No stranger to the winner's circle, K&N racer Dave Connolly battled his way through a tough pack of Top Dragster competitors to take the Wally for the first time at an NHRA National Event in Top Dragster this past weekend at the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"The event was just incredible," said Connolly. "I've always been a fan of bracket racing, which Top Dragster is pretty much like, and I have driven a dragster since I was fifteen. Even before I drove a car on the street."
"Always being a fan of speed, Top Dragster is a like a perfect fit for me, "he continued. " You qualify the fastest thirty-two cars and it becomes a bracket race after that."
Being a new class offering at select NHRA National events for the first time in 2010, many who have competed in the class in other sanctioning bodies have been chopping at the bit for their chance to compete on the "Big Stage". And due to the popularity of the class, it almost kept Connolly from being able to enter the event when the entry field was full well before the cut-off date.
"I got real lucky getting in to the Charlotte event on the last entry day," he explained. "The field had been full, but there were a couple of late openings and I'm so happy I was able to squeeze in."
Getting into the event wasn't the only last-minute task for Connolly.
"Early in the week, they were calling for rain on Friday and I was thinking if they have to set the field based on one run, I'm going to be in trouble. I didn't even put the nitrous on the car until Wednesday afternoon," he said. "So with never running the fogger, I made the one run we got and was able to get into the show."
While Connolly looks forward to getting back behind the wheel of an NHRA Pro Stock car, he continues to stay fresh by competing in several different sportsman categories, including Super Comp and Super Gas, in addition to Top Dragster. It's these same classes where he has already struck gold this season including his NHRA Divisional victory at the Gainesville event, when he wheeled his Super Gas entry to the win.
His win this weekend in Top Dragster didn't come quite as quickly. Thanks to Mother Nature's rampage on the event, which was plagued with rain more days than not, there was quite a lot of down time for the sportsman racers including the delay of the final rounds until Monday.
"It's tough to stay concentrated during all the rain delays like we had this weekend and when we got up on Monday morning, it was still wet and drizzling," said Connolly. "NHRA did an incredible job and it didn't take them long to dry the track and the track conditions were really good."
"I don't know what it is," he laughs. "Even when we were racing Pro Stock it seems like every rain delay we ever had and then had to finish the race on Monday, we would find ourselves in the winner's circle."
Connolly averaged a comfortable .016 light though the five tough rounds of competition, finding himself racing cars as much as twenty plus MPH faster, like his first round opponent and number two qualifier, who clicked off a 221.71 pass in his losing efforts to Connolly.
"It's somewhat new to me," Connolly says in reference to the speeds in today's Top Dragster class. "I've raced 7.30 bracket cars for years and you start going 6.70's at almost 200 MPH, that's a little different look for sure at the top end."
"When I ran that guy first round and I didn't see him, I'd give it a rip and look back again and he still wasn't there. I gave it a rip again and I didn't really pick him up until about three-hundred feet before the stripe," he continued. "He was coming on hard, that's for sure and it makes it a little more difficult to drive against cars with that much mile-per-hour."
"To be able to pick up the first ever Top Dragster win at an NHRA National is just something else. I actually didn't think about that part of it until driving up the road from the event," he said. "The whole experience was just incredible."
"We were really happy to get out there and give K&N the exposure we could with the Top Dragster win. Both my dad (Ray Connolly) and I have worked with K&N and used their products for a very long time. We always use their oil filters and air filters and have even helped them do some testing on their K&N Dragster Scoops. K&N is top of the line in all those categories, especially their filters. We really thank them for sticking with us all these years and look forward to our continued relationship."