Reading: GM Racing final report

Connolly Leads Chevy Brigade with Rain-Delayed Pro Stock Win at Reading Pedregon Puts Chevy in Funny Car Winner's Circle, Manzo Hits Milestone Click here to download high resolution image READING, Penn., August 22, 2007 - After completing two ...

Connolly Leads Chevy Brigade with Rain-Delayed Pro Stock Win at Reading Pedregon Puts Chevy in Funny Car Winner's Circle, Manzo Hits Milestone Click here to download high resolution image

READING, Penn., August 22, 2007 - After completing two rounds of eliminations on Sunday for the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, rain delayed the semifinals and finals for most of the classes for nearly three days, but when today's final rounds were completed more than a few teams let fans know that Team Chevy was still in town. Dave Connolly won Pro Stock in an all-Chevy Cobalt final, Tony Pedregon drove his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS past 14-time POWERade champ John Force to claim the Funny Car title, and in the Sportsman classes Peter Biondo drove a '69 Camaro to the Stock Eliminator crown while Frank Manzo in his Chevy Monte Carlo recorded his 70th career Top Alcohol Funny Car victory to tie Pat Austin for the most career national-event wins in the Sportsman classes.

Connolly had a near-perfect .005 reaction time in the final round and never looked back, driving his Torco Racing Fuels/Seelye Wright Automotive Chevy Cobalt past Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt for his fourth win of the season and the 13th of his career. Connolly had an elapsed time of 6.643 seconds at 207.43 mph to Johnson's 6.857 e.t. at 206.80 mph. The win moved him past his teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. into second place in Pro Stock points as the series now moves to the four-race segment of the Countdown to the Championship starting with the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.

"It was well worth the wait," Connolly said. "I don't know what it is about these rain delays, but we always seem to do good. I've never won a race on a Wednesday before, but it was needed. Tommy (Utt, team crew chief) said going into this weekend - make it this week - that he wanted to gain some momentum going into Indianapolis, and we sure did that. Now we want to go back and go through everything to make sure we don't miss anything and get the cars ready for our return to Indy."

Johnson defeated Connolly's teammate Jeg Coughlin in Round 1, Ron Krisher in the Valvoline Chevy Cobalt in Round 2, and two-time defending event champion Greg Anderson in the semifinals before meeting Connolly. Johnson has a win earlier this season at Phoenix and is qualified sixth in points for the next segment of the Countdown to the Championship.

"With the overcast skies and cool temperatures, there was tremendous traction today, giving us very little room between making it down the track and shaking the tires," Johnson said. "We got away with it in the semis by being a little conservative and slipping the clutch, with our ACDelco Cobalt making a nice, smooth run. For the final, however, we felt it needed some more tire speed, so we barely touched it trying to make it better, and it went crazy. Looking at the data afterward, if we had left it alone, it probably would have been even worse. We should have been able to run a 6.58 or 6.59 on that run, but it was out of control by the 30-foot mark, locking the tires in and shaking. There wasn't much I could do after that.

"Still, there are a lot of positives that we can take away from this weekend. Our run in the semifinals corrected out to be one of the best we've made all year and shows tremendous potential. We're also heading into Indy and the first race of the Countdown to Four on a high note. All the way around I'm sure there are a lot of people who would gladly trade places. We're pretty pleased with the month we spent in Reading this weekend, but it's time to take everything we learned here and move on."

In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson all advanced their Chevy Impalas to the semifinals. After qualifying his CSK Chevy Impala SS No. 1, Worsham was looking to qualify for the next segment of the Countdown with a win but his loss to Pedregon in the semis left him outside of the elite eight. Wilkerson advanced his Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS to his second semifinal-round appearance of the season before losing to the Ford of John Force. In the final round, Force was too quick at the start and turned on the red light as Pedregon was able to slow his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS to a 6.061-second elapsed time at 151.99 mph for his second win of the season (Phoenix) and the 34th of his career.

"It was certainly worth the wait for us," Pedregon said. "Mentally, I'm spent. We had to get up to race so many times only to have it start raining again. It stresses you out. The other thing was the track was totally different after all that rain so Dickie (Venables, tuner) and the guys did an excellent job of reading it today. To run a 4.78 right off in the semis probably helped us win the race because John had to look at that number and try to do something."

"On Monday, when we got the first two rounds in, I felt like it was our day," Worsham said. "We came in No. 1, we had a great deal of momentum, and we were totally dialed-in to what the track could handle and what it wanted. I really felt like we could go out there and outrun everyone, and that the car would go right down the track all day long.

"Two days later, it was like all that stuff was ancient history. Qualifying at the top seemed like something from another race altogether, actually. And we came out here today, basically, as four teams taking an educated guess at what was really a new track. You couldn't rely much on the data from rounds one and two, because it was a different day and the traction was different. Heck, on Monday I was way more worried about some bald spots at the starting line, thinking they might be the biggest hurdle to get by. Today, it was kind of like unloading the car at some strange new place and rolling the dice. Our momentum was really gone, and we didn't find a way to get it back."

Frank Manzo from Morganville, N.J., defeated Bob Tasca III to win Top Alcohol Funny Car 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 Manzo's 70th national-event win, tying him with Pat Austin for most career wins in the Sportsman classes. Also, Peter Biondo from Maspeth, N.Y., drove a '69 Camaro to the Stock Eliminator winner's circle.

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Frank Manzo , Tim Wilkerson , Peter Biondo , Dave Connolly , Bob Tasca III