After Slow Start, Dave Connolly Displays Winning Clout in Pro Stock There were times early in the season when Dave Connolly felt a little like a 100-pound weakling getting pummeled by his peers. Ah, but all that has changed in the last few...
After Slow Start, Dave Connolly Displays Winning Clout in Pro Stock
There were times early in the season when Dave Connolly felt a little like a 100-pound weakling getting pummeled by his peers.
Ah, but all that has changed in the last few races and it's now Connolly who is flexing his competitive muscles.
The transformation didn't come with spinach, ala Popeye, but from Tommy Utt, who, Connolly says, is responsible for a 180 (degree) direction switch that helped him become the first driver with two wins this year in the ultra-competitive NHRA POWERade Pro Stock series.
Not only that, Evan Knoll's SKULL GEAR Chevrolet Cobalt team has become a viable championship challenger. Connolly leapt from 18th to fifth in six races. Included in that spurt are the two wins (Atlanta, May 7, and Topeka, Kan., May 28), one runner-up and one did not qualify. His 508 points put him 51 shy of second place with the season's 10th race -- the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals -- unfolding Friday through Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.
"This class is brutal (competitively). It will kick you when you're down, definitely," said Connolly, who went more than a year between national event wins, April 2005 to May 2006. "But Tommy has made a lot of progress and he' s continuing to try new things at every race. We are gaining a little bit more each time. I don't foresee our success stopping any time soon."
His peers may not want to hear that, especially when Connolly's going to his favorite track.
""I've always been pretty lucky at Route 66," he said. "That's where I got my first national event win (2002, while driving in Super Comp) and my first Pro Stock win (2004). Last year, the only win we had came in the (special) King Demon Crown at the track and paid $50,000.
"Having a car that runs good makes race weekends exciting," he continued. " I put more pressure on myself when I have a good car."
Acknowledged as one of the best at leaving the starting line quickly, Connolly is nevertheless pleased with the horsepower coming from engines built by Victor Cagnazzi Racing. "We have definitely picked up our program in the last couple of races and the car and crew are working well together. This isn't a one-man sport. It takes everybody pulling in the same direction to be successful."
As for his reaction times, Connolly said he is "just trying to do my job. It' s a little job security, you might say. But that's what they pay me to do . . . go up there, leave on the other guy and do a good job driving the car. It's like any other sport. You want to be the best that you can."
Connolly has seven wins in 16 finals rounds. He finished third and fifth in his first two full seasons on the NHRA tour.
"Our goal is to stay competitive . . . and I think we will," he said. "I think it's a lot better when you have different winners in the classes. It makes for good racing on Sunday and that's what the fans are here for.
"We haven't reached the point where we are dominant like Greg Anderson has been the last three years, but everybody has a goal in mind and that's what makes this class so competitive."