Team Chevy Sets Pace at St. Louis With Wins in Pro Stock, Super Gas and Stock Eliminator New Chevy Impala SS Also Reaches First Funny Car Final MADISON, Ill., May 6, 2007 - It was a red bowtie weekend at Gateway International Raceway as ...
Team Chevy Sets Pace at St. Louis With Wins in Pro Stock, Super Gas and Stock Eliminator
New Chevy Impala SS Also Reaches First Funny Car Final
MADISON, Ill., May 6, 2007 - It was a red bowtie weekend at Gateway International Raceway as Chevrolet was a visible presence in several winner's circles at the 11th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals. In fact, it was an all-Chevy final in Pro Stock as teammates Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin faced off in their near-identical yellow Cobalts. Connolly drove his Torco Race Fuels/Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt to an elapsed time of 6.663 seconds at 206.99 mph for his 10th career win over Coughlin's 6.695 e.t. at 206.64 mph in his Slammers Ultimate Milk/Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt. Del Worsham also drove his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Impala SS to a runner-up finish against points leader Ron Capps, the first final-round appearance for the new Chevy Impala SS Funny Car body since being introduced this season. Sportsman racers were also waving the red bowtie in the winner's circle as Connolly's father Ray was a winner in Super Gas, Gary Stinnett drove a '69 Camaro to the Stock Eliminator crown, and David Rampy used Chevy power in his '32 Bantam to win Comp Eliminator.
"The real win for (team owner) Victor Cagnazzi, Slammers and Torco was in the semis when Jeggie beat Greg (Anderson)" Connolly said. "That was a big feat. Then I had to come up behind him, and the pressure was on for me to beat a good friend and another Torco racer in Justin Humphreys. To get both cars in the final is a real tribute to everything that Victor's put together, all the way from the marketing people, to the chassis shop, to the engine shop, to the on-track performance is just excellent."
Connolly qualified third for today's eliminations but quickly showed he was the class of the field by running quickest elapsed time of the first round in defeating Kenny Koretsky, and then running quickest round of the entire meet at 6.657 seconds in defeating Allen Johnson in Round 2. In Round 3 he bested Justin Humphreys in the semifinals to make his first final-round appearance of the season and 21st of his young career.
"Jeg and I are tough competitors and he's tough," Connolly added. "He's one of my heroes. He 'treed' me in the final, but we just had the better car this weekend. But we were friends before we were ever teammates, and that hasn't changed since. We learn a lot off of each other. We both kind of struggled and got beat on holeshots last weekend, so it was good for us to come out here and step up like we did. We learn off of other and we drive off of each other. That's what a team's all about and we've got a good thing going. But we kind of thought that when we got together at the beginning of the season anyway. Both Chevy Cobalts are running excellent, and we're looking forward to racing the rest of the season like this. Victor, (Torco owner) Evan Knoll and everybody has a lot to look forward to."
Adding icing to the winner's circle cake was the fact that Connolly's dad Ray also won today at Gateway competing in the Sportsman class. The senior Connolly drove to the Super Gas crown over Steve Hoyt from Ft. Wayne, Ind., in a battle of '63 Corvettes.
"It's tough in any class to even get one win, but to get two with your 'Pops' in one day is just incredible," Dave Connolly said. "We did this once in Chicago two or three years ago, and at Memphis we were both in the final and both went up there and lost, so when I saw him go up there and win right in front of me, it put a little extra pressure on and made me want to get that win a little extra more."
"This is the first Pro Stock winner's circle for a car that is completely ours," team owner Victor Cagnazzi said. "The chassis, the body, the engine, everything. I couldn't be happier. I'm speechless. All of the guys, Roy Simmons and Tommy Utt, all of the guys in the engine shop, just the whole team - the team just keeps digging and digging and digging. And we've got two great drivers in Dave and Jeg. They're going to get up on the wheel and get it done."
Jeg Coughlin showed the potential of this Cagnazzi Racing team with back-to-back No. 1 qualifiers at Houston and Las Vegas as well as a final-round appearance but loss against Greg Anderson at Las Vegas. Coughlin qualified fourth for today's eliminations and defeated Mike Edwards in Round 1 and Kurt Johnson on a holeshot in Round 2 to set up another classic battle with No. 1 qualifier Anderson in the semifinals. This time Coughlin used a .004 reaction time to get a holeshot win with a 6.707 elapsed time at 206.20 mph to Anderson's quicker but losing 6.690 e.t. at 207.88 mph. Combined with Anderson's .027 reaction time, Coughlin's margin of victory was a scant .0065 seconds.
