Baytown: Dave Connolly

Connolly Earns Semifinal Finish in Gritty Performance at Houston BAYTOWN, Texas - He didn't have the quickest car during the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, but Dave Connolly still managed to tough it out, driving into the ...

Connolly Earns Semifinal Finish in Gritty Performance at Houston

BAYTOWN, Texas - He didn't have the quickest car during the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, but Dave Connolly still managed to tough it out, driving into the semifinals Sunday.

Connolly, who entered the fourth of 23 NHRA POWERade Series races holding a slim point lead over Warren Johnson, lost to Johnson in the semis, and Johnson went on to win the event. The result lifted Johnson into first place with 341 points and Connolly is now second at 315.

Track conditions that were much different from any Mike Dzurilla's Bullet Motorsports team had seen all season and mechanical gremlins caused the Chevrolet Cavalier to run slower. Connolly, of Elyria, Ohio, didn't qualify in the top eight for the first time in 2005, settling for 12th, but, as things turned out, it didn't matter.

"It was great to get to the semifinals considering how we struggled during qualifying," said Connolly, 22. "We didn't make a good run in qualifying. All-in-all, it was a good weekend."

Connolly's quick starting line reaction time (.023 to .044 of a second) brought a win over No. 6 qualifier Mike Edwards in the opening round - 6.775 seconds at 203.95 mph to 6.765 at 203.74 mph -- and he followed with a win over Alan Johnson (6.768 at 203.46 to 6.805 at 202.15).

It was Warren Johnson -- beaten by Connolly in the finals at Pomona, Calif., in February and again in the semifinals at Gainesville, Fla., this year -- who gained a measure of revenge this time. Once again, Connolly left the starting line first, but this time Johnson caught him, 6.708 at 205.04 to 6.748 at 203.73.

"I messed up at the starting line and didn't get the jump I wanted at the line," Connolly lamented. "For as good as he is running, he was there for the taking today. We could only hold him off so long"

With 19 races still on the docket, one message Connolly and the gang from Bullet Racing have sent is they plan to play a major role in this championship chase.

They return to action Friday in the Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards