Las Vegas II: Dave Connolly preview

Dave Connolly looks to extend winning ways at Las Vegas; Call Dave Connolly the Comeback Kid. He's accomplished more in 17 races than all but two other POWERade Series Pro Stock drivers have in 22 as the 2008 season reaches its penultimate...

Dave Connolly looks to extend winning ways at Las Vegas; Call Dave Connolly the Comeback Kid.

He's accomplished more in 17 races than all but two other POWERade Series Pro Stock drivers have in 22 as the 2008 season reaches its penultimate stop at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

Connolly -- with an assist from NHRA's Countdown to the Championship format -- goes into the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals still in title contention, albeit 77 points behind Jeg Coughlin, the pacesetter, defending champ and his Cagnazzi Racing teammate. Connolly, who placed third in three of his four Pro Stock campaigns, is three points behind runner-up Kurt Johnson.

The Elyria, Ohio, native also is the most-recent tour winner following his final-round decision over Coughlin three weeks ago in Richmond, Va. He is, however, short on opportunities to overhaul the leader. Eight elimination rounds remain (the finale is at Pomona, Calif., Nov. 16) and Connolly trails by four.

"In reality, for not starting the season at the first of the year and now being in third place is a remarkable comeback for us," Connolly said. "But right now that championship is still within reach and that's what our focus is. This is definitely a do-or-die situation, but I'm not complaining.

"There's no way we could've caught anybody if it wasn't for the Countdown to the Championship. I wasn't a big fan of it last year. I was pretty outspoken about it and it wound up biting us. The two races (in the 2007 finals format) weren't enough for drag racing.

"We have to be on our game every thousandths of a second at the starting line," continued Connolly, who will be driving the red and white Lucas Oil/Charter Communications Chevy Cobalt he drove into the winner's circle at Richmond. "If I'd been snoozing one more thousandth in the first round at Richmond, I wouldn't have been in the second round, much less won the race. There wasn't enough room for error last year. NHRA did make some changes this year that I agree with -- having six races to decide the championship (instead of the two). Whoever does the job in the last six races, which is 25 per cent of the season, deserves to win the championship."

Connolly showed no signs of rust when he began the season in April. He made his first 2008 final round in his second race and earned his first of four victories at Bristol, Tenn., in his third event.

"When Dave started at Atlanta, the team had a goal to get him into the top 10 and the Countdown," said team owner Victor Cagnazzi. "Having him in third right now with two races left has exceeded my expectations. We have a lot to be thankful for. The entire Charter team really stepped up . . . and I couldn't be more pleased with what they have accomplished this season."

Connolly barged into the top 10 in his 10th race and solidified his hold on sixth place and a guaranteed berth in the Countdown to 1 with a repeat U.S. Nationals victory in Indianapolis.

And now he'll attempt to keep his title hopes afloat at The Strip, where he has recorded one win (April 2005) and one runner-up (October 2006). He was low qualifier at the second race last year.

"Basically, it was our goal to win the last three races of the season," Connolly said. "We have one under belt (Richmond) and now we're down to the last two. I feel we have as good a chance as anybody. We are preparing as best we can. We've already tested at Farmington (N.C.) and Concord (N.C.), and we're going to Tucson to test Monday and Tuesday. We're trying to minimize our mistakes and win races."

Cagnazzi says he's "excited about the next two races. As far as I'm concerned, we have the two best drivers and, with eight rounds left, I know it's going to be a nail-biter. We need to win all eight rounds. Every driver from two to five is stacked up within two rounds and all are very capable of winning.

"We never feel like we're in good shape," Cagnazzi continued. "We approach every race like we're behind. That's what motivated us. The shop has been cranking in the last two weeks and we made great progress in the engine department. I have to thank Carl Foltz of CFE for his help. He is a good partner and brings a lot our program."

Connolly, meanwhile, is still thinking about winning a championship.

"We are going to make the best of it," he said. "We've won four times this season and I think that's pretty remarkable. And we've been to eight finals in those 17 races. That's how I know we have a team that can get the job done. You are only as good as the people surrounding you, and I have some great people surrounding me."

-credit: vgr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Dave Connolly