"It was a great day, no doubt," Coughlin said. "The whole Cagnazzi organization gets a grand applause. Joe Hornick and the two Steves, they do an excellent job in the engine shop. Todd Bevis and the guys in the chassis shop, they gave us two bad hot rods. And Victor Cagnazzi, Roy Simmons and Tommy Utt did a great job orchestrating everything and getting us hustling down this racetrack. To get by Greg there in the semis was definitely sweet for us. He and Jason have obviously been the pinnacle in the class the last four years, but we're reeling them in slowly. We're not there yet and we're not completely happy with it, but Dave definitely had the best car today. I'm just as happy for his win as I would be for my own."
Despite the loss, Anderson continues to set the pace in Pro Stock as the points leader with four wins, but Connolly and Coughlin both jumped up to second and third, respectively.
"That's the state of NHRA POWERade racing right now," Anderson said on his close race with Coughlin. "It's absolutely dog eat dog out there and it's brutal. I've said it before, anyone that qualifies in this class can win the race if they drive well and their car runs well. And we had a lot of cars running well today and a lot of guys driving great. We didn't run quite good enough and I didn't drive quite good enough. It's that simple. My car outran his but he beat me, so that means I lost the race as a driver. I'm not hanging my head at a .02 light, but you know what, I got my butt kicked as a driver so he beat me."
In Funny Car, Del Worsham lead the charge for Team Chevy by advancing to the final round in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Impala SS for the first time since his big win at the U.S. Nationals at Indy in 2005. The California native defeated fellow Chevy driver Tony Pedregon in Round 1, 14-time Funny Car champ John Force in Round 2, and No. 1 qualifier Mike Ashley in the semis to face points leader Ron Capps in the money round.
"That was huge," Worsham said of beating Force in the second round. "Force beat Jeff (teammate Arend) for his first round win of the year, so you knew they were up there feeling it and smelling it. It would have surprised absolutely nobody if John went on to win this race, believe me. To take him out, well that was just enormous. It sent us on to the semifinal, and that's a good day.
"Ron and his car are about as good as they get, but it felt good. We had gotten better and better over in that right lane, to the point where I think we probably would have picked it if we had lane choice. Of course, we didn't have lane choice all day, but it didn't matter. I just thought it might be our day. I had a very good feeling that we had the tune-up nailed, and that we would absolutely give him a good fight. We've been getting better every race, since Houston. After Atlanta I said we were getting there, but we weren't quite all the way back yet. Maybe we still aren't all the way back, because when we get to a final we expect to win, but man we're there. Congrats to Ronny and his guys, they earned it and they're very dominant right now. But we're feeling pretty good about what we did here - pretty good."
In Top Fuel, GMC-sponsored Cory McClenathan drove his FRAM dragster to the final round for the first time since his win at Richmond last fall. After qualifying fourth on his final run yesterday with a 4.616 e.t. at 326.08 mph, he defeated Hillary Will in Round 1, Dave Grubnic in Round 2 and won a pedal-fest with No. 1 qualifier Ron Fuller in the semifinals to face off against Melanie Troxel in his 50th career final-round appearance. In the final, McClenathan's dragster lost traction and he slowed to a 5.355 e.t. at 254.52 mph to Troxel's winning elapsed time of 4.741 seconds at 274.33 mph. Despite the loss, McClenathan sits in the top 10 with 336 points in 10th, just 35 points out of sixth.
"This car showed this weekend that we can go out and win rounds and drag races" McClenathan said. "Now that we are positioned in the points chase, we need to keep it consistent and going down the track Everybody is working hard for that."
Joining Ray Connolly in the Sportsman winner's circle was Gary Stinnett from Emporia, Kan., who drove a '69 Camaro to the Stock Eliminator crown over Kevin Helms' '69 Camaro, and David Rampy from Piedmont, Ala., who used Chevy power in his '32 Bantam to take the win in Comp Eliminator.
-credit: gm racing