Dave Connolly Optimistic about Run to Countdown to 1 As NHRA Western Swing Begins at Bandimere Speedway NHRA's traditional Western Swing gets underway in Denver this weekend with the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. By the time ...
Dave Connolly Optimistic about Run to Countdown to 1 As NHRA Western Swing Begins at Bandimere Speedway
NHRA's traditional Western Swing gets underway in Denver this weekend with the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. By the time it concludes at sea level in Sonoma, Calif., on July 27, some drivers' championship hopes will have vanished like the oxygen in the mile-high air.
Dave Connolly doesn't believe his Cagnazzi Racing Charter Communications/LifeLock Chevy Cobalt team will be one of them. He has been chasing his peers for seven races -- he started five races behind -- and has been chipping away at the margin separating him from 10th place. The difference is 54 points with six more races on the docket before the beginning of NHRA's six-race, 10-driver Countdown to 1.
Running three straight races -- Seattle (July 18-20) and Sonoma (July 25-27) follow -- always is a daunting task, but this time the nerves are likely to be ratcheted up a few more notches.
"We are ready for three races in a row," Connolly said. "This is the beginning of the Western Swing and I think it is going to be a make-or-break situation for us. We have to be on our game and try to get all the (POWERade Series) points we can so we can get into 10th place and build up a little cushion. We really need to do well."
He has done well enough to win at Bristol, Tenn., and add two runners-up (at St. Louis and Englishtown, N.J.) in his first seven events, boosting his career total to 18 wins in 32 finals.
"Denver has usually been a good track for us," added Connolly, who won at Bandimere Speedway in 2006 and was second in 2005. "It wasn't last year, but we have had that success. Even though it's not very fast track for us (due to the altitude), it is one of my favorite places to race."
Connolly won at Seattle last year and was runner-up there in 2004.
"We need to find ourselves in the winner's circle at each of the next two races or we need to make it to a couple of finals . . . that's for sure," he continued. "I'm sure everybody will be up for it.
"We didn't take our car testing in Denver last week, but Tommy (Utt crew chief on Connolly's and teammate Ron Krisher's Cobalts) went with Krisher's car. Basically, our two cars are set up identically so we should get some data. I heard they ran well in testing."
Three races in a row, says the Elyria, Ohio, native, "aren't much different than going from race to race for the drivers, but it's going to be a tougher task maintaining our motors for the guys back in the engine shop (in Mooresville, N.C.)."
This team is battled test. It's the same group that directed Connolly to eight wins -- including five consecutively -- and third place last year.
"Our scenario since we came back this year," Connolly commented, "is that we can't make very many mistakes. Unfortunately, we've made some, but we want to keep them to a minimum. We've been in pressure situations before. We want to keep our same attitude and take it one round at a time. Our main goal is to get the car figured out on the first four runs at Denver and go from there."
The first four quarter-mile laps take care of qualifying. It's up to Connolly and the crew to add four more on race day.