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kb racing crew chief dave connolly in the winners circle with his wagon dragster

Dave Connolly Case Study

Dave Connolly is keenly aware of the idiom, “The devil is in the details.” The iconic NHRA racer and crew chief uses an online spreadsheet to keep meticulous notes on every adjustment ever made to his cars. He tracks the weather like a meteorologist.

 

The overwhelming amount of data may seem like overkill, but it’s all part of a well-planned process. It’s also a key reason Dave Connolly has enjoyed such tremendous career success, whether navigating a race car in the role of a driver or tuning it as a crew chief. In bracket racing, stakes are high, and a thousandth of a second can be the difference between a big payout or collecting leftover scraps as an also-ran.

 

Connolly began his driving career in an array of sportsman and bracket racing classes before graduating to Pro Stock, where his 26 victories currently rank 10th all-time. He has won 30 NHRA national events over his career, including three at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. His 30 national event titles have covered four different classes.

 

A one-trick pony he is not. While behind the wheel of a 330-mph Top Fuel dragster, Dave Connolly appeared in three final rounds in 2015 as a member of Bob Vandergriff’s team. He is one of only seven drivers who have ever qualified in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock classes at a national event.

 

Shortly after joining Gray Motorsports as a crew chief, he helped guide Tanner Gray to the 2017 Auto Club Road to the Future award. He was also instrumental in helping Gray become NHRA’s youngest professional champion. When Gray Motorsports left drag racing following the 2018 season, Connolly signed on with KB Racing and the Summit Racing team of Greg Anderson and Jason Line.

 

Despite his commitments and demanding schedule, Connolly still competes in bracket racing when time allows. In 2020, he decided to switch from methanol to VP Racing Fuels Q15, which is a high-octane, oxygenated fuel. It’s known to be more consistent with weather changes, thus providing more consistency for bracket racing. Connolly quickly realized that Q15 offered significant advantages compared to methanol.

 

We had the chance to recently chat with Dave by phone to discuss his thoughts and insights since switching to Q15 high octane fuel.

Q&A with Dave Connolly

VP: How long have you been using Q15?

Dave Connolly: So, I started using it last year. I’d heard about it … Freddie [Turza. VP’s Technical Manager of Research & Development Sales] got me on the Q15 when I redid my wagon engine … when I bought the thing, it was on alcohol. … and it was pretty decent.

 

I used to run alcohol when I first started bracket racing 20 years ago or so. Again, it’s the nature of the beast [running on alcohol]. Your tear the engine apart and everything inside it is rusty and it looks like it’s been sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

 

Talked to Freddie and he thought this [Q15 fuel] might be the perfect ticket for bracket racing. I have to say that he’s definitely right … since I’ve been running it, the car is very, very predictable. It follows the weather to a T. It doesn’t matter if I’m racing in Florida, you know, big barometer, or in Ohio in the middle of the summer with no barometer … I can make my O2 read what it needs to read … and [it will] correct to the same number all of the time. I’ve been very happy with it.

 

Any time we’ve gone out it’s definitely been a car that … you feel like you can put on dead-on anytime you roll out of the water box.

 

VP: Have you noticed any increase in power since you switched over [from alcohol to Q15]?

Dave Connolly: When we first got the engine we dyno’d it … it picked up on average 26 horsepower … if the dyno shows 26, I’m sure it’s gonna be better on the racetrack.

 

VP: Do you have an idea of how many races you’ve run the Q15?

Dave Connolly: … I can tell you this: I’ve made 462 runs on it as we speak. Just last week before the zMAX race, I went to Darlington and I ran a 20-grander and a 100-grander. Double-entered the car and made 27 runs in two days. It’s done very, very well and we’ve picked up quite a few wins on it so far.

 

VP: Do you know roughly how many wins you’ve had with it [Q15 fuel]?

Dave Connolly: I think we’ve won four races with it … the last three times out we won two 10-granders, were runner-up in a 60-grander … so we’ve put the miles on it … granted, it’s been over a course of three, four months. … we have a lot of races coming up. … again, that’s what I love about the fuel. It’s so predictable. … a lot of these big bracket races now are no time run, so you just go day-to-day. You’re starting a fresh race and if there’s a big weather swing overnight I can pretty much look at the weather station, run my formulas, and know what I’m going right out the gate. That’s been a big help.

 

VP: Sounds like it [using Q15] takes a lot of the work out the equation that you maybe used to have to do when you ran alcohol.

Dave Connolly: You know, some guys run alcohol, same-day stuff. Yea, their stuff won’t move. But again, if there’s a big weather swing the next day, it could be a thousand or two thousand feet better air … alcohol may move, it may not. It was always a guessing game for me where, with this Q [15], it’s just so predictable.

 

VP: If someone asked you, “Dave, I’m thinking of switching to Q15. Why should I?” What would you tell them?

Dave Connolly: Predictability is probably the biggest selling point. Another thing is the engine aspect of it. Again, I’ve got 460-some runs on this engine and the vacuum is [looks] the same as it was day one when we put the thing in the car. I’d be willing to guess that the thing looks pretty pristine inside – the cylinder walls. … it’s nothing like alcohol. Alcohol is just so abrasive. The rust in your fuel system can validate that … things aren’t crystalized. It’s [running Q15] a little peace of mind.

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