Connolly Puts Streak, Title Hopes on Line In Suspenseful Penultimate Race at Las Vegas In two weeks, Dave Connolly will have an opportunity to reflect on what is his career-best NHRA Pro Stock season. It already includes eight wins in nine final...
Connolly Puts Streak, Title Hopes on Line In Suspenseful Penultimate Race at Las Vegas
In two weeks, Dave Connolly will have an opportunity to reflect on what is his career-best NHRA Pro Stock season. It already includes eight wins in nine final rounds and an impressive string of five consecutive victories.
What Connolly doesn't have -- just yet, he hopes -- is the coveted 2007 POWERade Series championship trophy. He does have a 10-point advantage over arch rival Greg Anderson as this scintillating Countdown to the Championship rolls into its final two-race showdown with stops at Las Vegas (Oct. 26-28) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 1-4).
"I'm real thrilled and excited about what we've accomplished this year, but the job is definitely not done," said Connolly, 24, the leader in the four-man showdown for the top prize. "The championship is on our team's mind right now. We are going to do everything we can to win this championship for everyone involved."
Connolly's fifth win in his extraordinary streak enabled him to build a Countdown-segment advantage of 134 points over Anderson, but all that vanished the following morning when points were reset for the last two events. Connolly now has 3030 points, Anderson 3020, Jeg Coughlin 3010 and Allen Johnson 3000. Connolly, driver of Evan Knoll's Torco Racing Fuels Chevy Cobalt, and Coughlin are teammates on the Victor Cagnazzi Racing team.
Those points, however, do not reveal how impressive Connolly's rally is.
Anderson set the early pace in the inaugural 17-race segment and had a 172-point lead on Connolly (1424 to 1252) before points were reset in the Countdown to Four. Since then, Connolly has outscored Anderson by 144 points (465-321) over the four races.
"I'm proud of the comeback we made and the things we've accomplished. It has been enjoyable," said Connolly. "Victor put together a great group of guys for his in-house chassis and motor programs and I think Jeg and me are just grateful to be the wheelmen for our Chevy Cobalts. They are definitely fast right now, but to have two cars in the Countdown to 1 is definitely a feat in itself because of all the other good teams in this class.
"Each race is getting tougher and tougher to win, especially these last two races because it's not only the four of us in the Countdown, but we also have 12 other guys out there that want to be spoilers. They want to take us out."
Only Anderson has found a way to beat Connolly to the finish line in the last eight races -- at Sonoma, Calif. (July 29), and Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 12). The yellow and black Torco Racing Cobalt has won seven of the past 11 races, including the last five at Reading, Pa., Indianapolis, Memphis, Dallas and Richmond, Va. Anderson was in the opposite lane in finals at Indianapolis, Memphis and Dallas. That trio of wins enabled Connolly to even his final-round record to 6-6 against Anderson. Anderson won five of their first eight.
"When Greg was whipping up on us we stuck to our game plan," Connolly said. "We worked on our program, getting it stronger, and I think that is starting to show. This is only our first full season together with all of Cagnazzi' s resources."
Connolly, one Pro Stock's quickest leaving the starting line, is unflappable. He is 17-12 in 29 title rounds in only 103 races. He has three successive top five POWERade Series finishes -- third in 2004 and 2006 and fifth in 2005.
Connolly has been consistent at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of the season's penultimate event this weekend. He won the spring event in 2005 and was runner-up in 2006. He was a semifinalist here a year ago and in the April race this year.
"Things are clicking right now," said Connolly. "It was nice to sweep the second segment of the countdown. But we have those two races left. We are going to beat the guys in the other lane like we have been and see what happens. " -credit: sgr