Dave Connolly Defeats Kurt Johnson in All-Chevy Cobalt Final at Heartland Park Topeka Becomes First Repeat Winner in NHRA Pro Stock This Season TOPEKA, Kan., May 28, 2006 - Team Chevy's Dave Connolly captured his second Pro Stock victory of ...
Dave Connolly Defeats Kurt Johnson in All-Chevy Cobalt Final at Heartland
Becomes First Repeat Winner in NHRA Pro Stock This Season
TOPEKA, Kan., May 28, 2006 - Team Chevy's Dave Connolly captured his second Pro Stock victory of the season today at the 18th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka by defeating Kurt Johnson in an all-Cobalt final. Temperatures in the mid-90s, wind speeds which at times gusted to above 30 mph, and track surface temps approaching 120 degrees were just some of the extreme late-spring conditions that competitors encountered during Sunday's final eliminator, but the 23-year-old Connolly persevered to become the first repeat winner in the factory hot rod category this season. It was also Chevrolet's third victory this year in NHRA Pro Stock competition and the red bowtie's 130th all-time win in the category.
Connolly entered the Sunday eliminator starting from the No. 3 position, his best qualifying effort this season. The Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt driver defeated Ron Krisher in round one with a 6.827 e.t. at 201.70 mph, Rickie Smith in round two with a 6.839 second run at 201.22 mph and V. Gaines on a holeshot in round three with a 6.845 e.t. at 201.22 mph. In the finals against the ACDelco Chevrolet of Kurt Johnson, Connolly's Cobalt launched first with a .020 reaction and used the entire quarter-mile to hold off Johnson's hard-charging Chevrolet, crossing the finish line first with a holeshot winning 6.844 second elapsed time at 201.34 mph. Johnson followed with a 6.836 second time at 201.70 mph. The margin of victory for Connolly was .034 of a second or approximately 13 feet.
"Overall, it was a great day for GM and Team Chevy," said Connolly. "We had two Chevy Cobalts in the final, and it was awesome. Our Chevrolet was an outstanding racecar all day - it saved my butt in round one against Ron (Krisher), and I got a couple back for the guys in the semis and in the finals. That's the kind of teamwork it takes to win. I owe it all to Evan Knoll and the whole Torco Fuels race team, and Victor Cagnazzi's guys did a great job with the engine program.
"With the way we qualified, and with the way this Chevy Cobalt ran on Friday and Saturday, I liked our chances coming into today. Tommy Utt has been great and he has this car set on mean right now, but it was great to see two Cobalts running again in the finals. The nice thing is that we didn't struggle our way up the ladder. We seemed to have a handle on things from the get-go on Friday, and that allowed us to work on some things to get the car ready for today. To come out in qualifying and run consistently in the top three, four, five cars every time out, that carried over to Sunday when we were able to keep up the pace. The team continued to make the proper adjustments with the hot weather and changing conditions, and it paid off."
In addition to his second win of 2006, it was also Dave Connolly's third final-round appearance this year, and the second time this season that he had faced Kurt Johnson in the championship round (Las Vegas), this time with Connolly getting the better of the ACDelco Chevrolet driver. Connolly also claimed his seventh career victory as an NHRA Pro Stock competitor and advanced to his 16th career final-round appearance (his second in a row at Heartland Park Topeka). Even with a disappointing DNQ last month at Bristol (Tenn.), the Ohio native has used the month of May to battle all the way to fifth place in the POWERade points standings, just 124 points behind first-place Greg Anderson, and once again, a solid contender for the 2006 NHRA Pro Stock championship.
"Right now we're right back in the thick of things, and four races ago I couldn't have said that," said Connolly. "It's great, but it's even better to have the high caliber of people working on this racecar, and it's great to be associated with them. There are still a lot of races left and hopefully we can continue on the pace we've been on for the past few weeks. We'll take it week by week and see where we end up in November. We picked up a couple of rounds on a lot of guys, broke into the top five of the standings for the first time this year, and that's all you can ask for right now."
Three competitors in GM-branded cars advanced to the semifinal round of the Pro Stock eliminator. Team Chevy's Dave Connolly and Kurt Johnson both earned holeshot victories in round three with Connolly taking out V. Gaines by .014 of a second, and KJ beating the Pontiac GTO of Greg Anderson by an even slimmer margin of .005 of a second.
In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon drove a Chevy Monte Carlo to the semifinal round before losing to former teammate John Force. Heading into this event, Pedregon was coming off a two-race win streak at Atlanta and Columbus, and ran his consecutive round-win streak to 10 before bowing out in today's round three match-up.
GM-branded cars also dominated the NHRA Lucas Oil Series this weekend winning in the six Sportsman categories in which they competed. In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Steve Gasparrelli of West Covina, Calif., defeated Jackie Stidham in an all Chevy Monte Carlo final round. Gasparrelli drove his Chevrolet to a winning 5.763 e.t. at 246.12 mph to Stidham's 6.199 second run at 239.19 mph.
In Competition eliminator, Todd Patterson of nearby Augusta, Kan., drove a 2006 Chevy Cobalt to a final-round win over the Chevy Cavalier of Lou Ficco, Jr. Super Stock was won by the Pontiac Grand Am of Indianapolis' Scott Stillings, Jim Hughes won Stock eliminator in a Chevy Nova and Chuck Lowry won Super Street in a Camaro.
The next stop on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour is the CarQuest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on June 8 - 11 at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill.