Las Vegas II: Dave Connolly preview

Dave Connolly, SKULL Gear Team Aim to Finish with Flourish With third place in NHRA POWERade Series competition locked up, Dave Connolly and the SKULL Gear Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Stock team are focusing on finishing the season with a flourish. A...

Dave Connolly, SKULL Gear Team Aim to Finish with Flourish

With third place in NHRA POWERade Series competition locked up, Dave Connolly and the SKULL Gear Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Stock team are focusing on finishing the season with a flourish.

A new Cobalt made its competitive debut at Richmond two weeks ago, garnering smiles for carrying Connolly to a career-best elapsed time (6.612 seconds) and speed (208.91 mph) and into the quarterfinals of eliminations. But that wasn't enough to please Connolly or crew chief Tommy Utt.

So the team left its Mooresville, N.C., shop early and made a stop at Tucson, Ariz., for testing Monday and Tuesday before driving north for the penultimate event of the 23-race schedule, the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, Friday through Sunday, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

"We want to make our new car a little bit better for this race," said Connolly. "We'd like to improve its 60- and 330-foot times and make some tune-up gains at Tucson. We want to get the Cobalt running good so we can thank the guys from Victor Cagnazzi's chassis shop. They worked hard to get the chassis ready to use for the end of the season."

Finishing as high as third wasn't in the team's thinking during its first visit here in April. Connolly was 14th when he arrived and 11th when he departed, thanks primarily to a stellar runner-up finish.

In what was one of his finest days as driver, he parlayed quicker reaction times into three round wins and left 29-thousandths of a second ahead of Kurt Johnson (.006 to .035 of a second) in the title round, but Johnson reached the finish line a paltry three-thousandths of a second before Connolly.

But Connolly slipped to 12th in points at the next race and Utt took over the reins. Since then, Connolly has won four times, been to two more final rounds and made the long climb to respectability -- even though he didn't qualify twice early in the year. Series point leader Jason Line also has a 4-3 mark in title rounds this year but qualified for all 21 events.

With only the Auto Club Finals (Nov. 9-12 at Pomona, Calif.) remaining, Connolly hopes to add to his win total. Should he reach the winner's circle once more, he would double his career victory total. He had five wins in 13 finals after his first two Pro Stock seasons, and one of those wins came at The Strip in the spring of 2005.

Connolly to Play Poker, Sign Autographs before Racing Begins

Connolly will be one of 13 NHRA drivers expected to compete in Wednesday's third annual Cards for Kids Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament at The Cannery Hotel & Casino. The event is presented by the Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities and features drivers squaring off against each other and fans from across the country. Play begins at 7 p.m.

Connolly also will be among NHRA drivers signing autographs at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Thursday night from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

-credit: dcr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Jason Line , Dave Connolly