Sonoma: Dave Connolly final report

Connolly Victorious at Sonoma; Moves into Pro Stock Top 10 SONOMA, Calif., July 27, 2008 -- For the record, it took Dave Connolly 10 races to erase a 200-point deficit and grab 10th place in the NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock top 10. Connolly...

Connolly Victorious at Sonoma; Moves into Pro Stock Top 10

SONOMA, Calif., July 27, 2008 -- For the record, it took Dave Connolly 10 races to erase a 200-point deficit and grab 10th place in the NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock top 10.

Connolly unleashed his best driving performance of the year in the FRAM Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, putting a rousing finish to his 19th career victory and second of 2008. He defeated Jeg Coughlin by nine-thousandths of a second in a titular showdown featuring two Cagnazzi Racing teammates.

Connolly's winning margin in the Charter Communications/LifeLock Chevy Cobalt came from a .012-second reaction time and a 6.628-second run at 207.69-mph quarter-mile run. It was just enough to get the win light over Coughlin's .022, 6.627 at 207.25.

"What a day for Cagnazzi Racing!" Connolly said. "It was a tight race. Both cars are so evenly matched. Everybody involved with our on-track performance did a great job.

"Jeg is the one I looked up to when I was a kid and wasn't racing Pro Stock. He's won championships and having him as a teammate is definitely a win-win situation. Getting to run him in the final and win on a hole-shot is extra special to me. It's good for bragging rights for the Cagnazzi group but it's a great situation for all the guys back at the shop. Todd Beavis built both cars and Stevie Johns and Joe Hornek build all the motors. I don't think they really care who won.

"We've been playing catch up all season and now they have to catch us. It's our job to hold them off and keep beating them down as they get close to us."

Connolly moved from 11th into 10th place and now leads Warren Johnson by 52 points (682-630) with three races to go before the beginning of the Countdown to 1 in September.

After not getting the car down the track in either Friday qualifying run, Connolly said he was concerned, but they were erased with two good Saturday runs that put him ninth. "I had my doubts but the team stood up and got ready for the challenge. I knew it would be a good day of racing today," he said.

And he proved to be an excellent prognosticator.

He began the day with is best time of the weekend, 6.618 at 208.75 to beat Vinnie Deceglie's 6.652 and then came from behind to nip Mike Edwards by six-thousandths, 6.621 to 6.637. Johnny Gray lost to Connolly in the semifinals, 6.652 to 6.736, and set the stage for the excellent finale.

"Some days you just get that feeling you are going to win," Connolly said. "Tomorrow is (team owner Victor Cagnazzi's wife) Brita's birthday and she bought a bottle of champagne. I told her after the first round to go ahead and get that thing on ice because we are going to need it."

Connolly missed the first five races due to sponsor issues and was 200 points behind the final Countdown to 10 qualifying position when the team made its first race. Connolly went to the finals in his second event and made the winner's circle at Bristol in his third time out. He added another runner-up at Englishtown, N.J., last month but had been struggling Sunday.

"Since we've come back, I haven't really driven that well until today. I finally got up on the wheel and concentrated. As always, the car was excellent and we were running within thousandths of the guy in the other lane," he concluded.

-credit: vcr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Johnny Gray , Dave Connolly