Dallas: GM Racing final report

DALLAS, Sept. 23, 2007 -Team Chevy's Dave Connolly captured his fourth straight national-event win and his seventh victory of the season today by defeating Greg Anderson in an all-GM final round at the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at...

DALLAS, Sept. 23, 2007 -Team Chevy's Dave Connolly captured his fourth straight national-event win and his seventh victory of the season today by defeating Greg Anderson in an all-GM final round at the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. It was the third straight race and the fourth time this season that the two drivers at the top of the POWERade standings had faced each other in the Pro Stock final round, with current points leader Connolly taking his third consecutive win over the three-time POWERade champion.

"The driver was a little off his game today," said Connolly. "I'm a little under the weather and I didn't leave on anybody all day. This win is due to the great team we have that Victor (Cagnazzi) has put together, Tommy Utt, all the guys, they're the ones that got me to the finals, and everything was solid on my Chevrolet."

Connolly entered Sunday eliminations with his Torco Racing Fuels Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 2 position. He defeated Craig Hankinson in round one running 6.676 seconds at 206.51 mph, Max Naylor in round two with a 6.683 e.t. at 206.23 mph and Jason Line in the semifinals with a 6.708 second run at 206.10 mph. In the finals, NHRA Chief Starter Rick Stewart told Anderson to shut off his car when it began leaking fluid on the burnout. That gave Connolly a free pass and he coasted to a winning 8.553 second run at 112.17 mph.

"We were actually ready to do battle in our Chevy Cobalt," said Connolly. "Greg was having some problems over in the other lane and I don't know exactly what it was but he was leaking fluid. Either way, the whole team did an excellent job getting us through the first three rounds. They did their part - we were low for the round in the first two sessions and even in the semifinals we had to outrun Jason (Line) because he strapped it on us.

"Things are clicking for us. When things are going your way, it's good and we're going to ride this wave for as long as we can. Drag racing is definitely a humbling sport and you never know when it's going to change. It wasn't the way we wanted to win but we'll take it. I don't think Evan Knoll and Latrell Preston care how we got the win as long as the scoreboard light was blinking on our side."

It was the 16th career Pro Stock victory for the 24-year-old Ohio native, his second win at the Texas Motorplex, and he becomes the first Pro Stock driver since Greg Anderson in 2004 to win four straight races. With his round-one win over Hankinson, Connolly also becomes the first Pro Stock driver to clinch a spot in the final phase of the Countdown to the Championship.

"This year all together has been remarkable," said Connolly. "I've never won back-to-back races before let alone four in a row, and seven is a personal best for me in one season. But you know, two weeks in Richmond is our sponsor's race and we want to go out with a big bang there and maybe sweep this section of the Countdown. After that, it's game on again. With the Countdown to the Championship everything gets changed over again and the spread between Greg and myself will only be 10 points again. Our goal now is to keep my teammate Jeg Coughlin in the Countdown, but we have to do our homework and get his Chevy Cobalt running a little bit better."

Greg Anderson made it to his 11th final-round appearance of the season out of the No. 1 qualifying spot, the 11th time this year that the Summit Racing Pontiac driver had earned top qualifying honors. Before losing to Connolly in the finals, Anderson defeated Ken Koretsky in round one with a 6.678 e.t. at 206.54 mph, Larry Morgan in round two with a 6.691 e.t. at 206.51 mph and Allen Johnson in round three with a 6.689 second run at 206.48 mph. It was Anderson's 75th career final round appearance, his third at the Texas Motorplex and the fifth time in the last six races that he has advanced to the title round.

"I said before you can't make a mistake in the Countdown," said Anderson. "When you do you're going to lose, especially against a guy that has a hot hand like (Dave) Connolly. The only saving grace of this mistake is that we've already clinched a position in the final segment that runs for the championship. We'll wipe the slate clean when we get to Vegas and start over. In those final two races of the Countdown you can't make a mistake or it's over."

The Funny Car category had two Chevy Impalas advance to the final round with brothers Tony and Cruz Pedregon battling for the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals championship. It was Tony who was able to come away with his third win of the season by posting a 5.0101 e.t. at 254.86 mph to Cruz's 6.882 second run at 131.31 mph. It moved the Q Racing Chevy Impala driver into first place in the POWERade standings with one contest remaining before the final two-race phase of the Countdown to the Championship.

"Things fell into place for us today," said Pedregon. "It was a tough weekend but I feel like we earned it. It's great to race Cruz in the finals. I'm happy for him. I'm glad that their car is a player. It came a little late but I know that sometimes you have to go through these things because the long term is really what we're looking for. The relationship with Rahn (Tobler) and Dickie, it was there and I knew these guys would compliment each other. I was happy to win, but if Cruz would have beat me, I would have been just as happy."

Team's Chevy Larry Dixon added to the red bowtie's Sunday parade of winner's by capturing his third victory of the season, and it too moved the Avon, Ind., resident into first place in the NHRA POWERade standings. Dixon defeated Bob Vandergriff in the final round with a 4.629 e.t. at 310.91 mph to Vandergriff's 5.426 second run at 307.72 mph. It was Dixon's 41st career win and his second at the Texas Motorplex.

"After qualifying I didn't know what our chances were," said Dixon. "I was just hoping to get by first round. We didn't make any good runs during the day. The only run we made where we got down the track was the night one. Donnie Bender and Todd Smith and everybody on the team stayed out here late last night just going through everything trying to figure out why the car's not going down the racetrack during the day. Donnie told me they had it figured out and to be ready. We did and we had some trouble during the day, but the people we were racing, when we needed it, had more trouble. We had a good first-round matchup and things seemed to go our way from there.

"The points lead is a fringe benefit of the win. I'm looking at the points spread between myself and fifth place and to me that's the only thing that matters. Whether I'm in fourth place or not doesn't matter. You want to be in the top four going into Las Vegas. Hopefully that should solidify ourselves to be able to be in that. That's the most important part."

Red Bull Chevy Cobalt driver Gary Gardella rolled to his third straight national-event victory by defeating Jason Hunt in the finals. In doing so Gardella posted the fastest speed ever by a Pro FWD car in quarter-mile competition at 209.59 mph, and the win moved the New Jersey resident to within a round of first-place in NHRA Xplod standings.

"What a race," said Gardella. "I've had good rhythm against Jason since we've been racing each other a lot recently, and he probably wanted to throw me a little curve by making me stage first. I hung in there, I was watching my water temperature, I wiped the sweat off my brow, and my foot started shaking a little bit, but once we got out, he out 60-footed us. Toward the middle of the track the car started driving hard toward the centerline. I hung onto it, brought it right back in the groove and got the win light.

"The run was awesome - straight as an arrow. No complications at all. The Red Bull Chevy Cobalt was pulling all the way through the run, it drove right through the chutes, everything was good. That's three in a row for us. That's pretty special and puts us one round out of first place. It's been a heck of a second half to the season for us and I'm really proud of the way my guys have rallied."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Cruz Pedregon , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Bob Vandergriff , Max Naylor , Dave Connolly , Craig Hankinson , Todd Smith