Championship Drag Racing

Torco Racing Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Chicago, Ill.
(June 5-8)

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Driver Profile
Dave Connolly
Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro

Connolly goes testing to fix problems

Chicago, pre-race: The mood was somber and mixed with looks of disgust.  The immediate goal was to determine why Dave Connolly’s Charter Communications/LifeLock Pro Stock Chevy Cobalt made a hard right at the starting line in Sunday’s quarterfinal round of the Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan.

And oh, by the way, there’s not much time to work on it because the next race begins Friday – the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill.

Good performances are a necessity for Connolly. He needs all the points he can muster in the nine remaining NHRA Countdown to 10 races to secure a berth in the Countdown to One.  Sponsorship issues kept him a spectator for the first five races until Charter Communications and LifeLock partnered with Cagnazzi Racing four races ago.

“We weren’t happy with the way we performed on Sunday, so rather than complain about it, we took a 12-hour drive to Martin, Mich., to do something about it and test,” Connolly said on Tuesday.  “That’s how our team is. They’re never afraid to work and they’ll do whatever it takes.  Nobody complained . . . it’s something we need to do and we did it.”

The decision, judging from early results, was a positive one.

“We basically had the car torn apart from front bumper to back bumper, measuring and trying to square up the back end a little bit to get this car to go straight on every run,” added Connolly.  “Obviously, even though we were getting off the line a little sideways last weekend, we still managed to take the No. 1 qualifying spot.  If we get this car to start making better runs, we know we have the resources to run with the top cars.”

Connolly, nevertheless, gained two more places in points Sunday, moving into 12th with 302. He is 86 points behind 10th place Warren Johnson’s 388.

“We didn’t have the first five races (to work with a new car), so we haven’t been playing with the car as much as everyone else has,” continued Connolly, an Elyria, Ohio native.  “Not only did we get caught behind the 8-ball by missing those races and are playing catch-up, we don’t have the same car as last year – Ron Krisher (his Cagnazzi Racing teammate) does. 

“We’re still working with the new car, too.  Tommy Utt (team crew chief) has done an excellent job with the car because we’ve already been to two finals and picked up one win. I don’t want people to thing I’m complaining about what we’ve done so far.  We were No. 1 qualifier last week and we just made a bad choice of lanes, but we still had a car that could go out and compete. It just doesn’t take much for something to cause a problem on these cars.

“When we do have problems, I know Tommy and the crew will get it figured out.  Hopefully we’ll do that in the next day or two at Martin. We’ve already made our best run and we think we are back where we need to be.  We’re trying to get the car just a little bit better.”

The category’s tight competition doesn’t leave much room for error, either

“The Pro Stock field was separated by four-hundredths (of a second) last weekend,” said Connolly, “so when it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m complaining about small, minor details, but that’s what it takes to win in this class.  Each race is decided by thousandths of  a second, not only on that run because not only are you running the guy in the other lane, but you are also running your opponent in the next round to get lane choice at a lot of these tracks.  That’s why it’s important to have a fast race car.”

And it helps keep the crew members smiling.

One of Connolly’s 18 Pro Stock wins came at Route 66 Raceway in 2004, and he had the opportunity to share the winner’s circle (the first of three times) with his dad Ray, who won in Super Gas. Dave Connolly also claimed the $50,000 winner’s share in the 2005 NHRA Pro Stock Challenge at the track that’s located south of Chicago.

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