Chevrolet's Nelson Hoyos Ready
For Pomona Raceway Season Finale -
Hot Rod Champion Marty Ladwig Looking To Drive
Pontiac To Repeat Win At Fabled Dragway
POMONA, Calif., Oct. 15, 2004 - Even while the GM Racing Pro FWD team worked its way through what could best be described as growing pains during the first half of 2004, Chevy Cavalier driver Nelson Hoyos always knew that the battle for the Summit Sport Compact championship would eventually come down to the last race of the season. And so it has. For the first time this year, Hoyos and his GM Racing teammates have nudged their Ecotec-powered Chevrolet into first place in the Pro FWD standings with only one event left to be contested at the 4th annual NHRA Sport Compact World Finals on Oct. 23 -24 at Pomona Raceway.
"We never gave up and everyone continued to thrash to get this Chevrolet to where it needed to be," said Hoyos. "One of the challenges we had at the beginning of the year was getting a new racecar up to a competitive level as quickly as possible. This team is the best, and right now, they're able to do just about anything and everything with this Chevy Cavalier. They have a determined attitude and that is why we've reached our current level of performance."
One of the primary reasons for Hoyos being able to stay in championship contention this late into the year was the never-say-die attitude of his GM Racing teammates. With final-round appearances at the series' first four races at Fontana (Calif.), West Palm Beach (Fla.), Englishtown (N.J.) and Atco (N.J.), the GM Racing program was able to keep the Ecotec-powered Chevrolet within striking distance of front-runner Lisa Kubo, who had won the very same four events in record-breaking style.
"We didn't allow our performance at the first four races to get to us," said Hoyos. "We were confident that it was only a matter of time before we would get the car pointed in the right direction. As far as this team was concerned, when we we're clawing our way back to the front, we were doing it one round at a time. When we fell behind in the points, we didn't necessarily focus on how fast we we're going to go, but rather, on how many points we needed to accumulate to get back into this thing. It was a forward-thinking approach that has served us well and the plan has been executed perfectly."
The turning point of the 2004 campaign for the orange-and-cinnamon Chevrolet finally came in June at the Mountain Madness NHRA Sport Compact Nationals in Denver. Despite the challenges of creating adequate horsepower at 5,800 feet of elevation, the Ecotec-powered Cavalier motored to its first win of the season and shattered both ends of the national record with an elapsed time of 7.786 seconds at 191.51 mph. The GM Racing team followed up the Denver Nationals with national record-setting victories at Las Vegas, St. Louis, and the most recent event at Englishtown where Hoyos' Chevrolet lowered the all-time Pro FWD e.t. standard to 7.406 seconds.
"Getting the new car to run consistently with plenty of Ecotec horsepower and getting the clutch setups to operate properly were all factors we had to work through," said Hoyos. "The race team was really pushing hard and they wanted Denver to be the turnaround. From that point forward we've taken huge strides in performance, and it's just been phenomenal. We went into Englishtown knowing that it would be the race that would make us or break us. We were able to capitalize on an opportunity there, accumulate the necessary points, and now we have a slight advantage going into the last race.
"We knew we would run fast this year, but running the consecutive 7.40s like we did at Englishtown was an absolute dream and beyond my wildest expectations. We sat down at the beginning of the season and established some performance goals - my own lofty goal was being able to run in the 7.60s and maybe approach 200 mph. But this team has constantly looked for more ways to make this Ecotec-powered Chevrolet run fast, and it's not just horsepower getting the job done. It's from tuning the clutch correctly and doing everything with the car to achieve maximum traction on the racetrack."
Hoyos will take a slim 42-point margin over second-place Kubo into the last race of the season at Pomona Raceway. It's a small advantage at best, but light years ahead of where the Chevy Cavalier driver was when the campaign reached its halfway mark just four months ago.
"Everyone on this team has an outstanding work ethic and we've always stayed positive," said Hoyos. "Even if we've just lost a race or hit the wall, these guys fix it and have the car ready to go the next time out.
"We've shared a lot of good times together. To have achieved what we have this year is truly incredible. We're heading into the last race of the season with the points lead and a lot of momentum, and we're confident we can get the job done in Pomona. The previous races we've run at Pomona we've always been fast. Last year that's where we ran our best numbers in both speed and e.t. It can be a hit or miss as far as weather, but it's a great place to compete. It's the home of NHRA drag racing and it will be a great opportunity for us to shine. Topping a 7.40 will be tough because the conditions at Englishtown were perfect, but I'm sure we'll be fast."
