"Everyone at Chevrolet appreciates the sacrifice and hard work of the drivers, owners and race teams who made possible this 16th NHRA Manufacturers Cup," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet General Manager. "There were many notable accomplishments this year, and with their on-track excellence and performance, each of our NHRA competitors proudly displaying the red bowtie contributed to Chevrolet's winning tradition and heritage."
The NHRA Manufacturers Cup has been awarded since 1964. It is presented to the automobile manufacturer whose current models in Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock earn the most points for qualifying and category victories at NHRA Drag Racing Series national and divisional events.
A review of the record in Pro Stock through the completion of this season's 23 NHRA POWERade national events shows an impressive year for Team Chevy that included 13 victories, 21 final-round appearances, seven No. 1 qualifying awards and low elapsed time of the meet 10 times. Chevrolet also placed three drivers in the Countdown to 8, the first phase of the inaugural Countdown to the Championship playoff format, and Team Chevy's Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Dave Connolly also moved on to the final segment of the Countdown, the Countdown to 1.
Two-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. returned to a full season of competition in 2007 after nearly a year away from the class, and what a return it was. Coughlin was one of two Chevy Cobalt drivers competing out of the Victor Cagnazzi racing stable who made the final cut to four following the Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals in Richmond (Va.), joining teammate Dave Connolly in the elite field of four competing for the championship. Coughlin, Pro Stock champ in 2000 and 2002, closed out his competitors by advancing to the final round in both of the Countdown to 1 races, Las Vegas and Pomona, putting an exclamation point on his third NHRA Pro Stock championship with a win in the NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.). By winning this year's Pro Stock title, Coughlin joins Bob Glidden, Warren Johnson, Lee Shepherd, Greg Anderson and Darrell Alderman as the only Pro Stock drivers in the history of the sport to win three or more titles, and his fo urth win of the season in the finals at Pomona was Chevrolet's 147th all-time victory in the NHRA Pro Stock division.
"This is such a charge," Coughlin said. "To be able to give Victor and Brita (Cagnazzi) their first championship means a lot to me. They had a plan to put together a race team capable of winning a championship, and through a lot of work and perseverance, they got it done.
"Everybody on this race team does a fabulous job on this Chevy Cobalt. From the guys here at the racetrack to everyone back in North Carolina at our engine shop, you couldn't ask for a better group to work with. We have awesome GM horsepower in this race car and the guys do an incredible job. Thanks to Victor Cagnazzi for giving me such an awesome Pro Stock car to compete in."
Coughlin in the JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt picked up wins this year at Chicago, Bristol (Tenn.), Brainerd (Minn.) and Pomona 2, advanced to eight final rounds and earned No. 1 qualifying awards at Houston, Las Vegas, Bristol and Richmond. At Gainesville (Fla.), Coughlin ran a career-best elapsed time and speed of 6.582 seconds at 210.01 mph and was one of just five Pro Stock drivers to break the 210 mph barrier in '07. He also became only the 11th driver in NHRA history to win 50 career national events.
"Getting to 50 wins was one of my goals when I returned to Pro Stock," said Coughlin. "It's special to think that only 10 other people have achieved that mark in 50-plus years of drag racing. Fortunately, I've had a great hot rod with [team owner] Victor Cagnazzi and his entire team of technicians and mechanics, and they've given me a Chevy Cobalt capable of winning races."
It was a season to remember for Dave Connolly who had his best campaign ever as an NHRA Pro Stock driver. The 24-year-old Ohio native and 2002 Division 3 Super Gas champion scored his fourth consecutive top-five finish in the POWERade points standings with his third-place finish and achieved a career-best eight national-event victories (St. Louis, Norwalk, Seattle, Reading, Indianapolis, Memphis, Dallas, Richmond), nine final-round appearances and 50 round wins. The Torco Racing Fuels Chevrolet driver was the No. 1 qualifier at Seattle, Las Vegas and Pomona 2, and his 6.594 e.t. at 209.95 mph at Gainesville were also career bests.
"For Victor (Cagnazzi, team owner) to put the group of guys that he has put together with the in-house chassis program and the in-house engine program, I think Jeggie (Coughlin) and I are both just grateful to be the wheel men behind those Chevy Cobalts," Connolly said. "To have all the different winners in Pro Stock and all the good teams that are out there, for Victor to put both team cars in the Countdown is definitely a feat in itself."
With his victory at Richmond, Connolly put his name on an elite list of Pro Stock drivers that have won five consecutive races, joining the legendary Bob Glidden (9 consecutive wins), Ronnie Sox (5) and Greg Anderson (5). Connolly's 17 career wins in a Chevy Cobalt places him third on the list for Pro Stock victories in a Chevrolet behind Kurt Johnson and Lee Shepherd (both with 26).
"I'm not a superstitious person," Connolly said. "I try to just go up there and do what I have to do. We try and take one round at a time, and if you beat the guy in the other lane like we have, the national event wins and streak of rounds won will just kind of come to you. To win five in a row and be put in a group with those guys, it's pretty incredible. It's something I never would've dreamed of. I just wanted to race Pro Stock, and here we are getting put on a list with guys like that."
ACDelco Chevy Cobalt driver Kurt Johnson reached the winner's circle in February at the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, and that continued a streak in which Johnson has won at least one race every year since 1995 (the longest current streak in NHRA Pro Stock). Johnson also reached the final round at Reading (Pa.) and his 463 career round wins are second only to Warren Johnson among full-time, active Pro Stock drivers. In 2007, he earned his 15th career top-10 finish (second again only to Warren Johnson), and he is tied with the legendary Lee Shepherd for most wins ever by a Chevy Pro Stock driver (26).
"The goal at the beginning of the year is to win races and compete for the POWERade championship," said Johnson. "We were able to put our ACDelco Chevy Cobalt into the elite eight of the Countdown to the Championship and were in contention to break into the final four. All in all, it was a great season. We extended our winning streak to 13 straight years, and we were in position a number of times to win races. That's exactly where you want to be when you're competing in a class as close and competitive as NHRA Pro Stock. Looking ahead to 2008, I'm confident that we'll be ready to make another run at the NHRA championship."
Multiple victories at NHRA divisional and national levels by Chevrolet's stampede of sportsman competitors played a key role in winning the 2007 NHRA Manufacturers Cup. No fewer than 20 different Super Stock drivers competing in Chevy Cobalts contributed points toward this year's manufacturers championship and that included Justin Lamb, Peter Biondo, Ryan McClanahan, Jay Higgins, John Coughlin and Tony DeFrank, just to name a few.
In addition to Chevrolet's 16th NHRA Manufacturers Cup it was the 40th time since 1964 and the 25th consecutive year that a GM nameplate has earned this prestigious honor.