INDIANAPOLIS, September 3, 2007 - Pontiac driver Greg Anderson saw his four-year Pro Stock winning streak at Indy come to an end as Dave Connolly, a runner-up to Anderson here last year, drove the Torco Racing Fuels/Seelye Wright Chevy Cobalt...
INDIANAPOLIS, September 3, 2007 - Pontiac driver Greg Anderson saw his four-year Pro Stock winning streak at Indy come to an end as Dave Connolly, a runner-up to Anderson here last year, drove the Torco Racing Fuels/Seelye Wright Chevy Cobalt past Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to take the Pro Stock title at the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Connolly also defeated Anderson's teammate, defending POWERade Pro Stock champ Jason Line, in the first round en route to his first career U.S. Nationals win. The Ohio native drove his Chevy to a winning elapsed time of 6.710 seconds at 206.32 mph to edge Anderson's 6.729 e.t. at 205.79 mph for a margin of victory of .008 seconds.
"I'm kind of speechless," Connolly said. "It's the U.S. Nationals, the biggest race of the year, and I'm standing here with the trophy. It's incredible. It's bad enough to come to the U.S. Nationals, the biggest race of the season, and then add the first cut to the Countdown and all the pressure that puts on, but then we wind up with Jason Line in the first round. That's tough. Those guys have been the best in the business for the last four years. But due to Evan Knoll and Victor Cagnazzi, they've put one heck of a team together and it seems like we're starting to give them a run for their money. I'm thrilled."
Connolly defeated Jason Line in Round 1, Justin Humphreys in Round 2 and Kenny Koretsky in the Indicom Electric/Nitro Fish Chevy in the semifinals to advance to his sixth final round of the season. Connolly posted the quickest elapsed time in each of the four rounds of eliminations, giving him the all-important lane choice throughout the day. He also had the quickest time of the meet, a 6.648-second effort against Line in the first round. Kurt Johnson in the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt was Anderson's opponent in the other semifinal bracket to make it an all-GM Pro Stock semifinal round.
"(Greg's) tough no matter which lane you put him in," Connolly said. "If anybody can do it, he can. But Tommy (Utt, crew chief) did a great job with the car, we got lane choice in every round, and we were low e.t. for the round every round. We definitely wanted the left lane even though Greg won a few rounds in the right. It was still a tight race. We made pretty nice runs all day until the finals where it shook. It was tight, but at the end of the day, the (win) light came on and I went crazy from there."
Anderson saw a streak of 19 consecutive round wins at the U.S. Nationals come to an end as the three-time NHRA POWERade champ was looking for an unprecedented fifth consecutive U.S. Nationals title. The Minnesota native qualified an uncharacteristically low ninth for today's eliminations and never quite got over the performance hump. Despite his struggles, Anderson leaves Indy just 14 points in arrears of new points-leader Connolly in the Countdown to 4.
"You can't cry when you make the finals at the U.S. Nationals," Anderson said. "but this is absolutely the hardest runner-up we've ever gotten in our lives. We certainly weren't expecting to go past first round, let alone second round or third round. That just shows you this team just doesn't give up no matter how bad the odds are. That's how we've been able to be champions.
"You just have to find a way to win no matter what it takes, and somehow today we almost found a way to win but ended up eight thousandths short. I'm darn proud of the guys but disappointed I lost my winning streak here. But to be honest with you, I would've had to steal it. We just didn't have the horse this weekend and got stuck in that bad lane all day because of it. We did a great job of track management today just being able to manage that right lane. Even if you did a great job, it was still going to be a two hundredths penalty to run in that lane. In this class, with these guys and the way these cars run, it's insurmountable, to be honest with you. We almost got it done, it just wasn't quite enough."
Kenny Koretsky drove the Indicom Electric/Nitro Fish Chevy Cobalt to its third semifinal of the year by defeating Larry Morgan in Round 1 and Jim Yates in Round 2 before bowing out to eventual event-winner Connolly in the semifinals.
"It's tough when you get the right lane here," Koretsky said. "We got lucky in the first two rounds in the right lane. We got a break against Jim Yates, he broke and I got a .015 light which was good, but he would have run us down. We left the burnout chip on and that would have hurt us. We only ran it up to 8500 rpm. Against Connolly it would have been a nice run but that lane was three to four hundredths too slow. The good news is that we have two GM cars in the finals. From here we'll go to Joliet and test next Tuesday and Wednesday. We're going to try and get this chassis sorted out. We have good horsepower, it's a matter of getting the car to work a little better. We were trying some clutch and some new carburetors and some new manifolds we haven't had a chance to try yet this year."
Kurt Johnson in the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt made it a quartet of GM cars in the Pro Stock semis, and he jumped from sixth to fourth in the points standing with three races remaining in the Countdown to 4.
