READING, Pa. (Oct. 8) -- Dave Connolly's love affair with Maple Grove Raceway was strengthened this weekend after the star Pro Stock driver raced to a runner-up result at the 28th annual Uni-Select Auto Plus NHRA Nationals.
"There's definitely something special about this place," Connolly said. "It was a crazy weekend; certainly a big learning experience for me. We don't get to see cool weather conditions like this very often; hardly ever at all. Luckily, Tommy (Utt, co-crew chief) has a lot more time running in conditions like this and we were able to lean on his experience."
Eliminations began with Connolly dispatching Frank Gugliotta Sunday with a 6.522 at 212.43 mph. Then rain forced Connolly to wait an entire day for his gigantic second-round showdown with points leader Allen Johnson. With the eyes of the Pro Stock world on him, Johnson had a foul start, giving the win to Connolly, who then limped down the track in 26 seconds to take the victory.
After a holeshot win over Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the semifinals, Connolly returned the red-light favor to Vieri Gaines in the final round, fouling at the line himself by -.016 seconds.
"You never want to go red but if you do the math I don't know that it would've mattered," Connolly said. "I think V. had us covered today. He ran a huge number (6.515 at 212.26 mph) and was there at the Tree (.022-second reaction time). I'm happy for him. You couldn't ask for a nicer guy to race against in the final.
"We actually struggled this morning and got a gift against A.J. so I guess we gave a gift back in the final. I can definitely leave here with my head up."
Connolly will hang up his helmet for the rest of the season and concentrate on tuning Erica Enders to the championship. Enders was eliminated in the quarterfinals of this race by Coughlin.
"We've raced six weekends in a row and they've been very good for us," Connolly said. "Two runner-up finishes and two wins isn't bad at all. We'll reload and get ready for Las Vegas in a few weekends and see if we can't get Erica this championship."