Connolly Goes to U.S. Nationals intent on clinching sixth place in Countdown to 10 final race There was a time earlier in the NHRA season when Dave Connolly says he was wondering if he really would make it into the Pro Stock top 10 in time for...
Connolly Goes to U.S. Nationals intent on clinching sixth place in Countdown to 10 final race
There was a time earlier in the NHRA season when Dave Connolly says he was wondering if he really would make it into the Pro Stock top 10 in time for the six-race playoffs.
It was a daunting challenge because he started the season five races after everyone else. And now, with the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals -- the last of the 18-race regular season -- looming at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, August 29-September 1, he's relieved to be in sixth place.
He arrives on a hot streak -- three final rounds in succession -- and whether he stays there or not will be determined on Labor Day.
It took a strong 12-race campaign in the Cagnazzi Racing Charter Communications/LifeLock Chevy Cobalt to ring up 868 points. Connolly produced two victories in six final rounds that enabled him to keep collecting valuable points. His hold on sixth place, however, is tenuous.
Mike Edwards lurks just three points behind him and V Gaines is four points in arrears.
"We have to concentrate on going to the finals again," said Connolly, "and going more rounds than Edwards and Gaines so we can keep that No. 6 position."
All points will be revised when the Countdown to 1 begins. The No. 1 driver gets a 30-point lead and opens with 2090 points. Ten points then separate the remaining nine drivers. Sixth receives 2020.
"If you'd asked me at Denver (five races ago) about our chances of making the top 10, I would have thought it would come down to this race and that it would be a nail-biter coming in," Connolly said. "But it's one of those things where we just got hot. We jumped into the top 10 by going to those three straight finals while the two guys close to us were struggling a little bit. That gave us a little breathing room and we were able to get locked into the top 10.
"We know we are going to end up sixth or no worse than eighth, but there is a 20-point difference between them when the points are readjusted for the Countdown to 1. That's one round (win) and that could be huge."
Connolly defeated Greg Anderson in last year's U.S. Nationals title round. It was his second of what would become five consecutive victories.
"We've already won this race and have been to the finals in the last two years so it gives us a good track record," added Connolly. "I know we can run well there and get the job done. It's just whether we can put four rounds together and get it done on Monday."
The Countdown to 1 format differs from last year when there was a four-race segment for eight drivers, followed by a two-race segment for the top four.
"I do like the new formula," Connolly said. "Six races are enough to make up the points that we will be down -- I think four or five rounds if we keep the sixth spot -- and you'll have a fighting chance of making up that ground.
"It's still going to be a tough, tough six races. It's going to be cutthroat, no matter how you look at it."
TWO CAGNAZZI Racing drivers have officially claimed berths in the top 10 -- Connolly and reigning series champion Jeg Coughlin, who is third with 1,129 points. The team's third driver, Ron Krisher, is close to clinching a spot. He is ninth with 794 points, 24 ahead of Greg Stanfield and 96 in front of No. 11 Warren Johnson. All Krisher needs to do to give Victor Cagnazzi's team three starters in the Countdown to 1 championship decider is qualify for the U.S. Nationals.
Connolly is planning a very busy week at Raceway Park. He's also entered in Super Comp.