Denver: GM Racing final summary

Team Chevy's Dave Connolly Defeats Jason Line in All-GM Pro Stock Final Pontiac's Line Moves to First Place in the Standings, Connolly Closes in on the Leaders DENVER, Colo., July 16, 2006 Dave Connolly became the first three-time winner this...

Team Chevy's Dave Connolly Defeats Jason Line in All-GM Pro Stock Final

Pontiac's Line Moves to First Place in the Standings, Connolly Closes in on the Leaders

DENVER, Colo., July 16, 2006 Dave Connolly became the first three-time winner this year in the NHRA Pro Stock category after driving his Chevy Cobalt to a final-round, holeshot victory over the Pontiac GTO of Jason Line. It was the first career win at Bandimere Speedway for Connolly, and the second straight year that the Ohio native has driven his Chevrolet to a final-round appearance at this venue. It was also the fifth victory for the Cobalt in NHRA Pro Stock competition this year, and Chevrolet's 132nd all-time win in the factory hot rod category.

"We're on a little bit of a high right now," said Connolly. "Since Tommy Utt (crew chief) came aboard at Atlanta, this Chevy Cobalt has been a tremendous racecar and we've been to four finals and gotten three wins. We kind of had a wacky start to the season and it's kind of funny that now we find ourselves right in the thick of the points chase."

Connolly entered the Sunday eliminator with his Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 3 position. He defeated Max Naylor in round one with a 7.132 e.t. at 194.13 mph, V. Gaines in round two with a 7.144 e.t. at 193.82 mph, and Greg Stanfield in round three with a 7.150 e.t. at 193.88 mph. In the finals against Line's Pontiac, Connolly's Cobalt launched first with a .008 reaction time and held off the hard-charging GTO to take the win, crossing the finish line with a winning 7.173 e.t. at 193.07 mph. Line crossed the stripe with a quicker 7.141 second run at 194.13 mph, but with the slower starting-line reaction time, lost the race to Connolly by .053 of a second.

"I guess I saved my best light for the finals," said Connolly. "It takes a team effort, me relying on the racecar when we need it, and then giving one back at the starting line when that's what is needed. Sometimes the team saves me and sometimes I get it back for them. We spend so much time preparing for the Mile-High Nationals, coming here two weeks in advance to test, and the team works hard in 100-degree weather, it's good to pay them back with a holeshot win in the finals."

With his eighth career victory, Connolly remains third in the Pro Stock standings, but moves to within 51 points of first-place Jason Line, and to within 29 points of second-place Greg Anderson.

"It's a horse race now for the championship but we kind of knew that coming in here," said Connolly. "We knew these three races would be pretty critical. We got the hard part done, we got our win and now we just need to keep going rounds - keep after it. But Greg (Anderson) and Jason (Line) aren't letting up either. They had the two fastest cars out here this weekend so you know they'll be ready next week in Seattle."

Today's Mile-High Nationals was the first event of the second half of the season, and for the first time this year, there is a new leader in Pro Stock. With his third final-round appearance of 2006, Pontiac's Jason Line now sits atop the standings with a 22-point advantage over teammate and three-time champion Greg Anderson.

"All in all, it could have been worse," said Line. "We came up to the Mountain where it's easy to struggle and the Summit Racing Pontiac ran really good, actually. We came up a little bit short - that's all."

In addition to his runner-up finish, Line's Pontiac GTO was No. 1 qualifier, ran low e.t. (7.062 seconds) and set top speed (195.65 mph) of the meet.

"Personally, it's the best start to the Western Swing that I've ever had," said Line. "So to head off to the second event of this set of races with a runner-up is certainly not a bad start. I just need to do a better job of driving."

Four drivers in GM-branded cars advanced to the semifinal round of eliminations including three Pontiac GTOs and a Chevy Cobalt. Greg Anderson (GTO) defeated Tommy Lee in round one and Ron Krisher in round two before losing to teammate Jason Line (GTO). It is the first time this season that Anderson has not been in first place after a national event.

"We're learning a new racecar, and from that standpoint we got some things done," said Anderson. "But we didn't win the race, and I did a poor job of driving and that has to be fixed. I have to find a way to relax and stop worrying about it. Jason (Line) did a better job that time, his Summit Racing Pontiac made a better run, and he went to the finals. We made a good run in round two but didn't get it done in the semifinals. There's no excuse for that and there's no excuse for a .101 light. You can't have a slip of any kind in this class, and we had both driver and car not getting it done."

Greg Stanfield (GTO) had one of his best performances since a runner-up in Atlanta in May, and defeated Allen Johnson in round one and Jim Yates in round two before losing to Dave Connolly in round three.

"We've struggled for about four or five races and the bottom line is that today we had a good day," said Stanfield. "We came up to Denver where it's always tough to race and we went to the semifinals. We came up .005 short to Connolly so that's not too bad. We just need to keep it going and we also need to qualify better. We feel we'll be okay in Seattle. We're still down a little bit on horsepower to some of those guys and we don't have any R & D guys working on our engines when we're gone so we wont be able to do any additional engine work until after Sonoma. That's okay, we'll keep doing what we can and maybe we can go a few more rounds in Seattle and Sonoma."

In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon advanced to his second final round of the season in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet before losing to Gary Scelzi. Pedregon made his way to the championship heat from the No. 16 qualifying spot, and by defeating Gary Densham in round one, Tony Pedregon in round two and Bob Gilbertson in round three. It was Pedregon's 51st career final round and his fourth at Bandimere Speedway.

In addition to Cruz Pedregon's final-round appearance in a Chevy Monte Carlo, Tommy Johnson Jr. advanced to the semifinals in the Skoal Racing Chevrolet. Johnson qualified in the No. 3 spot and defeated Mike Ashley in round one and Eric Medlen in round two before losing to Gary Scelzi.

"We had a real good weekend," said Johnson. "This place is so tough, probably the toughest on the tour to get these cars to run, and to come out and have a good weekend like we did is a great way to kick-off the swing. Everything is such a gamble with these drastic conditions, so to come out and qualify No. 3, and go to the semis - no complaints at all. It was a nice way to debut this new look Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo.

"Three races in-a-row is hard on everybody and then especially with Denver being one of the toughest races on the tour, to come out here with a semifinal finish, with practically no parts damage, it's real easy to blow them out here and hurt a lot of parts. We hurt a couple of little things but nothing major at all, so the guys are really pleased. I think that will give us momentum going into these next two events."

In the Sportsman categories, Ryan McClanahan of Alta Loma, Calif., won Stock eliminator in a Pontiac Firebird, and in Super Gas, Duane Kohl of Lincoln, Neb., won in a Chevrolet Corvette.

The next stop on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour is the Schuck's NHRA Nationals on July 21 - 23 at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.

-gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Tony Pedregon , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Gary Densham , Tommy Lee , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Mike Ashley , Eric Medlen , Max Naylor , Dave Connolly , Ryan McClanahan , Tommy Johnson Jr.