Coughlin, Connolly Look to Stay Hot Through Western Swing Cagnazzi Racing Duo Have String of Six Consecutive Final Rounds Between Them MORRISON, Colo, July 10, 2007 - The NHRA POWERade series begins the traditional three-race Western Swing this...
Coughlin, Connolly Look to Stay Hot Through Western Swing
Cagnazzi Racing Duo Have String of Six Consecutive Final Rounds Between Them
MORRISON, Colo, July 10, 2007 - The NHRA POWERade series begins the traditional three-race Western Swing this weekend starting with the 28th annual Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The GM Racing contingent of quarter-mile competitors is in the middle of what has already been a grinding string of consecutive weekend events that began in Englishtown, N.J., on June 22-24, and will reach its conclusion in Sonoma, Calif., on July 29.
A pair of Chevy Cobalt competitors who seem to be getting stronger as the summer heat intensifies are Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Dave Connolly. In the last six races, beginning with the O'Reilly NHRA Nationals at St. Louis in May, at least one car in the tandem that makes up the Cagnazzi Racing juggernaut has advanced to a Pro Stock final round, and collectively, Coughlin and Connolly have rolled to four national-event victories in seven final-round appearances.
Since the beginning of May, the 37-year-old Coughlin has driven his Jegs.com Chevrolet to the winner's circle twice, posting victories at Chicago and the just completed O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn., to go along with runners-up at St. Louis (to teammate Connolly), Englishtown, and an April runner-up performance in Las Vegas. At the season's halfway mark, the two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion has now moved within 86 points of first-place Greg Anderson and virtually erased a points deficit with the Summit Racing Pontiac driver that just a month ago, many thought was insurmountable.
"I think the last (six or) seven finals a Cagnazzi team car, either Dave Connolly or myself, have been in it," said Coughlin following his latest win at Bristol Dragway. "That's a real testament to the hard word the whole team's put in, and really I think the fruits of our hard work are still to come. We're sneaking up on Greg (Anderson) as far as the POWERade points go, and I think it's going to be even more exciting when they reset the points for the Countdown to the Championship."
Coughlin is certainly familiar with the pressure cooker of a tight championship race. When the Columbus, Ohio, native won his first Pro Stock title in 2000, he ran the table on the competition, grabbing first place at the season-opening event and clutching it tight for the entire 23-race schedule. But when Coughlin captured his second Pro Stock crown in 2002, he did it by winning eight of the last 12 events and pulled ahead of Greg Anderson and Jim Yates late in the campaign to take the title.
Coughlin is a two-time winner of the Mile-High Nationals (1998-99), and he heads to Bandimere Speedway looking to move closer to first place, but maybe more importantly, to solidify a top seeding in the Countdown to the Championship.
"We have an unbelievable support team," said Coughlin. "We have a chassis program so that we can build our Pro Stock Chevy Cobalts in house, and we have an engine program that's second to none with Joe Hornick and Nick Ferry and Steve Johns. Between the three of them they've won several national events and several national titles. The ingredients are in place and the rest of the team that goes on site for these races does an outstanding job. Team-owner Victor Cagnazzi is very hands on and great to work with. We're trying to leave no stone unturned and being in the winner's circle is always the ultimate goal.
"We're coming on strong. We're nipping at the performance advantage the KB team has had the last several years, and we want to flash them a little yellow and black and see if we can't challenge them for the 2007 POWERade championship. It's going to be exciting, but it's going to be gut wrenching too."
The 24-year-old Connolly has never won a Pro Stock championship, but he is the defending champion of the Mile-High Nationals, and his previous points finishes show that the Torco Racing Fuels Chevrolet driver is more than capable of taking that extra step to the title. Connolly ended the 2006 Pro Stock standings in third place, was fifth in 2005 and third in 2004.
"We're in a pretty strong position heading into the summer, and Tommy Utt has always been a guy that's done extremely well at getting a car down a hot racetrack," said Connolly. "Even last year, that's when we started getting hot, the part of the season when the tracks gets hot and greasy. I've dropped the ball a couple of times this season, but that's water under the bridge and with the new points system, if we can be one of the eight cars that qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, then anything's possible."
-credit: gm racing