Dave Connolly Looks For A Rebound At CSK Nationals Chevy Cobalt Driver Hopes Extra Testing Will Bring Season's First Win PHOENIX, Ariz., Feb. 20, 2006 - Dave Connolly is confident that a few extra days in the Arizona desert prior to the upcoming...
Dave Connolly Looks For A Rebound At CSK Nationals
Chevy Cobalt Driver Hopes Extra Testing Will Bring Season's First Win
PHOENIX, Ariz., Feb. 20, 2006 - Dave Connolly is confident that a few extra days in the Arizona desert prior to the upcoming event at Firebird International Raceway is just the right medicine to remedy a less-than-stellar performance at the NHRA Winternationals. Last season, the 23-year-old driver of the Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt entered the second contest of the year first place in points after coming off an impressive victory at Auto Club Raceway. To get back into the winning mode for this year's Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals, the team will spend three days testing at Speedworld Motorplex northwest of Phoenix.
"The opening weekend certainly wasn't one of our better showings," said Connolly. "We never seemed to get a hold of the track during the first 300 feet. We know we have enough power in our Chevy Cobalt to be a top-four racecar, but at Pomona we barely made the field. What we really learned was that when we tested in Las Vegas, the track was so good that basically any car would have worked there - it was awesome. On a slick track our car has a very small window to work from, and that's what we'll be concentrating on during testing. We're going to have to start swinging links, moving the four-link and really making big swings.
"We've seen our back-half times and everyone here feels we have enough power to compete, we just need to do a little work on our front-half numbers. We're giving up about three-hundredths to the 330 right now, and it's hard to win races when you're doing that. We'll test for three days at Speedworld right before Phoenix and try to get the car sorted out. Fortunately for us we have Evan Knoll backing us. He's been awesome for our team, and he's provided us with plenty of funding that gives us the capability to test when we need to."
With the success Connolly's experienced since his Pro Stock debut at the spring Chicago event in 2003, it's hard to believe that this will mark only his third full season in the factory hot rod category. One of the promising young drivers on the NHRA circuit, the Ohio native entered the ranks of Pro Stock competitors following a successful Sportsman tenure in which he won the 2002 NHRA Division 3 Super Gas championship. He advanced to his first career Pro Stock final-round appearance at Firebird Raceway in 2004, the first of four runners-up performances that year, before capturing his first national-event victory in August at Brainerd (Minn.). Two additional wins toward the end of '04 catapulted Connolly to a season-ending third-place - his first ever top-five POWERade points finish.
"When we finally did get our first win, it was great, but it took a little while for it to sink in," said Connolly. "I'd won before in the Sportsman categories, and those were fun too, but there are so many variables to overcome in Pro Stock, so many people who have to work in the right direction, and it takes a whole team to get the job done. It was fun just to see how excited everyone else was and that's when the scope of the accomplishment sunk in. It was a great feeling."
With last year's Pomona victory, Connolly broke out of the blocks strong and then held first place in points after his second win of the season in April at Las Vegas. In total, the Chevy Cobalt driver won two races, advanced to five finals, won the pole at Bristol (Tenn.) and finished fifth in the points standings. With 2006 now in full swing, Connolly hopes the switch to Cagnazzi engines during the off-season provides the necessary power for a third straight top-five finish.
"Once we get our momentum going, which I feel will be in the next couple of weeks, you'll really see this team turn the corner and show what we can do," said Connolly. "We have a brand new Jerry Bickel Chevy Cobalt that we still have to test, and it's only a matter of time before we get them both figured out. Then we'll have two cars that we can choose from."
In addition to his duties behind the wheel of the Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt, Connolly will return to his roots in 2006 and race a Super Comp dragster he built over the winter at seven to eight national events. His first event in the dragster will be at the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
"I made anywhere from 60 to 70 runs on the car during the off-season," said Connolly. "It's not the same as racing a Pro Stock Car but it keeps you sharp. I'll compete on the East Coast at races that are close to home. This year will be a little different because it will be the first time I've been out on my own with my own racecar and trailer, and you can understand why I'm kind of excited about it."
Qualifying coverage of the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 25, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. A three-hour broadcast of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, Feb. 26, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.
"Ideally if we can stay within reach of the championship, and stay competitive with a couple of wins by midseason, that would keep us within the hunt," said Connolly. "This team, John and Tommy Utt, Terry Adams and Richard Hicks, is definitely up to the challenge. We had two wins last year by midseason and we were happy with our starting performance. This year, without the worries of funding, and with the resources from Cagnazzi's engine shop, I'm confident we can keep the ball rolling to the end of the year."
. Greg Anderson's recent win at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., was the 159th for Pontiac in NHRA Pro Stock competition, and the seventh victory for the GTO (in the last 10 races).
. Of the 159 Pro Stock victories by a driver in a Pontiac, Warren Johnson leads the list with 43, Greg Anderson is second with 38 and Jim Yates is third with 24.
. The final-round showdown at Pomona between Anderson and Mike Edwards was the third time a pair of Pontiac GTOs have met in a championship heat since the car's introduction last July in Denver.
. The Winternationals was Young Life Pontiac GTO driver Mike Edwards' first final-round appearance since Bristol (Tenn.) in April, 2003.
. Entering the CSK Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, Chevrolet has 127 wins in NHRA Pro Stock competition. The Cobalt has claimed four victories in 11 final-round appearance since its introduction last April in Bristol, Tenn.