Hoyos, Chevrolet Join Ladwig, Pontiac
With Second Consecutive NHRA Sport
POMONA, Calif., Oct. 24, 2004 - Nelson Hoyos drove his Ecotec-powered Chevy Cavalier to his fifth Pro FWD victory of the season in today's NHRA Summit Sport Compact World Finals at Pomona Raceway, winning the Pro FWD championship for the second consecutive year and joining GM Racing teammate Marty Ladwig as consecutive class champions. Ladwig, the 2003 HOT ROD champ, had already clinched his second consecutive HOT ROD title earlier this year at St. Louis.
"This team had a huge battle in front of them to start the season," said Hoyos. "After last year's success, they were given the directive to win another championship and set more records. We had a Cinderella season last year where we were able to pretty much have our way, so these guys were already behind the eight ball before the season even started with a huge challenge in front of them. But the professionals that they are, these guys are racers, they're engineers, and they knew exactly what they needed to do. We kept confident in each other. I kept confident in them as a driver that they were going to pull it off, and they kept confident in me that I was going to do my job, and it's worked out great. We never gave up throughout the season. So to defend the championship the way we did is just fabulous."
Hoyos came into today's race with his orange and cinnamon Chevrolet qualified in the No. 1 position for the sixth time this season and 10th of his career, and he set the national class record for speed yesterday at 194.88 mph. In Round 1 of today's eliminator he had a "single" pass to advance to the semifinals and clinch his second consecutive Pro FWD championship. In the semis he faced off with his season-long nemesis Lisa Kubo in her Ecotec-powered Saturn Ion. Kubo won the season's first four races and chased Hoyos all the way to the final race of the 10-race Summit Sport Compact Series season for the championship. Hoyos bested Kubos with a 7.577-second, 184.14-mph pass to Kubos' 7.785 seconds e.t. at 196.07 mph. In the finals, the Hollywood, Fla., native ran 7.407 seconds at 194.02 mph to defeat Ed Bergenholtz's Mazda at 8.529 seconds and 163.29 mph. Hoyos' elapsed time in the finals was a mere .001 off his own national elapsed-time record for the class.
"These guys gave me the opportunity to run really fast," said Hoyos. "The team said we're going to go out in grand style and give you a tune-up you'll be proud of. And sure enough, that Chevy ran almost to the thousandths of our national record, and to match a third 194-mph run, it's just amazing. As you can see this team's just fabulous, and they've done a great, great job in giving me a hot rod that absolutely works. It's just great."
Hoyos' fifth win of the season and 12th of his career ties him with Matt Scranton for most career wins in the Sport Compact Series. He also leads all drivers with 23 final-round appearances.
Marty Ladwig in his Pontiac Sunfire clinched his second consecutive HOT ROD championship earlier this season at St. Louis, so today he was merely going for the race win and he nearly pulled it off. Ladwig qualified No. 2 for today's eliminations and defeated Tony Garcia in Round 1, had a bye in Round 2, and defeated Gary Gardella in the semifinals to meet Ron Lummus in the finals. Lummus' Ecotec-powered Saturn had already set both ends of the class national record this weekend at 7.883 seconds and 188.70 mph. In the finals Lummus ran a 7.885 at 187.39 mph to defeat Ladwig's 8.147 seconds at 183.84 mph. It was the 16th final-round appearance of Ladwig's and he closes out the 2004 season as the winningest driver in the HOT ROD class with 9 career wins.
"We came up just a little bit short today," said Ladwig. "We were trying to close out the season with a win but didn't quite make it. We can't really complain, though. We had a great season - five wins, had the record a couple of times - but to win the championship is the most important thing and makes this a great season. And I can't ask anything more from a crew. They're just a great bunch of guys. They're all really sharp and just the hardest bunch of workers I've ever come across. They deserve all the credit for the success that we've had, and we've had a lot of fun this year.
"This was a nice way to wrap up the season. We wrapped up the championship a couple of races early, so there wasn't the pressure of trying to win a championship and we could have some fun the last couple of races. I'm just really happy the way things went. Our Pontiac Sunfire ran great, and we never had a problem with our Ecotec engine or Hydra-Matic transmission. They were just always powerful and always reliable.
"It was definitely tougher defending the championship this year. If you haven't done it before, you don't know what to expect and you just hope for it. You hope for it, but you don't expect it, so when it happens, it's great. But trying to defend it, everyone's gunning for you, so it's definitely harder to defend it. So to be able to do it again is great. When we clinched it earlier this year, we were the first team to be a repeat champion in the Sport Compact series. This team was also the first one to make a seven-second pass in a HOT ROD car, and a couple of years ago we were the first to make an eight-second pass in a domestic front-wheel-drive car, so a lot of firsts with this program and it's just been awesome to be a part of it."
In Pro RWD, Matt Hartford came into today's eliminations qualified sixth in his GM high-feature V6-powered Summit Racing Chevy Cavalier, and he lost in the first round to Tirso San Juan's Toyota with a run of 7.287 seconds at 149.07 mph to San Juan's quicker 6.844 seconds and 202.12 mph. Matt Scranton was the race winner to win the Pro RWD championship.
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