," said Ladwig. "We were dealt the challenge of dealing with the additional weight and the guys really did a nice job. They work really hard and what we accomplished this weekend just shows how deep this race team is. That was the difference today between winning and losing.
"The weight addition really was pretty significant, equal to carrying a large person in the driver's side. Drag racing is all about acceleration, horsepower to weight, and an additional 250 pounds is a big, big adjustment. To be able to overcome that is a tremendous accomplishment by this team."
Lisa Kubo's Ecotec-powered Saturn Ion lowered the NHRA Pro FWD national record to 7.838 seconds en route to her third victory of the year. Kubo's Saturn set the new mark during her final-round win over Nelson Hoyos in what was her first victory at this fabled New Jersey drag strip.
"Nelson (Hoyos) and I have a very good rivalry going and we both have a lot of fun with it," said Kubo. "The track and the air conditions were so much better than what we had yesterday so we knew the potential was there to run those kind of numbers. Our Ecotec-powered Saturn responded by pulling all the way down the racetrack."
Kubo came into today's eliminator with her Saturn qualified in the No. 1 position. In addition to her record-setting e.t. in the money round against Hoyos, Kubo's Saturn posted the top speed of the meet in round one at 190.30 mph. It was also Kubo's seventh career victory and her ninth career final-round appearance and her fourth win as an NHRA Pro FWD competitor.
"This is my first win in Englishtown after five years of coming here," said Kubo. "The first thing I thought about while sitting in the staging lanes was how bad I wanted to win here. This is one of my favorite places to race and that's why this one is so special. This whole Saturn Motorsports team works together as a single unit. From the first time we raced the car last year in Dallas, it felt very comfortable and was easy to drive. It's been perfect ever since.
"I have to do my job by concentrating when I'm inside that racecar, but the guys put the tune-up and the set-up in it, and that's really the reason for our recent success. I can get in there and shift, but if the tune-up's not there, then the car's not going anywhere."
GM Ecotec-powered racecars in Pro FWD and HOT ROD have now won 17 NHRA Sport Compact national events dating back to the beginning of the 2003 campaign.
Nelson Hoyos was competing in his 13th consecutive final round since the beginning of the NHRA Sport Compact season in 2003. The bracket-car consistency of his Ecotec-powered Chevrolet was evident after he ran 8.156 seconds during Saturday qualifying and then 8.160 seconds during today's first round of eliminations.
"We had trouble getting the car to start under the tower," said Hoyos. "We finally got it started, tried to keep it up on the revs, and made the burnout, but as soon as I put in reverse gear, it turned off. That was it. It wouldn't fire. There are some specific fuel and ignition issues we'll address when we get home. We knew that coming here and we were pretty well prepared. We've been chasing a condition where the car runs a variation of lean and rich at the top end, so we changed the calibration in the black box thinking it would work and something was programmed into the start mode on the racecar.
"It's amazing because no matter how much you prepare, one keystroke can shut it off, and that's what happened. Back in the pits, we hit the keystroke the other way and it started. We're changing some things around and we're still learning about the car - it shows tremendous promise. We'll go forward. We had a nice run yesterday and then another one this morning to build on, but unfortunately a small issue with the black box took us out."
"Because of all of their hard work I feel bad for the team. They've done a phenomenal amount of work on this racecar and they deserve to win a race. This is a great program. We'll get the engine back on the dyno on Monday and we'll be ready to go in two weeks in Atco (N.J.)."
The next stop on the NHRA Summit Racing Sport Compact tour is the 3rd annual Northeast Nationals on may 15 - 16 at Atco Raceway in Atco, N.J.
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