Propelling dragsters down the quarter mile well before he was even licensed for the street, Elyria, Ohio resident Dave Connolly seemed destined to become a winner from an early age. And at the ripe old age of 27, he's already accomplished more than many folks can only dream of in a lifetime.
Dave Connolly wins Super Gas during the NHRA SportsNationals held at National Trail Raceway
With numerous victories during the 2010 season in the NHRA sportsman ranks, spread over several categories, Connolly has also been able to dabble in what could be his true love, NHRA Pro Stock, last month during the Concord, North Carolina race and two more appearances planned for Reading and Pomona.
His most recent victory came in Super Gas during the NHRA SportsNationals held at National Trail Raceway just outside of Columbus, Ohio.
"I've always been a drag racer at heart," Connolly said of his drag racing experiences. "Jumping back and forth is something I have kind of always done. With jumping back and forth between Super Comp and Super Gas and then being fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a Pro Stocker has been great, but it's been a huge learning curve as well."
"The key is, you make so many runs inside your head, that is just comes natural to you when you get into the car," remarks Connolly of all the different cars and classes he competes in.
Another important facet to Connolly's drag racing career, and maybe even helps add to his multitude of successes, is that continues to race right alongside his dad, Ray Connolly, who was also competing at the Columbus event.
"It's definitely a family sport and you see that a lot at the track," he said. "It's like anything, I'm probably more excited to see when he wins and he more excited when I win. We have been very fortunate to get out there and get to race together."
"From the time I was ten years old, we were just the typical father-son going to the race track," he continued. "Even when I was fifteen-sixteen years old, he kind of took a step back to let me race and we bought a dragster and kind of jumpstarted my career. So I owe everything to him and now for us to be able to go out there and do this together, week-in and week-out is definitely a lot of fun."
While the father-son duo take turns driving their various team cars, it was a borrow car that Connolly took to the winner's circle during the NHRA SportsNationals.
"Ron Erks has been pretty busy with his family lately and instead of letting his Vette sit, he told me to come out and race it," noted Connolly. "It's worked out well. I've got to race that pretty much all year and he comes out when he can, like for Reading when I'm running Pro Stock he's going to bring his car and my dragster and compete in them."
Connolly was competing in both Top Dragster and Super Gas during the event and although a serious racer anytime he lines up, his mind seemed to be more wrapped up in the dragster during the Columbus race.
"I was really concentrating on Top Dragster," he admitted. "We had that Jeg's shootout Saturday night and it was my last race to claim in Top Dragster to try and take over the division lead again. That's kind of what I went there to do and I drove that car extremely well, I just didn't have any luck on my side."
Connolly's Top Dragster day ended in a real close match-up with eventual event winner, Jeff Brown.
"That's how racing goes and I was kind of like, well it's something you never want to do in racing, but going through the motions in the Vette," he said. "After I lost in Top Dragster, I was down to eight cars in Super Gas and I thought, ‘Man, I could win this thing if I get my head outta my butt and start driving.'"
"Drag Racing is such a mental sport and it was all on me," he continued. "And I finally got focused in on the tree in the later rounds."
Connolly came on strong in the Super Gas car just in time for his semi-final match up with Rock Haas and one of the closest pairings of eliminations, where the margin at the stripe was just mere .0004, or less than an inch.
That would set him up for the final with Billy "Ice Man" Smith.
"I kind of felt like this was a revenge weekend," laughed Connolly. "Twice this year I've red-lighted to Rock Haas. One was in the later rounds of the divisional at Mid-Michigan and then I ran Billy Smith, who's won everything under then sun, at Norwalk and lost in a close double-breakout. So the last two rounds with Rock and Billy, those guys beat me up all year, so it was nice to get back at them at a National event like that."
The many successes that Connolly has enjoyed comes from not only being a great driver, but utilizing the best equipment and parts available to ensure the car will be ready to make it through the harsh conditions of encountered over a long weekend and making it to the final.
For Connolly one of those he and his dad insist on is the protection provided from K&N Engineering.
"We've used K&N products for many years now and that's all we've ever trusted," said Connolly. "Our oil runs through their filters and the air that goes into our engines goes through their filters. You don't have to worry about that part of the engine maintenance by using K&N, the products are just top-notch and they are a great company to work with."
Even when Connolly steps away from his sportsman racing and back into NHRA Pro Stock, K&N's high performance products follow.
"K&N are the ones who put a lot of R&D into their products and of course, the Pro Stock car I'll be running at a couple of NHRA Nationals yet this year has the K&N specially designed Pro Stock scoop," he added.
Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.