Norwalk: Dave Connolly preview

Dave Connolly Continues NHRA Playoff Pursuit before Home Crowd at Norwalk This is good time for NHRA Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly to return to his northern Ohio roots. The Elyria, Ohio native was a regular racer on the quarter-mile ...

Dave Connolly Continues NHRA Playoff Pursuit before Home Crowd at Norwalk

This is good time for NHRA Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly to return to his northern Ohio roots.

The Elyria, Ohio native was a regular racer on the quarter-mile asphalt track at Norwalk in his early years and now, at 25 and in his fifth professional season, Connolly is one of the category's best drivers.

The next POWERade Series stop is at Norwalk for the second Summit Racing Equipment Nationals, Thursday through Sunday, and Connolly arrives in the midst of a come-from-behind charge that should carry him into the POWERade Series championship playoffs in September. He was runner-up Sunday at Englishtown, N.J., and he is the defending race champion at Summit Racing Motorsports Park.

After spotting the field five races at the beginning the season, Connolly wasted no time climbing toward the top 10. He's been a finalist three times -- winning at Bristol, Tenn. -- and he took over 11th place Sunday with his superb performance in the Cagnazzi Racing Charter Communications/LifeLock Chevy Cobalt. Now the gap between Connolly and 10th-place Warren Johnson has dwindled to 73 points, less than four rounds of racing,

That's a long way from having no points just six races ago. In fact, during his rally, Connolly's 428 tallies are second to point leader Kurt Johnson's 450 (792 total).

Connolly will be racing for more than points this weekend. He's one of eight drivers to qualify for Saturday's special K&N Filters Horsepower Challenge that pays $50,000 to the winner and he's returning to his racing roots to drive in Super Comp.

"To run the K&N Challenge for $50 grand, to be at our home race again, being the defending champion, and to run Super Comp makes it a busy weekend," said Connolly. "Hopefully something good will come out of it.

"Last year was perfect for us because we won our first Pro Stock race at Norwalk in NHRA's first race there."

Sidelined by sponsor issues for five races, Connolly's return coincided with Cagnazzi Racing's signing sponsors Charter Communications and LifeLock. " They got me off my couch and back into racing," he said.

Although he didn't win Sunday, Connolly nonetheless believes the Chevy Cobalt 's performance now is "pretty close to where we were last year. We have a great race car. We are making good laps again. It just took us a little time and work to fix the chassis problem. You expect that out of any new car.

"Since we've come back, we were runner-up in the second race and the third race we won," Connolly continued. "I think everyone thought we'd be in the top 10 a lot quicker than we expected. But, in reality, we struggled in the next two races and lost in the first round and second round.

"Now that those problems are behind us, hopefully we can have even more success. We were very fortunate to get as far as we did with the trouble we had. All of the cars are (running elapsed times) so close anymore you don't know whose day it's going to be. It's very diversified right now and it makes it tougher for us to make the top 10. There are a lot of teams out there scrounging for points."

***

K&N Horsepower Challenge:

Drivers began earning qualifying points last June. Connolly's 2007 finish that included five consecutive victories and excellent starting positions provided a lead so solid he was able to qualify sixth for the 2008 showdown with 2925 points.

His first-round foe Saturday at 12:10 p.m. is Kurt Johnson. Connolly beat Johnson in the quarter-finals Sunday at Englishtown, N.J.

Other match-ups include: Greg Anderson vs. Ron Krisher; Allen Johnson vs Warren Johnson; Jason Line vs. Jeg Coughlin.

Connolly in Super Comp:

"This is a home race for Mark Horton of American Race Cars, too," said Connolly. "He builds all our (family) Super Gas dragsters. I just sold mine and Mark asked if I wanted to drive one of his cars . . . so I am. Maybe the more passes I make down the track, the sharper I'll be (at the starting line) Sunday."

Connolly drove Super Comp cars before moving into Pro Stock. He has two national event wins in Super Comp and was the NHRA Division 3 Super Comp champion in 2002.

-credit: cr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Allen Johnson , Mark Horton , Jason Line , Dave Connolly