Although filled with a few challenges along the way, Marty Ladwig's route to a second straight HOT ROD championship, for the most part, has been rather smooth and direct. It's quite a contrast to last season when it was Chevrolet's Hoyos who was sitting on the comfortable lead, and the Pontiac Sunfire driver who was entering the campaign's last event with the NHRA title still too close to call.
"Our Pontiac Sunfire has run so well this year, and the results we've seen in 2004 are quite a contrast to what we experienced last year, even though we did win the championship," said Ladwig. "The way we've been able to arrive at each event and run so consistently has been a nice way to go through the season. The production-based components on our Sunfire including Ecotec and Hydra-Matic have been very reliable, and we've been able to make solid runs almost every time down the racetrack. That's what you have to do if you are to be competitive in drag racing. You go in and try to do the best you can at every race. When we went to Pomona last season we were a little uneasy because we didn't know for certain what the outcome would be. I go to every race with the mindset to do the very best I can, and at last year's final everything worked out great.
"Running the way we have with predominantly production components is pretty awesome. To take a production block, a production cylinder head and our production transmission is pretty amazing as well when you consider all the horsepower it will take. The fun part about racing for me these last two years is to see how these state-of-the-art GM parts are winning over our competitors. Before we started racing three years ago, nobody in Sport Compact knew what an Ecotec engine was, or if they did, they didn't feel it could be competitive. Now all of that has changed, and our competitors are wanting to purchase the Hydra-Matic and the Ecotec. Even if you exclude the championships won, that really shows how far our GM Racing program has come in reaching an entirely new segment of the market."
In the nine races already completed, Ladwig's Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire has rolled to five victories and raced in seven final rounds. The only contests where Ladwig's Sunfire has not reached the finals were the season-opening California Sport Compact Nationals in Fontana (Calif.) and the recently run Fall Nationals in Englishtown. But with his most recent victory in St. Louis on Aug. 22 (where his Ecotec-powered Pontiac Sunfire was the first HOT ROD car to run in the sevens), Ladwig established an insurmountable lead over his nearest rivals, accumulating enough points to mathematically clinch his second straight NHRA Sport Compact championship.
"One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to eventually run in the sevens, and when we finally did it, I still think it caught a few people by surprise on how quickly we got to that point," said Ladwig. "I've also thoroughly enjoyed working with our AK Racing program. They're true professionals, very knowledgeable, very experienced and we've had a lot of fun this year. They're the main reason we've done as well as we have. I've had a great group of guys to work with, we won a lot of races and the car has been extremely fast. We definitely want to end the season with a win as a nice reward for all the hard work this team has put into this Pontiac Sunfire."
Ladwig has nine career victories and is the defending champion at Pomona Raceway, where he also earned low qualifying honors in 2003 and a final-round appearance in 2002.
"Trying to get into the sevens for the first time was an exciting challenge, and then finally being the first team to do it was even better," said Ladwig. "To me, that was one of the best things about this season, establishing a record that no one will ever be able to break - the first unibody car to get into the sevens and that's something that will always stand. It's like our second championship, that's something that we've earned and will never go away.
"It's always fun racing in California. Pomona is the home track for the NHRA, and Wally Parks comes out to watch our Sport Compact series compete, which is a great honor in itself. It is probably our biggest event and with the season coming to a close, it's a very exciting time of the year. The main thing for this race team is to go to there and do a good job. Even though the championship has already been determined we still want to win. To do that would be a nice cap to what's been an outstanding season for this GM Racing team. We have what's proven to be a formidable setup so we're pretty confident going into this last race."
GM Racing Stats & Facts
In the nine races contested in 2004, Ecotec-powered racecars have captured 15 national-event victories in Pro FWD and HOT ROD, competed in 23 final rounds and hold both e.t. and top speed national records in the two categories.
Nelson Hoyos' Ecotec-Chevy Cavalier has advanced to the Pro FWD final round in 18 of the last 19 events, and Lisa Kubo's Saturn Ion has advanced to the final round in nine of the last 11 races.
Saturn Ion driver Lisa Kubo is the defending champion of the NHRA Sport Compact Finals at Pomona Raceway.
Saturn Motorsports team owner Jim Epler is a two-time event winner in NHRA Funny Car at Pomona Raceway. Epler won the 1992 NHRA Winternationals and the 1993 NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.
The NHRA Sport Compact World Finals will be telecast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Nov. 14, beginning at 12:30 p.m. (ET)
General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 325,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in more than 190 countries. In 2003, GM sold more than 8.6 million cars and trucks, nearly 15 percent of the global vehicle market. GM's global headquarters is at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at www.gm.com.
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