Multi-time NHRA Pro Stock event champion, Dave Connolly literally shook up the class during the most recent NHRA national event at Maple Grove Raceway for the 26th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals.
NHRA Pro Stock event champion Dave Connolly
Connolly, who just recently returned to the wheel of a Pro Stock car after announcing a very limited schedule for the remainder of the 2010 season, made a strong showing at his first appearance. But it was during his second event back when he took it all the way to the winner's circle, all while providing fans a very exciting final round.
Qualifying wasn't exactly a good indicator of how the weekend would end up for Connolly and his team.
"We actually had an issue during Q one," admitted Connolly. "We ended up changing motors going into Friday night's session. We didn't end up running all that well and ended up being number fourteen after Friday."
"On Saturday, I thought it was going to be a lot cooler and it ended up being warmer." He continued. "We knew that we were going to have to make some really good runs to get into the top half of the field."
Connolly and his Cagnazzi powered 2010 Chevy Cobalt made two excellent passes during Saturday's sessions, being the second quickest car during Q three and the quickest overall during the fourth and final session. These runs placed the team solidly in the top half of the field for Sunday.
"We knew we had a good race car going into Sunday," he said. "It was just going to be up to the driver not to make any mistakes and up to the crew to make the right calls."
Connolly sailed through round number one over Ron Krisher, nailing both a better reaction time and a better E.T. over his opponent.
His fortunes continued in round two, when his K&N scoop clad Cobalt was already past Larry Morgan by the 330 foot mark, to taking the win and doing so only .005 off his first round numbers.
In the semis, Connolly would find himself paired up with Shane Gray for the first time in his career.
He more than doubled up in reaction time on Gray at the hit, which helped propel him to the final, since his car fell a little off pace when he only posted a 6.597 after back to back 6.55 passes during the previous two rounds.
"Making calls on the car is still all a little bit new to us," he noted. "Maybe we are all still a little bit inexperienced come race day. The air kind of took off one on and got a little worse. The changes we made with the clutch, well the car just didn't respond too well and we just made a bad run there. We knew we were going to have to make some wholesale changes for going into the final with Greg [Anderson]."
With already twenty-one NHRA National event Pro Stock wins, not to mention the numerous victories in many sportsman classes, Connolly was firmly prepared for his final round match up with multi-time World Champ, Greg Anderson, not only mentally but also with a machine very capable of taking the win light.
"Greg had outrun us every run [during early rounds] basically," said Connolly. "Going up to the final round we made some changes to the car and it responded or we would have been on the losing end of it."
The Pro Stock final would have fans and teams alike on their feet and proved to be one of the most exciting finals in any class in a while.
It would be the twenty-first time KB Racing and Cagnazzi Racing would match up in the finals, each having ten wins. Anderson having a 7 - 6 record against Connolly in prior final rounds and Connolly set to even up the score.
Connolly would take his ever so slight yet monstrously important two-thousandth of a second starting line advantage and turn it into a holeshot victory over Anderson by taking the stripe by a mere .0011.
"That was just a great race," said an elated Connolly. "It was just a meant to be thing for us that day. That's all I can chalk it up us, it was just our day to win."
"Going into it obviously, they are a very good team and Greg is trying to race for the championship and he's got the pressure of the points," he continued. "We are just trying to go out there and perform well for our sponsors and try to land a fulltime deal. So I guess you could say we had different kinds of pressure. It was just two great teams and we both show each other a tremendous amount of respect."
"For it to all be decided by a thou was just incredible," he added.
When the announcement was made that Connolly would return to the seat of a Pro Stocker, it was stated that the plans were only for three of the events remaining on the 2010 NHRA schedule. But with already grabbing an event championship in just two of those, Connolly hopes that it will help him and his team add the Vegas event and be able to finish out the rest of the schedule, which already included the Finals at Pomona.
"The Vegas race is still up in the air yet and we haven't given up hope on it," he admitted. "I mean a decision will have to be made in the next week or two. It's coming down to the wire and we are going to keep our fingers crossed until the deadline runs out."
"Hopefully someone will come on board and keep the good streak going," he added.
Although Connolly will be taking a weekend off from the driver's seat, he still has a very full plate between now and the end of the 2010 season, both as a pro and a sportsman racer and a lot of traveling from one coast to the other.
"We are going to do some testing in the Pro Stock car, then I have the five-day race in Florida, back out to Pomona and then finish up November in West Palm Beach, Florida," he said.
When not behind the wheel of the Pro Stock car, Connolly keeps more than busy racing several NHRA sportsman classes. From the Top Dragster, Super Comp and Super Gas cars, among others, all much like the newest champion Pro Stock car and its specially designed K&N Pro Stock scoop, Connolly's sportsman race entries utilize numerous K&N Filter products from high flowing air filters, oil filters and more.
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