Seattle: Round 14 preview

CONNOLLY PERSEVERES THROUGH TUMULTUOUS SEASON 22-YEAR OLD PRO STOCKER PRIMED FOR A SECOND-HALF RUN AFTER OVERCOMING ADVERSITY IN SEASON'S FIRST 12 RACES SEATTLE -- Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly summed up his 2005 season best when he said ...

CONNOLLY PERSEVERES THROUGH TUMULTUOUS SEASON

22-YEAR OLD PRO STOCKER PRIMED FOR A SECOND-HALF RUN AFTER OVERCOMING ADVERSITY IN SEASON'S FIRST 12 RACES

SEATTLE -- Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly summed up his 2005 season best when he said simply: "It's been quite a crazy year."

Connolly opened the 2005 season with a win at the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals and he backed that up with a runner-up finish at the season's fourth event (O'Reilly Spring Nationals) and a win at the fifth event (SummitRacing.com Nationals).

After the SummitRacing.com Nationals, Connolly led the POWERade Series point standings for the third week in 2005.

"The beginning of the year, we looked pretty steady," Connolly said. "We went to the Pro Stock Superbowl in Houston (and) we won that. It looked promising. We went to the finals in Houston, won Las Vegas (and took over the lead in the Pro Stock standings) ..."

"And then we went to Columbus and we lost our sponsorship. We were left high and dry," Connolly said.

The dream season for the 22-year old racer from Elyria, Ohio had turned into a nightmare.

Fortunately for Connolly, Carrier Boyz Racing stepped in with a one-week life support sponsorship to keep him on the track at Topeka and then Torco Gear took the baton and signed Connolly for the balance of the 2005 season.

"It definitely helps (your psyche) a lot," Connolly said of the security of the sponsorship with Torco Gear. "As a driver, and for the crew, it makes it a lot easier to get in the car when you know you have a ride the next weekend."

Connolly has already got off to a good start on the Western Swing, posting a runner-up finish at Denver. The second leg of the grueling trio of races is the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, July 22-24, just outside Seattle. It is the 14th of 23 events on the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series. With the final round appearance in Denver, Connolly enters the event in fourth place. He has 899 points; Warren Johnson leads the Pro Stock class with 1,030 points, Greg Anderson is second with 999 and Jason Line is third with 962.

"Oh definitely," said Connolly when asked if he could once again threaten for the championship by season's end. "It's just midseason. As tough as it is to get seven rounds on Greg, we can do it if we can get the horsepower back where it needs to be."

Connolly was the runner-up to Anderson in Seattle in 2004 and both should be in the mix again in 2005. Throw in Anderson's teammate, Jason Line, along with Kurt and Warren Johnson and from among that group of five you will almost certainly have your Pro Stock champion come Sunday, July 24.

"Everyone has their ups and downs," Connolly said. "But we'll get it back together."

The defending champion at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Funny Car is also the all-time winningest driver at Pacific Raceways, John Force. Gary Scelzi has had a steady 2005 with three No. 1 qualifiers (Las Vegas 1, Atlanta and St. Louis) and two wins (Bristol, Chicago) and his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus will certainly be a car to watch along with the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang of Force. Rookie driver Robert Hight, who claimed his second win of the season at Denver, also took over the series points lead for the first time in his career.

In Top Fuel, it was defending POWERade Series champion Tony Schumacher who reigned supreme in 2004. He holds a 20-point lead over Doug Kalitta entering the event at Pacific Raceways this season. Other Top Fuel drivers to watch include Larry Dixon (Miller Lite dragster), Dave Grubnic (Zantrex-3 dragster) and the young guns, Morgan Lucas (Lucas Oil dragster) and Brandon Bernstein (Budweiser dragster).

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Brandon Bernstein , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly