Dave Connolly continues pursuing Pro Stock leaders as races, rounds keep dwindling The long and winding road that carries potential NHRA POWERade Series champions to 23 races during nine-plus months is nearing an end. Five races -- 20 rounds of...
Dave Connolly continues pursuing Pro Stock leaders as races, rounds keep dwindling
The long and winding road that carries potential NHRA POWERade Series champions to 23 races during nine-plus months is nearing an end. Five races -- 20 rounds of competition -- are all that remain before winners will be crowned.
For some, like third-place Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly, that may not be enough to run down teammates Greg Anderson (second, 1242 points) and Jason Line (first, 1301). Connolly, driver of the SKULL Gear Chevy Cobalt, has 1166 points, 74 points (four rounds at 20 points per round) behind Anderson and 135 (seven rounds) back of Line.
"My chances of winning are pretty slim," says Connolly, 23, of Elyria, Ohio. "It's only possible if Greg and Jason go out and stumble and we put five great races together."
The first of those, the Toyo Tires Nationals, unfolds at Maple Grove Raceway, near Reading, Friday through Sunday, and Connolly knows the mission isn't impossible, more like a daunting challenge.
"They are going to be tough to catch," added Connolly. "We've been going deep into eliminations at a lot of races recently and we definitely have a shot at it." That's a lot more than he could've said earlier in the season when he was 12th (227 points) after six races with four round wins to go with not qualifying twice. Anderson, meanwhile, was the pacesetter with 466 points while Line was second with 415.
The arrival of crew chief Tommy Utt at that time dramatically changed Connolly's performances. In the next 12 races, the talented driver collected four victories in six finals, winning 27 elimination rounds -- most of the three frontrunners. Line, who overhauled early-leader Anderson six races ago, is next with 23. Anderson, who beat Connolly in the U.S. Nationals finale at Indianapolis on Labor Day, has 16.
The rub for Connolly is that he's running out of rounds while Anderson and Line are not falling prey to early-round upsets on race day. "It seems like they are always in the semifinals or finals," Connolly said, "so we've only been able to pick up a few points at a time."
Frustration, meanwhile, comes from the realization that this would've been a much closer competition had Connolly qualified for races at Gainesville, Fla., and Bristol, Tenn. While Connolly totaled 20 points for those two races, Line, the Bristol winner, had 145 and Anderson 155.
"Even if we come in third it is a pretty good finish considering where we were at the start of the season," added Connolly, who has four wins (in seven finals), the most in the category thus far in 2006.
But he's not ready to concede anything yet.