He won the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway earlier this month on a holeshot after winning an earlier round with a .001-second reaction time and another when an opponent red-lit.
Not yet 30-years old, Connolly already has 23 career victories in NHRA’s tightest category and heads to this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex as a legitimate threat to win his 24th, despite not driving full time in 2012.
At Charlotte last weekend, he won the first round on another holeshot before poor track conditions ended his chances in the second round. Regardless, Connolly was encouraged by the pickup in performance of his Chevrolet Cobalt, as he qualified No. 8 in Charlotte after qualifying No. 15 in Indy.
“We’re getting to where we need to be,” Connolly said. “We found a few things in Charlotte, and it started responding like a race car again.”
Connolly, too, is getting better. His reaction time in Charlotte was .014 seconds–over both runs. He had a .010 light in the first round and a .004 in the second. He’s noticed that as he runs races consecutively, his driving improves.
“There’s no substitute for seat time,” Connolly said. “The more we get out here and do it, the better off we’ll be in the long run.”
As Connolly tunes on the car he drives, he also continues to serve as crew chief with Tommy Utt on GK Motorsports teammate Erica Enders’ Chevy. Still, he’s able to put all the work on the car to the side as he prepares to race.
“Drag racing is all mental,” Connolly said. “You have to go up there prepared, and when the light comes on, you let the clutch out.”
Pro Stock qualifying rounds will be contested at 2 and 5 p.m., Friday, and 11 a.m. and 2:40 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are slated to begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all the action.