Brainerd: Dave Connolly preview

CONNOLLY RETURNS TO SITE OF FIRST PRO STOCK WIN, LOOKING FOR MORE SKULL GEAR Chevrolet Cobalt Driver Sits Fifth in POWERade Series Points BRAINERD, Minn., August 8, 2005 - Dave Connolly's proven over the past two years that his comfort zone is...

CONNOLLY RETURNS TO SITE OF FIRST PRO STOCK WIN, LOOKING FOR MORE

SKULL GEAR Chevrolet Cobalt Driver Sits Fifth in POWERade Series Points

BRAINERD, Minn., August 8, 2005 - Dave Connolly's proven over the past two years that his comfort zone is behind the wheel of the SKULL GEAR Pro Stock Chevrolet Cobalt in NHRA competition.

His record after only 51 professional starts ranks him among the leaders in what is arguably the POWERade Series' most-competitive category, where victories are measured in mere thousandths of a second. The 22-year-old driver from Elyria, Ohio, has five wins in 13 final rounds, including a 2-3 record after 15 of 23 races this year. That puts him in the title round on average of once every four races.

Not bad for an unheralded guy who made the jump into the pro ranks from Super Comp little more than two years ago. He led the 2005 point chase on three different occasions -- after his season-opening win at Pomona, Calif.; after a runner-up finish at Gainesville, Fla., in March; and following his win at Las Vegas in April.

The Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Friday through Sunday, provides Connolly with another career milestone -- his first race as the defending champion. He notched his initial victory at this resort-area track a three-hour drive from Minneapolis-St. Paul last August, defeating Greg Anderson in the finals.

"I'm excited about going back to Brainerd," said Connolly. "I think it's one of the most-fun races we have. The fans are great . . . and we ran pretty well there last year."

His trip to winner's circle was his third in a string of four consecutive final-round appearances then - a streak he'd like to re-ignite here this weekend.

"We've been down on power at the last few races and have struggled a bit," said Connolly, "but Grump (engine builder Bill 'Grumpy' Jenkins) is starting to get things together. We all know this has been a temporary setback. He's been working on getting more power and we could begin to see some of the results at Brainerd."

Connolly, meanwhile, has been winning rounds with quick reaction times. He advanced to the semifinals at Sonoma, Calif. (July 31) with hole-shot victories over Warren Johnson and Larry Morgan. His .038 second reaction to Johnson's .082 was enough to win the opening round despite Johnson's 6.733-second effort to his 6.742. In the next round, he had a .015 to Morgan's .100 and moved on with a 6.762-second pass to Morgan's 6.743.

Connolly also left first against Kurt Johnson in the semis - .024 to .041 - but was outrun.

"There's a little pressure" knowing he needs to cut a good light, Connolly acknowledged, but "it keeps my concentration level up for when we get our power back. I guess you could say it was job security, but Terry (Adams, the crew chief) and the team have saved me a bunch of times when I've been down."

Connolly's fifth in the standings with 1002 points, 145 behind pace-setting Anderson and trails No. 2 Warren Johnson by 95 points with eight events to go.

This is the first of two series races in a row. It's followed by the Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Aug. 19-21.

-ekr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Dave Connolly