DETROIT, Mich. -- Excitement abounds for Gary Gardella and the Gardella Racing team as they continue to prepare their brightly painted, candy-apple red Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt for the 2005 campaign. Gardella's race team, receiving factory and technical support this season from GM Racing, will battle for the Pro 4 Cylinder championship at all 16-scheduled NDRA events and will compete at five national events in the NHRA Sport Compact HOT ROD category.
"We're excited to be racing the new Cobalt, it's a great opportunity for us," said Gardella. "We've been hoping for something like this to happen since the day we first started racing and we're proud to be competing with the red bowtie. I see this as the beginning of a great future for the Gardella Racing team."
In 2004, the 26-year-old New Jersey native took the NDRA Pro 4 Cylinder win at Maryland International Raceway, and had his finest year in the NHRA HOT ROD category, capturing one national-event victory at Atco (N.J.) and a runner-up at Denver for a career-best second-place finish in points. He also posted a career-best elapsed time of 8.086 seconds in May at Englishtown (N.J) to earn his second low-qualifying award at that venue. With the switch to the new Chevy Cobalt, Gardella is anticipating one of his best seasons ever.
How does your new Cobalt look? "Incredible! We painted it candy-apple red using the new DuPont Hot Hues candy line of paint. In the past we've used a fire-engine red or bright red coating, but having DuPont on as a sponsor again this season, especially Hot Hues, Hot Hues came out with a new candy line of paint and it's absolutely beautiful on the racecar. Ecko Unlimited, our new primary sponsor, has some awesome graphics they use with their company, and we're going to be using some digital graphics on the car, changing them every couple of races to keep the interest growing throughout the season."
You've played quite a bit of basketball in the past. How did your success on the hardwood transfer to your success on-track? "When I played basketball I always set goals for myself to get better, and I learned that the teams that win are the ones that work the hardest. I did really well in high school, and I traveled on an AAU basketball team that won a lot of big tournaments. Basketball taught me that to be good at something you have to put in a lot of time and effort. It's the same with any business. I work at our body shop from seven in the morning until six at night, and then I'll work on the racecar until 11 o'clock, every single day. I've been able to keep great people around me and that's been the key to running the operation. A lot of people don't realize the kind of hours that we put into it. My dad started a business from nothing, built it up to become a major company and that was from hard work and perseverance. His advice and experience have been invaluable. I've also admired Don Prudhomme, and my goal someday is to be able to win as many races that he has as a driver and team owner, and to have the kind of operation he's been able to create. I learned a long time ago that to be successful, it takes sacrifice. I'm just trying to follow the road map established by people who have done it right."
So many racers make it look easy that people forget the amount of effort that goes into a successful race team. "In the long run, the people that work the hardest win the most races. That's how the GM team got to be so far ahead of the rest of the field. They spent hours upon hours developing the Ecotec engine and the Hydra-Matic transmission, and now I've grown to greatly appreciate what they've accomplished. They took something from scratch, were able to win back-to-back championships in HOT ROD and Pro FWD and set performance standards that are the class of the sport. I became a fan of the GM program because I love good drag racing, and their race team displayed the professionalism and the characteristics I've always admired. Even when we had a small little trailer we worked hard to keep our stuff clean, and to look as professional as we could because that's what sponsors expect from their race teams."
What has the Gardella Racing team done in the past few months to get ready for 2005? "We moved into a new race shop, which took quite a bit of time. GM Racing handled the construction of our new Chevy Cobalt, and we flew John Perry, our crew chief, out to Detroit to spend time with Russ O'Blenes and the engineers at GM. They taught John a lot about the setup of the racecar and the tuning of the engine. What we're running now is totally different from what we did before, but it's so much better. We're combining what we've learned in the past with what the GM engineers have showed us, and it's going to make us a better team. We tested the new Cobalt two weeks ago in Bradenton (Fla.) and ran an 8.07 e.t. at 171 mph. Considering it was our first time out, we did pretty good, but there are always going to be a few bugs to work out and one of those was getting used to driving the automatic."
How did the new Cobalt feel? "Man, I really like having the Hydra-Matic 4T65 transmission. I've never driven a racecar with an automatic and it was a new experience for me. It took me a little bit of time to get the hang of it, but once we got it going, figured out the burnout and got it down track, the Cobalt was a breeze to drive. I would recommend the Hydra-Matic drivetrain to anybody. Our new Chevrolet is a lot different from what we've run in the past. It felt so good to jump into something brand new and it's lifted our enthusiasm level quite a bit."
What will you be working on when you return to test at Bradenton? "We'll be looking to break into the sevens, get some good seat time and get a better handle on staging the car."
Do you expect the competition to be a lot tougher this year? "I really do. There are a lot more cars using some of the aftermarket transmissions, and that will contribute to more consistent, side-by-side races compared to what we had last year."
What makes HOT ROD and Pro 4 Cylinder such fun classes to watch? "They are the classes that started the sport and they are also the classes that are easiest to break into. If a driver is looking to get into the sport, it's very easy to race something like I have, whether it's a street-class car or a HOT ROD class car. These cars are the closest things to a factory hot rod that we race. The Chevy Cobalt we're racing now is a stock unibody car. There are no extra pounds cut out, no extra bars in there, it's your basic roll cage on a stock, unibody car. With the engines, a lot of racers who compete have to use aftermarket parts, but with the Ecotec, it's a production block with production cylinder heads and a majority of its composition is constructed from production pieces. With the body, a competitor knows that whether it's a Cobalt, Cavalier or Sunfire, it's simple to install a roll cage. From an expenditure of resources and capital, it's the best way to go for someone starting out."
What are some of the performance goals you've set for this year? "They're making the GM teams use smaller turbos this year. Last year the Ecotec was allowed 76 mm of turbo in NHRA and this year we're limited to 70 mm. NOPI is allowing us to use 74 mm. They're basically resetting the record books for each sanctioning body, so you'll see some good battling going on and I think you'll see a lot of teams stepping up. With our Chevy Cobalt, I'm confident we'll see some excellent times, maybe around 7.70 seconds. We should have good front-half numbers, around 1.25 or 1.24 for our first 60-foot, that should carry us through on the top end. Our first time out at Bradenton, when we ran the 8.07, that was basically a 1.25 60-foot with a brand-new set of tires. We're getting real good data and figuring out what this car likes. We'll run about 16 races, all of the NOPI events and about five of the NHRA races. I'm not going to burn my guys out crisscrossing the country like we did that last year. It was just too much. We'll be concentrating on winning the NOPI championship."
Where do you hope your drag racing career eventually takes you? "I'd like to own multiple cars competing in different classes, have a good shop with a good operation specializing in R & D work and be able to bring in numerous sponsors. I basically want to be able to make a living in this sport and provide our supporters with showcars, show trailers and a complete marketing and communications effort. That's still maybe 10 years down the road but that's what we're aiming for. We have a new primary sponsor coming on board this year, Ecko Unlimited, which is a great company to be associated with, especially with this young lifestyle. We also have other outstanding sponsors including DuPont and their Hot Hues custom paint line, County Line Auto Body, Red Bull, Manley, and we brought Quaker State on this season as a product sponsor. Things are looking pretty positive for us here in early 2005 and we're looking forward to getting started.
General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader since 1931.Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 324,000 people around the world. It has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in 200 countries. In 2004, GM sold nearly 9 million cars and trucks globally, up 4 percent and the second-highest total in the company's history. GM's global headquarters are at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM can be found at www.gm.com
Michigan Racing News
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
by Jeff Romack, GM Racing via: WhoWon.com