One of the Gray Motorsports Camaros. Feels good to be back in the driver's seat.
Working on some of the small details with Tommy Utt inside the trailer at the Gray Motorsports shop. Been by my side most of my career.
Finally get to work with this guy, Jep Trammell.
Signing a calendar for a fan. Thanks for the support!
Well, this is something new. I haven’t really done a blog like this before, but here I am, and we’ll see how it goes. There is a lot happening right now, and this seems like a good place to sort of keep track of it and let you all in on what’s happening.
You should already know the big news: I’ll be driving a Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro next season, and it’s a dream come true for me because I get to get back in the seat. Don’t get me wrong, I love crew chiefing, and I learned a lot. I’ve always been a hands-on driver, and I’m glad I got to work with the folks that I have for the past few years. It’s been great, but most everybody likes to put on the helmet, and I feel pretty fortunate I get to get back in the car.
I also get to drive the COPO Camaro in Stock Eliminator this year again, and that’s something I’m looking forward to. I came from sportsman roots, my background is in bracket racing, so that’s something I really enjoy. It’s going to be interesting this year. If you have a chance and are a National Dragster reader, check out the story Kevin McKenna wrote about our COPO Camaro program on their website: http://www.nationaldragster.net/daily-features/the-sports-report/item/2349-the-copo-connection.html.
As a Pro Stock driver, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people – starting at the top with Grumpy Jenkins on down to Terry Adams and of course Tommy Utt and so many great folks in between. Tommy has been with me since day one aside from a few brief times in my career. He’s always been there for me, and I’ve gotten to work hand in hand with him – I’m glad I paid attention to the mechanical side of things because that eventually opened up the door to being a crew chief on Erica’s car.
The Utts are like family to me, and now that we’ve joined up with Gray Motorsports, the family is just getting bigger. I feel like I already had one of the best teams out there, and now we get to add Justin Elkes and the rest of the Gray Motorsports guys. It’s really been fun because everybody has a different way of doing things, there are lots of different personalities, but we all have strong traits that are really jelling together. We’re in the shop every day working, cracking jokes, having a blast, and being productive all at the same time. The previous success of the guys in this group that we have put together speaks for itself; we’ve surrounded ourselves with a lot of talent, everyone is getting along great, and now we just have to go out there and perform.
So far, so good – we just spent four days down in Bradenton testing, and we really couldn’t have asked for a better test session. It wasn’t perfect – nothing is – but it didn’t spin anybody into the ground. We dove in, fixed any problems, and there wasn’t any whining or finger pointing. The chemistry is great. My new teammate, Shane Gray, is very easy going and easy to work with. We’re both open to criticism, and that’s a good thing because we can learn from each other. We already are.
It was interesting because right off the bat, we knew it was only testing and it was only December of 2013, but we were up there .00-ing it on the Tree by the second and third day. We’re already driving each other. We are each other’s motivator. I wouldn’t consider it a rivalry, but it’s definitely a motivator, and I haven’t had that since 2007 when I was racing with Jeg. It’s exciting.
I’ve always said that I enjoy working on the car, but being in the crew chief role was 10 times harder than driving. Since I was 14 or 16 I’ve been behind the wheel, and driving comes second nature, but to get thrown into the role of crew chief is tough. There is so much more you have to deal with to get these cars up and down the track effectively. With folks like Tommy and Justin, the odds are in your favor – but you never have it figured out; it’s an ongoing science project, but that’s what makes it fun.
I will still have a voice when it comes to making calls on the car – once it’s something you do, it’s not something you can turn off. I’ll probably want to be involved more than I’m going to be able to, but I’ve had a great working relationship with Tommy, and that’s rolled over easily with Justin. Most of the time we all agree, and I don’t think I’ll be totally cut out of the decision-making. It’ll be like a lot of the other teams out there whose drivers are involved in tuning the car as well. That’s something that’s good about our team. If something happens and Justin or Tommy can’t be there, we still have two people who can get these cars down the track. There is a lot of depth to our team for a lot of reasons, and that’s just one of them.
We all work together in the shop, and lately we’ve been doing anything and everything. We get together and each of us will tackle certain tasks. It’s great because we’re all well rounded enough that if the responsibility of the day is to get parts shipped out, then that’s what we do. If it’s mounting tires, we do that. Cleaning up inventory, going through old parts, shipping and receiving, working on suspension or scaling the cars – we all just get in there and do it.
There has been a lot involved in getting our two shops to merge. We had to get equipment here, go through trailer inventory and see what we have to run two cars and what parts need to be serviced. It’s been pretty crazy, but with testing out of the way we have been able to focus on small details, making log books, and things like that. It’s almost time to take some time off for the holidays, and I play to spend it with my family up in Ohio, then I’ll come back to North Carolina to spend time with my girlfriend Lindsey’s family.
The next thing you know, it’s going to be January and we’ll be getting prepared to go testing again. Drag racing sure isn’t a hobby anymore. It’s a full time job. But we get to play with race cars every day. In my case I get to drive a Pro Stock car, and I also get to drive that COPO Camaro, so I’ve got no complaints at all. We’ve got plenty of good stuff coming up. I know it’s about to get real busy, but I’ll try to post another blog soon. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @dconnolly_ps. While you’re at it, you could also go on over and like Facebook.com/DaveConnollyRacing and follow @graymotorsports on Instagram. I think that about covers it! Merry Christmas, everyone.