Connolly Continues Climb Up NHRA Pro Stock Ladder Class-Leading Four Wins Puts Chevy Driver in Thick of Points Chase MILLINGTON, Tenn., August 15, 2006 - It would have been easy to dismiss SKULL Gear Chevy Cobalt driver Dave Connolly from the...
Connolly Continues Climb Up NHRA Pro Stock Ladder
Class-Leading Four Wins Puts Chevy Driver in Thick of Points Chase
MILLINGTON, Tenn., August 15, 2006 - It would have been easy to dismiss SKULL Gear Chevy Cobalt driver Dave Connolly from the NHRA Pro Stock points chase after he failed to qualify for Gainesville earlier this year and fell to a season-low 18th in points. But a change in crew chiefs after the season's first six races prompted a resurgence that has seen the 23-year-old Ohio native make a steady climb back into the hunt for the Pro Stock class championship. As the 23-race NHRA POWERade circuit prepares for this weekend's 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park, Connolly is coming off a class-leading fourth win at Brainerd over points leader Jason Line and finds himself third in points, 108 points behind Line but only 25 points in arrears of three-time defending champ Greg Anderson for second.
"Sometimes you just need to make a change," said Connolly, "and we've made a lot progress. Ever since (crew chief) Tommy Utt came aboard at Atlanta, this Chevy Cobalt has been a tremendous racecar. We kind of had a rocky start to the season and it's kind of funny to find ourselves in the points chase now."
Since Utt's arrival the SKULL Gear Racing team has made five final-round appearances with four wins (Atlanta, Topeka, Denver, Brainerd), including a 2-1 record against Line in final-round meetings. Line bested Connolly at Englishtown in June, but Connolly has bounced back with wins over the points leader in their last two final-round match-ups at Denver and Brainerd.
"I think Sunday (at Brainerd) was probably one of our better wins, although there aren't any bad wins," said Connolly. "This one stands out because everything just clicked. The car was good and I was driving good. I think we probably had the best car. We were able to run with Jason in the final. Tommy (Utt) kept making changes and we kept making headway all weekend."
Line, driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO, took over the points lead from his teammate Anderson after his runner-up finish to Connolly at Denver, and he now has an 83-point lead over the three-time defending champ with seven races to go in the season.
"We had a good overall weekend (at Brainerd), both in qualifying and during eliminations," said Line. "We just didn't have the type of ending we wanted. I felt I had a good light (in the final) and many times would have won the race going away. While my concentration is on putting this Summit Racing Pontiac in the winner's circle, the points lead is still a bonus. But as I've said since I took the lead, I'd rather be there than anywhere else. The main thing on the championship is that either Greg or I are on top come the end of the season."
Johnson has won at Memphis Motorsports Park in both Funny Car (1999) and Top Fuel (1994). In fact, he is one of only 13 drivers in NHRA history to have won events in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Ironically, his team owner, Don Prudhomme, is also one of the 13 drivers to have won in both classes.
Other current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers who have won at Memphis include Tony Pedregon with a win (2002) and two runners-up (1999, 1996), and Gary Densham with a win (2001) and a runner-up finish (1995). Del Worsham was runner-up to Pedregon in 2002, and Tony's brother Cruz has back-to-back runners-up (1997-98) at Memphis.
Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, Aug. 19, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. Three hours of final-eliminations coverage from Memphis Motorsports Park can also be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, Aug. 20, starting at 10 p.m. Eastern.
-credit: gm racing