Chevy Red Bowtie Scores Daily Double At Pomona Raceway: Tommy Johnson Wins Funny Car For Monte Carlo, Dave Connolly Delivers Cavalier Pro Stock Victory POMONA, Calif. Feb. 13, 2005 - Chevrolet was the automobile nameplate that dominated the ...
Chevy Red Bowtie Scores Daily Double At Pomona Raceway: Tommy Johnson Wins Funny Car For Monte Carlo, Dave Connolly Delivers Cavalier Pro Stock Victory
POMONA, Calif. Feb. 13, 2005 - Chevrolet was the automobile nameplate that dominated the quarter-mile at this weekend's NHRA Winternationals. With a pair of Monte Carlo Funny Cars facing off in the final round and an event championship for Cavalier in Pro Stock, it was an extraordinary afternoon of racing today for the legendary Chevy Red Bowtie at Pomona Raceway.
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. captured his first national-event victory since a win at Las Vegas in April 2001, and defeated a formidable Phil Burkart in an all-Chevrolet championship heat. It was Chevrolet's 72nd all-time victory and 149th final-round appearance in the NHRA Funny Car category. "This was a win that was absolutely needed by this entire team," said Johnson. "It's no secret that we've struggled the last couple of years, but Snake (Don Prudhomme) still had faith and I did too. I knew these guys could get the job done and right now I'm pretty happy with the Chevy Monte Carlo I'm driving."
After battling for position during three rounds of time trials, the 34-year-old Johnson entered raceday with the blue Skoal Racing Chevrolet qualified in the No. 12 spot. Johnson's day looked all but over in round one when he smoked the tires off the starting line and began coasting toward the finish stripe. But his opponent, Frank Pedregon, crossed the centerline knocking out the timing cones prior to crossing the finish line, and was disqualified.
"It looked like we were sandbagging in qualifying," said Johnson. "We struggled and couldn't quite hit it. You usually never win without one gift and a little luck on your side. The first round was definitely our lucky one for the day. The car shook, it smoked the tires and I could see Frank coming over to the centerline, and I kept saying, 'c'mon, c'mon, c'mon.' The guys were walking away from the starting line and I'm yelling on the radio, 'we won, we won!' That was one round that gave us the second chance we needed."
From there, the Prudhomme Racing team dialed in Johnson's Chevrolet and he bolted to a 4.761 elapsed time in a round-two win over Bob Gilbertson, and a 4.761 second run against Whit Bazemore in the semifinals. In the championship heat against Burkart, Johnson recorded a career-best time and speed blowing through the traps in 4.741 seconds at 327.59 mph. Burkart's Monte Carlo followed with a 7.069ET/123.34MPH. For Johnson, it was his sixth career victory, his 17th final round appearance (4/12 FC, 2/5 TF) and his first career win at Pomona Raceway. It also marked the 99th combined victory for Don Prudhomme as a driver and team owner.
"Going into the second round I knew we had it figured out," said Johnson. "I ran my career-best e.t. and speed in the finals so that's about as picture perfect as it gets. Snake won this race 40 years ago so it's nice to come here and do it this year. You can't believe how sweet this feels, after all the trouble we've had. This one was for my guys, all the guys who stuck it out.
"To go out here and turn it around like this, this one was for them. I appreciate them hanging in there and everybody having confidence in this team. It's really nice to come back. Snake and I had a good conversation about how we sucked it up and did it. Somebody asked me the other day what it would take to turn it around, and I'd say we've had a pretty good turnaround already." Adding to Chevrolet's Golden State bonanza was 22-year-old Dave Connolly's first Pro Stock victory at Pomona Raceway and his fourth career win overall. Connolly qualified his Bill Jenkins-powered Chevy Cavalier in the No. 4 position for today's race. He defeated Jeg Coughlin in round one running 6.710 seconds, Allen Johnson in round two with a 6.701 e.t., and Ron Krisher in round three posting a 6.708 second run. In the finals against Warren Johnson, Connolly's Chevrolet crossed the finish line with a 6.711 elapsed time at 204.98 mph. Johnson's Pontiac in 6.802 seconds at a speed of 203.31 mph. Over the four eliminator rounds, Connolly's consistent Chevrolet posted an average elapsed time of 6.708 seconds.
"As tough as Pro Stock is going to be this year it's a great feeling to get our first win here at Pomona Raceway," said Connolly. "It's a long season, but right now we're on top and we'll enjoy it for as long as we can. Warren Johnson has accomplished so much in his career that to be able to race him in the finals at Pomona is a great feeling. To be able to beat him and out run him like we did says a lot about our whole team. There are still some things we want to try on the car, but today our Chevy Cavalier ran flawlessly.
"Everything went very smooth for us today. It's not very often that happens and I guess you have to take advantage of the weekends when it does. We certainly did this weekend and we'll continue to race this car until we take delivery of our new Chevy Cobalt." Connolly's win today was the 55th consecutive Pro Stock victory by a GM-branded car (Chevy Cavalier, Pontiac Grand Am), a streak that began two-and-a-half years ago at Brainerd (Minn.) on Aug. 18, 2002. It was also Chevrolet's 122nd all-time win in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
"When you have to make big changes it makes it easier when you can fine tune on a good baseline," said Connolly. "We made a series of great runs throughout the day, and to be honest it's hard to find anything to complain about. Grump (Bill Jenkins) gave us great horsepower, Terry (Adams) did a great job adjusting our Chevrolet and we were able to adapt pretty quickly and effectively when the conditions kept changing. It's just an awesome beginning to the 2005 season."
GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson appropriately kicked off his "School's Out" farewell tour this weekend at Pomona Raceway with his first Pro Stock final-round appearance (his 144th all-time) since last year's NHRA Winternationals.
"Kurt's (Johnson) engine (GM DRCE III) is slightly different than mine, with each taking a particular approach," said Johnson. "Since he ran so well, we decided to use his headers and carburetors for the final to see what effect it would have on my engine. That was the only change we made. We came here with a car with no full passes on it, and two engine combinations with zero runs on them as well. Therefore, I believe getting our two cars to the semifinals and final paints a pretty rosy picture for our team."
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz., on Feb. 25 - 27.