Team Chevy Sweeps the Las Vegas Strip With Victories for Cobalt in Pro Stock, Monte Carlo in Nitro Funny Car The Red Bowtie Runs the Table in Alcohol Funny Car With All-Chevy Final LAS VEGAS, April 9, 2006 - It was a celebrated afternoon for...
Team Chevy Sweeps the Las Vegas Strip With Victories for Cobalt in Pro Stock, Monte Carlo in Nitro Funny Car
The Red Bowtie Runs the Table in Alcohol Funny Car With All-Chevy Final
LAS VEGAS, April 9, 2006 - It was a celebrated afternoon for Team Chevy at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as a pair of Pro Stock Cobalts squared off in the championship heat of eliminations at the SummitRacing.com Nationals. In front of a capacity crowd on hand to witness today's closely contested event, Kurt Johnson became the fifth different driver this season to win in the highly competitive category after defeating Dave Connolly in the all-Chevrolet final round. It was the 33rd career victory for the 43-year-old Georgia resident, his second straight win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Chevrolet's 128th all-time victory in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
"I guess this is the luckiest place on Earth for us right now," said Johnson. "I'm just happy to be here and it couldn't have been done without the entire crew; Justin Belfance, Kevin Horst, Mike Smith, ACDelco, the whole GM Performance Parts team, Chevrolet, everyone who made this possible. All of the fans here are just fabulous and it was our lucky day to go to the final. We had to go to work after Houston to get some things right, but we knew this Chevy Cobalt was a winning racecar, so we pulled out the recipe from last October when we ran well here and stuck to it. We love this racetrack."
Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt entered the Sunday eliminator qualified in the No. 6 position. He defeated Mike Edwards in round one running 6.817 seconds at 202.85 mph, Erica Enders in round two with a 6.823 e.t. at 202.33 mph, and Jason Line in the semifinals with 6.864-second lap at 201.94. In the finals, Connolly's Chevrolet launched first with lightning quick .006 reaction time, and although it took every foot of the quarter-mile to catch the Skull Gear Cobalt, Johnson's ACDelco Chevy overcame Connolly's Chevy just inches in front of the stripe, taking the win by a margin of .0031 of a second. The final results show Kurt Johnson with an elapsed time of 6.842 seconds at 202.42 mph to Connolly's 6.874 e.t. at 202.00 mph. The incremental numbers from the race indicate the two cars were never separated by more than .005 of a second during the entire run.
"I looked at the ladder last night and saw that we had to run the winner from the last race right off the bat," said Johnson. "We haven't been able to make it past first round all season. That was a tough battle against Mike (Edwards), but all these guys are tough and the girls are too."
It was the 33rd career victory for Johnson, his second straight win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and it extends his streak of scoring at least one win per season to 12 straight years (the longest streak among active drivers in the Pro Stock category). Johnson's performance this weekend also moves him into 10th place in the NHRA standings.
"Winning like we have over the years is the result of a lot of help from a lot of people more than anything," said Johnson. "In 1994 we didn't win a race but we won the Pro Stock Challenge. To be able to keep the consecutive streak going is pretty cool because you never know if you're going to win again. You're just glad when it happens. Hopefully we can keep on going, and the points deal, it's going to be interesting in the end. Five winners in five races is fabulous. I'm just glad it's early in the season and glad to be here."
Today's race was a big shot in the arm for Dave Connolly who won this event in 2005 and earned his 14th career final-round appearance. The Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt pilot qualified eighth and advanced to the championship heat by virtue of three hole-shot victories taking out V. Gaines in round one, Greg Stanfield in round two and Jim Yates in round three.
"We're close," said Connolly. "We finally got the car qualified in the top half and I think that paid off for us right away. In the first round we relied on lane choice and won by five-thousandths because we had lane choice. Our Chevy Cobalt ran pretty smooth all weekend, we went to the final, went a few rounds and moved up in the points a little bit. Once we get a better handle on this racecar, we'll be alright. We're giving too much away at 60-foot, but on a positive note, we have a ton of horsepower, and we're willing to work on it. By the next race we should be back to being competitive."
