Dave Connolly, Bullet Motorsports Team Working to Extend Pro Stock Lead Ohio Driver's Win, Runner-up Finishes Provide Early 2005 Advantage BAYTOWN, Texas, April 4, 2005 - He's 22 and having the time of his life, doing just what he's always ...
Dave Connolly, Bullet Motorsports Team Working to Extend Pro Stock Lead
Ohio Driver's Win, Runner-up Finishes Provide Early 2005 Advantage
BAYTOWN, Texas, April 4, 2005 - He's 22 and having the time of his life, doing just what he's always wanted to do.
There isn't a better place for Dave Connolly to be these days, which happens to be at the top of the NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock standings. What else could be cooler? Being in the same position November 7 and accepting plaudits as the youngest NHRA Pro Stock champion will do.
To do so will take a passel of performances like he's already turned in driving Mike Dzurilla's Bullet Motorsports Chevy Cavalier. Over the long haul -- there are 20 races remaining before trophies and prize money are distributed -- it's going to take the kind of consistency the team has used in the first three events.
Connolly's victory at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. (Feb. 13) raised a few eyebrows, but it was no stunner. That was his fourth trip to the winner's circle in what is now a 39-race career, and growing. Add to that his recent runner-up at Gainesville, Fla. (March 20) and it boosts his total to nine title round appearances.
He was third in the 2004 title chase, using six final-round appearances in the last 10 races to solidify the position. Included in the charge were his first three wins, two coming over champion Greg Anderson in finals at Brainerd, Minn., and Chicago, and the third over Bruce Allen at Dallas. Anderson, meanwhile, won a record 15 times in 19 finals and was accorded Driver of the Year honors for the feat.
Only four Pro Stock drivers stepped into the winner's circle a year ago, putting Connolly in even more select company.
"We finally got our feet wet last year and got into the winner's circle a few times," said Connolly, who will be attempting to lengthen his advantage in the O'Reilly Spring Nationals, April 8-10, at Houston Raceway Park. "We got over our first-time jitters. There were times when I screwed up driving last year. The more mistakes you make, I think, the more you learn. I try and learn from my mistakes and not make the same ones again.
"Obviously the win at Pomona gave the whole team a big boost. We made a bad lane choice in Phoenix that cost us a round win, but we bounced right back at Gainesville (Fla., March 20), by finishing second. We failed to qualify there in 2003. It was nice to come back and redeem ourselves there."
Connolly, with 243 points, has a tenuous lead over Warren Johnson (223) and Jim Yates (202), but he has confidence in the ride veteran crew chief Terry Adams and legendary engine builder Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins have given him.
"It's a really good feeling to be able to get a jump in points this early in the season," Connolly said. "This is going to be one of those years where there are going to be a lot winners. I think it's going to be a battle to the end, and our team is capable and ready to go for the long haul. This year is all about winning the championship. That's the goal of the whole team.
"Terry's experience has really helped us. We found a few problems in the car that were corrected during the winter test session. He has the car dialed in and it's running flawlessly now. Grump continues to find more horsepower. That's never been an issue."
Connolly's driving skills, already excellent, continue to improve. He had a .006 reaction time against Jason Line in the Gainesville title run but couldn't hold off Line's better elapsed time.
Connolly's aspirations for the Spring Nationals are simple. "We want to go out and make four good qualifying runs, keep lane choice on Sunday - which is getting to be pretty important at a lot of these tracks - and go as many rounds as we can."
There may not be much down time for Connolly during the race weekend. In addition to his Pro Stock duties, Connolly also drives a NHRA Sportsman series super comp dragster that is part of Dzurilla's five-car Bullet Motorsports team.
"I started with Bullet when I was 17," he said. "I had my own car when we first got together, but the next year we had three Super Comp dragsters and two Super Gas Corvette roadsters. I drove one of the roadsters and won the (NHRA) Division 3 championship. The race at Gainesville was the first for my new super comp dragster.
"I still have a lot of time during the races and I love to race in Super Comp. That's where I grew up racing, and that's what I love doing. It's still a lot of fun and I think it keeps the driver sharp. Plus it helps me learn the different tracks we race on. I'm able to get more of a feel track conditions."
Given his early achievements, Connolly wouldn't mind if it's his recipe for future success.