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Strickland Joins Connolly and Gray Motorsports in Stock Eliminator

Strickland_Camaro640Gray Motorsports announced Mar. 7, it would take on the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in the Stock Eliminator category as a two-car team campaigning identically appearing COPO Camaros.

Veteran drag racer Jeff Strickland will join renowned Gray Motorsports driver Dave Connolly on the NHRA national event tour.

Strickland, 38, of Red Bay, Ala., will drive a naturally aspirated 350 CID COPO Camaro that was constructed in house by the Gray Motorsports team from a rare COPO “Roller.” Strickland brings diverse experience behind the wheel and a winning scorecard to the table. The second-generation racer has earned a threatening reputation in high dollar bracket races and is a respected competitor on the NHRA tour with nine wins in three categories – Super Comp, Stock Eliminator and Super Stock – in a remarkable 24 final rounds.

“I really can’t put into words what it means to me to have been chosen to drive one of the COPO Camaros,” said the three-time NHRA Lucas Oil Series division champion. “It’s a really nice car, and I appreciate that they have a lot of faith in me to allow me to drive it. I want to thank Matt Berger, Berger Chevrolet, and Gray Motorsports for the opportunity to drive for them this year. It is an honor.

“It’s great to start it all off in Gainesville because that’s a racetrack that means a lot to me. I’ve been to the final round there twice before and was runner-up both times. The first time I ever went to the final in Stock at a national event was there at the Gatornationals in 1998, and I only lost by .001-second. I got to the final again [in Gainesville] in 2008 and came up short, but maybe third time will be the charm with the COPO Camaro.”

Connolly, 31, originally from Elyria, Ohio, will return for another season behind the wheel of a 427 CID COPO Camaro. Connolly has impressively wheeled his COPO Camaro to a Factory Stock Showdown final-round finish at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals the last two years in a row and was the first to win an event title in the new generation COPO Camaro when he nabbed the trophy at an NHRA divisional race held in Atlanta in 2013.

“I’m certainly looking forward to racing the COPO Camaro once again this year, and it’s huge that Berger Chevrolet and saw enough value in our partnership last year to step up and run a second car in 2014. We really appreciate their support,” said Connolly, a multi-category racer with 23 Pro Stock victories and four wins earned across three sportsman classes: Super Comp, Super Gas and Top Dragster.

“It’s also really special because we get to do this with a good friend of mine, Jeff Strickland, who is very capable of winning. He’s run Stock Eliminator a lot in the past, but I don’t know if he has ever had a car as competitive as this one. I’m excited for him, and it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with it. I think it’s going to be a great year for all of us.” is a division of well-known Berger Chevrolet of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Berger is one of the original muscle car dealers and is, in fact, the only original Chevrolet muscle car dealer that remains in business today from the golden age of muscle cars. The 89-year old family firm is currently in the hands of Matt Berger, a fourth-generation family member.

Matt Berger also announced that Berger Chevrolet will continue its role as an associate sponsor on both Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Pro Stockers. The Berger name will prominently appear on the front fenders of the Camaros driven by Connolly and Shane Gray.

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“Everyone at Berger Chevrolet and is thrilled to be a part of a championship team like Gray Motorsports and their highly-regarded drivers. It reminds me of the days when we had the first generation COPO Camaros on our lot,” said Matt Berger. “We compete every day in the car and parts business and this allows us to compete on the track while having a little fun.”

Gray Motorsports Vice President Shane Gray said, “We’re happy to extend the relationship that Gray Motorsports has with Berger Chevrolet that dates all the way back to 2004 with our Managing Director, Victor Cagnazzi. Berger Chevrolet saw the potential of the COPO back in the 1960s, and now today we are proud to represent them with the COPO Camaros and on our Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaros in Pro Stock.”

For 2014 the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown has been expanded to a four race series. In addition to the previous tour stop at the grand daddy of all NHRA national events, the tour will now include visits to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events in Reading, Pa., and Las Vegas after beginning its season at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 13-16, 2014.

The NHRA Factory Stock Showdown, now in its third year, was designed to showcase the new generation of muscle cars. In addition to the Chevrolet COPO Camaro, the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet and the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak also compete in the Factory Stock Showdown.

(Photo courtesy Gray Motorsports)

This story was originally published on March 7, 2014. Drag Illustrated

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