Bristol: Dave Connolly preview

Dave Connolly Will Drive Cavalier, Not Cobalt, at Bristol Race Rain-shortened Test Session Not Long Enough to Prepare New Race Car BRISTOL, Tenn. - It rained at Rockingham (N.C.) Dragway Tuesday. Now that bit of meteorological news may not...

Dave Connolly Will Drive Cavalier, Not Cobalt, at Bristol Race
Rain-shortened Test Session Not Long Enough to Prepare New Race Car

BRISTOL, Tenn. - It rained at Rockingham (N.C.) Dragway Tuesday. Now that bit of meteorological news may not have had an impact on many of the 300 million U.S. residents, but it certainly did affect some, including one NHRA Pro Stock team.

"We weren't able to finish testing our new (Chevrolet) Cobalt because it rained," said Terry Adams, crew chief of the Dave Connolly-driven, Mike Dzurilla-owned Bullet Motorsports team. "We just ran out of time. We needed to make a few more runs before we felt we'd be comfortable racing it this weekend."

What that means is Connolly, a two-time POWERade Series winner already this year and the current point leader, will be driving the tried-and-true Chevrolet Cavalier instead when the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday at Bristol Dragway.

"We had some problems with the steering on Monday, and we fixed that," Connolly said. "The car steered good going down the track on our only run -- in the drizzle -- Tuesday, but we weren't comfortable with the car. We could've gone there with the Cobalt, but we have a lot riding on this race and we can't afford to give up anything. If we'd been able to make just two more runs, we probably would've taken it to Bristol."

The decision makes good sense. Only nine points separate Connolly and runner-up Warren Johnson (428-419) while Greg Anderson is third (33) and Jason Line fourth (326) after five of 23 races.

Adams and Connolly admit to being a bit relieved.

"It's not a bad thing to be able to fall back on such a great car," said Connolly about the Cavalier he's steered to all five career wins in 11 finals. "It definitely won't hurt my feelings. We'll just hold off for another race."

"We'll have a couple weeks after the Bristol race to get the Cobalt ready for Atlanta (May 15)," said Adams. "Fred Simmonds of GM was kind enough to give us his blessings to run the Cavalier again."

Connolly's winning performance at Las Vegas (April 17) was impressive. Adams and engine builder extraordinaire Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins had the Cavalier chassis and engine dialed in. Connolly had the quickest elapsed times on each elimination run (he tied with Johnson in the second round at 6.874 seconds) and simply ran away from two-time defending series champion Anderson (6.897 seconds at 201.46 mph to 6.955 at 200.77 mph) in the title round.

"I'm sure we'll be in the Cobalt after Bristol," said Connolly, who is pleased to be the point leader, albeit by a slim margin.

"I definitely feel better about being on top instead of being 10th, or anything like that," he continued. "But this is a long season and we aren't even close to the halfway point yet. There are a lot of different things that could happen. No one is running away with the lead and there are still a lot of teams waiting to break through.

"It is a good feeling being on top, with the engine program where it is and knowing we have a lot more left with the Cobalt coming out. We think the Cobalt will be faster than the Cavalier, which will give us a lot of promise going into Atlanta."

The obvious goal is to transform that promise into success.

-bms-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Terry Adams , Jason Line , Dave Connolly