It was a strong showing all the way around today by competitors in GM-branded cars with four drivers advancing to the semifinal round, including a pair of Pontiac GTOs and a pair of Chevy Cobalts. Jim Yates (Pontiac) faced off against Dave Connolly (Chevrolet) in round three, and Kurt Johnson (Chevrolet) went head-to-head with Jason Line (Pontiac). The productive weekend by the Pontiac GTO drivers helped both of them move forward in the POWERade Pro Stock standings with Line settling into fourth place and Yates taking over fifth place.
"It could have been worse, but I should have done a better job on the light in the semis," said Line. "We had a piece of foam get into the carburetor and it flooded over on the starting line. I was struggling to keep the car running - that made it exciting anyway. I was having trouble doing the burnout and staging, but all in all it could have been worse and the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO ended up making a decent run in the semis.
"We're looking forward to Bristol and so is Greg (Anderson). Greg won his first race there and it's also one of my favorite places to compete. We get to go back and work in the shop for a couple of weeks and then it's off to the next race. We made a nice jump in the points, but you want to win the race, that's what we come here for. We missed an opportunity today. Anytime you outrun somebody you should beat them. But Kurt's (Johnson) good and fun to race, and anytime you race those guys you have to definitely be on the ball. Otherwise, you're going home and that proved it right there. We gave him a decent run though."
"The best is yet to come," said Yates. "I'm really excited about the way this Sea-Ray Pontiac GTO is running. The way the engines are running and the way this car is running. The car's been throwing the engine a curveball a little bit. Bill's (Jenkins) been chasing the tune-up, and at Houston he got right up on it and we ran really good, and here, he got right on it and we ran really good. He's making a lot of changes - I think he's wearing out the carburetors trying to figure out what to do. But every time he makes a change, we step up a little bit. That last run was probably our best of the day. We left a little bit on the table and I feel bad that I didn't do a better job of driving the car and get a win there. Dave's (Connolly) a great driver. He had a great light and ran pretty good. But we definitely have a car that's going to hard to beat down the stretch.
"I don't think we've been this good in a long, long time. I don't think we've ever had the potential we have today. Even when we were winning championships and doing as well as we've done, I don't think we've ever been so far from perfect and still run as well as we have this year. I'm extremely happy with how we ran in Houston - and we never got it all in Houston. We came here running in completely different conditions and did really well. It's the first time we've run in this altitude with Bill's stuff, but every time we made a move, and Jamie (Yates) made some good moves today, our GTO got faster and showed some incredible potential. If we continue getting the engines and the car happier together, we're going to step up each race."
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon scored his first national-event victory since 2000 driving the Advanced Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo to a final-round victory over points leader Ron Capps. Pedregon entered eliminations qualified in the No. 8 position and defeated Jim head in round one running 4.871 seconds at 296.57 mph, Tony Bartone in round two with a 4.864 e.t. at 321.19 mph and Tommy Johnson Jr. in round three with a 5.314 e.t. at 282.30 mph. In the final against Capps, both cars lost traction shortly after leaving the starting line, but Pedregon quickly regained control of his Monte Carlo and crossed the finish line first with a 5.417 second run at 266.16 mph. Capps' Dodge followed with a 6.474 e.t. at 229.31 mph.
"What a day," exclaimed Pedregon. "We came into the race and felt we had a good car, but that doesn't mean anything until you string some runs together. I felt good in the semis and when we got past Tommy (Johnson), we just became determined to go all the way. Even when we smoked the tires, I stay focused and was able to keep the car under control. I feel like I'm dreaming,
"I'm not going to open my mouth again and say something stupid about cutting my hair because I've been feeling more pressure from that more than anything. I used to be a hired driver, and I went out on my own, and people thought I was crazy, but this is the benefit. This is the highlight of my career, and to all the people who are down and out, just believe in yourself."
It was the 23rd career Funny Car victory for Pedregon and his 50th career final round appearance. Pedregon leaves Las Vegas fifth in the points standings.
"We're a close knit group and I've never had a team that's believed in me like this one," said Pedregon. "We cut up together and have a good time, but this is what it's all about. Victory, there's nothing like it."
The Alcohol Funny Car championship also came down to a pair of Chevrolets. Ron August of Pleasanton, Calif. defeated Cy Chesterman in the finals running 5.732 seconds at 253.18 mph to a 5.749 e.t. at 252.14 mph. The margin of victory was .044 of a second. The next stop on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour is the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals on April 28 - 30 at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn.