Richmond: GM Racing Saturday notes

DINWIDDIE, Va., October 6, 2007 - In the ultimate display of teamwork, Cagnazzi Racing drivers Jeg Coughlin and Dave Connolly drove their Chevy Cobalts to identical elapsed times of 6.645 seconds in qualifying today for the 2nd annual Torco Racing...

DINWIDDIE, Va., October 6, 2007 - In the ultimate display of teamwork, Cagnazzi Racing drivers Jeg Coughlin and Dave Connolly drove their Chevy Cobalts to identical elapsed times of 6.645 seconds in qualifying today for the 2nd annual Torco Racing Fuels NHRA at Virginia Motorsports Park to take the top-two spots in Pro Stock. Fortunately for Coughlin, his quicker speed served as the tiebreaker and he was awarded his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season. Coughlin drove his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt to an elapsed time of 6.645 seconds at 207.27 mph to edge his teammate. Connolly drove his Torco Racing Fuels/Seelye Wright Chevy Cobalt to an elapsed time of 6.645 seconds at 206.67 mph. Supporting the qualifying surge for Team Chevy was Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. who drove his Skoal Racing Chevy Impala SS to his second No. 1 qualifier of the season.

"This is our fourth pole of the season and probably a career high for me in No. 1 qualifying," Coughlin said. "We've had three phenomenal qualifying runs here. I think we were No. 2 the first session, and then No. 1 for the last two sessions. That's real exciting and the Team Jeg's crew has obviously done a phenomenal job this weekend. So far we're the most consistent car and we're on top. We've had it in us, we've just been struggling the last several weeks, unfortunately. We've got the final cut for the Countdown to 1 this weekend here at Richmond, so we'll take every point we can get at this point."

This was the fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season for the two-time NHRA POWERade champ and it makes an even dozen poles for his career. With this being the fourth and final race to determine the final four drivers in each class who will compete for the two-race NHRA championship, Coughlin sits fourth in the Pro Stock points standings, 16 points behind No. 3 Allen Johnson and 18 points ahead of defending NHRA Pro Stock champ Jason Line in fifth.

"Qualifying in this day and age and being one of the quick 16 is a very tough effort with all the quality cars and teams that are out there, so qualifying days are more trying for me," Coughlin said. "Sundays I'm just a lot more relaxed and ready to get out there and race. I feel like that will be my game plan tomorrow, just to go out aggressive and have a good, clear mind, and stay focused on hitting the tree as long as I can and hitting my shift points.

"So far, this car's been phenomenal going down the racetrack. I haven't had to do a whole lot of physical steering-wheel driving, and that's the goal in drag racing, to not have to touch the steering wheel. But there's a lot of racing tomorrow. There are four rounds of racing in which any one of the guys ahead or behind us certainly can take advantage of and motor by us. We've got to come in hungry tomorrow, race smart and race aggressive, and turn on the win light. That's the bottom line."

Although he lost out on the top spot in Pro Stock qualifying, Connolly has been on a red-hot roll over the last two months and has already qualified for the Countdown to 1. The 24-year-old Ohio native will be looking for his fifth consecutive victory with wins dating back to the August race at Reading. He is tied with Pontiac driver Greg Anderson for the class lead in wins with seven.

"This run we've been on is kind of incredible," Connolly said. "We went to Maryland last week for two days (for testing), and sometimes you just get those vibes that you're going to have a good weekend. I got that feeling last week and we actually made some gains. You can go out there and test for months and months at a time a just never really find anything, but we actually felt like we made some progress with our Chevy Cobalt. It felt pretty good to hit the ground running, especially being at our sponsor's race, Torco Racing Fuels."

In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. claimed his ninth career No. 1 qualifier when he drove the Skoal Racing Chevy Impala SS to an elapsed time of 4.790 seconds at 312.06 mph. Ironically, he had an identical elapsed time to Robert Hight but was awarded the top spot on his quicker speed of 312.06 mph to Hight's 307.58. In response to Funny Car champion John Force's accident at Dallas two weeks ago, Johnson and most of his Funny Car competitors had their chassis restructured to strengthen the cockpit area for this weekend's event.

"We sent our car up there when Murf (McKinney, chassis builder) and all the engineers decided what needed to be fixed," Johnson said. "Our car was the first one to leave Murf's with all of the updates. They actually ended up making a lot of the jigs off of our car for everybody else's car. It wasn't a performance secret, so you want to share the safety stuff with everybody. We were more than happy to help everybody out.

"I was plenty nervous about the first run (Friday night) - you don't know what it's going to do, is it going to make the chassis stiffer, smoke the tires? So it was good to get a good run in and everything looks normal. If we can make the safety better and the performance the same, that's fine with me. I told Mike (crew chief Green), I don't know if it's my gut feeling, but it felt like it drove better. It almost felt like it stiffened up the cockpit area, almost like it took a little "slop" out of the car. Maybe it's a little tighter than it used to be. It almost felt like it drove a little bit better and maybe that's a side benefit. It seemed pretty responsive and so far, everything's great."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Greg Anderson , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly , Tommy Johnson Jr.