"We certainly had our share of challenges today," Johnson said. "We burned a pushrod in the first round and dropped a valve in the second round, but still made it to the semifinals, so I guess you could say it was my lucky day. We did lose lane choice going into the semis, and that was probably a major factor in determining the outcome. Even though I put a thousandth on him in the last eighth mile, we didn't have the surface to get hooked up to in the first eighth, and that's where the race was won.
"Looking back at our weekend, our ACDelco Cobalt was exceptional in the first four qualifying sessions, and even though we had our issues with that right lane last night in the final session, it actually helped us make a decent run there in the semifinals. Still, anytime you can go from sixth to fourth in the points, and only be a point out of third, you've had a good day. We made some changes, and the car was better, so I think we're going to be good the rest of the year."
In Funny Car, Team Chevy advanced two cars to the semifinals with Tony Pedregon in the Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS and Del Worsham in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Impala SS. Pedregon qualified No. 8 for eliminations and defeated Jerry Toliver in Round 1 and Jon Capps in Round 2 before losing to Robert Hight in his semifinal match-up. Hight drove his Ford to an elapsed time of 5.002 seconds at 307.23 mph to Pedregon's 6.376 e.t. at 179.85 mph. On the other side of the bracket, Worsham qualified his Chevy seventh on the grid and defeated Gary Scelzi in Round 1, Ashley Force in Round 2 before losing to eventual event-winner Mike Ashley in the semis. Ashley drove his Dodge to an elapsed time of 4.961 seconds at 319.90 mph to get the better of Worsham's 6.526 e.t. at 169.68 mph.
"When it gets as hot as it was today, you start to worry about lane choice really being a big issue, and it finally got to that point after the first round today," Worsham said. "We lost in the semi-finals, but the truth is we were pretty much toast after the first round, although it was through no fault of our own. We ran great in the first round, one of our best laps of the year, but Ashley Force was our second-round opponent and she laid down an incredible number in her first-round race. That put us over in the right lane, and even though we were able to pedal through the second round, we were stuck back over there again in the semi.
"We had a great weekend here, pretty much the whole way. We got deep into the field in the first (qualifying) session, our blue car qualified No. 1, and we made some great laps, including the one against Scelzi in Round 1. I know a lot of teams that would trade weekends with us right now, but once you get to the semifinal you really start thinking of winning the race. Hey, we'll move on to Memphis and try to win there. I wish we would have found this performance a little earlier in the year, but we have it now and we're going to do everything we can to keep winning rounds."
There was a familiar sight to the Top Fuel finals as Team Chevy's Larry Dixon in the Don Prudhomme Racing SkyTel dragster and defending U.S. Nationals champ Tony Schumacher met for the third time in the last six years. Today's match-up was the rubber match as Dixon finished runner-up to Schumacher in 2002 but returned the favor in 2005 to capture his third career U.S. Nationals title. Schumacher won his sixth U.S. Nationals title today with a winning elapsed time of 4.575 seconds at 331.94 mph to Dixon's 4.748 e.t. at 268.44 mph.
Frank Manzo from Morganville, N.J., won an incredible ninth U.S. Nationals title in Top Alcohol Funny Car by defeating Bob Tasca III in his '05 Chevy Monte Carlo with an elapsed time of 5.517 seconds at 261.52 mph to better Tasca's 5.643 e.t. at 258.91 mph. It was the second consecutive event the pair had faced off in the final round as Manzo recorded his 70th national-event win by defeating Tasca in the rain-delayed Reading event two weeks ago. Manzo's ninth Indy title ties him with Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden for the most all-time U.S. Nationals wins.
"We were very fortunate to pull it out there in the final," Manzo said. "I mean, Tasca ran a little better than us, but we kept getting better every round. We got some breaks and got to the final. We'd been going one way with the Lucas Oil Chevrolet all day and every time we made a move, which is the way you should go when the track gets greasier, but the car wasn't responding so we went back the other way. In the final we made a really good guess and the car made a beautiful run.
"This is the U.S. Nationals and even to get to the finals here is unbelievable. Some of the best cars in the country come to this race. You're here for four days and you get to try your car and see what it will day. The weather also kept changing and made it a little harder. We were fortunate but this is unbelievable."
Other Sportsman class winners included Brandon Wilkinson from Bowling Green, Ky., won Super Stock in a '69 Corvette and Peter Biondo from Maspeth, N.Y., drove a '69 Camaro to the Stock Eliminator winner's circle.
"I've won this race a few times now and it never gets old," Biondo said. "This is the best race out there. It's a long race, with the best of the best, everyone meeting in the middle of the country and it makes it an even better pat on the back when you can win."
-credit: gm racing