Terry Adams is a man with a lot of questions looking for some answers. His mission takes him to Bradenton, Fla., Monday for what will be the SKULL GEAR Pro Stock team's first test session in anticipation of the 2006 NHRA POWERade Series season.
To Adams way of thinking, off-season - generally used to describe the time between the final race of one season and the first of the new campaign - is a misnomer. "There really isn't an off-season if you want to be a winner in Pro Stock," he said.
For example, Adams spent recent weeks preparing the team's Chevrolet Cobalt for testing. It needed to visit Victor Cagnazzi's shop in the Charlotte, N.C., area to be fitted with a new motor plate. Cagnazzi Motorsports replaced Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins as the engine supplier for the Dave Connolly-driven Cobalt last month.
That's why, 51 days before the February 9 official start of the 2006 season in Pomona, Calif., Connolly, Adams and crew will be focused on the future - one that is fast-approaching. Given an option, Adams would've been at the track a week earlier, but instead he spent two weeks battling a stomach virus.
"There will be a lot going on at Bradenton," said Adams, who still hadn't shaken the effects of the virus on Friday. "Some teams began testing last week. We are going down there to see how well our car will run. We want to see what it does. We have a lot of questions to answer and I hope by next week they'll be answered."
If not then, Adams vows to keep at it until he has a car capable of title contention.
"We'll be trying different gear and rear end ratios," said Connolly of some of the high-priority items on Adams' testing list as they begin meshing the combination with the horsepower.
Connolly, of Elyria, Ohio, won two of the first five races this year and led the series standings before the team parked its Chevy Cavalier in favor of the new Cobalt. Inconsistency struck about the same time, too. Overall, he won twice and was runner-up three times, captured the $50,000 top prize in the King Demon Clash special race, was No. 1 qualifier at Bristol, Tenn., and finished fifth in points.
"The new car had some problems and Grump had some problems," recalled Connolly of the second-half slump. "But we found clutch and shock problems over the last few races and were able to get them sorted out.
"I am excited to be working again with Steve Johns and Tommy Utt (two of Cagnazzi's engine-shop employees formerly with Jenkins). Tommy will be the engine guy for our SKULL GEAR team. Terry and Tommy get along very well and the team chemistry will be as good, or even better than it was."
Tommy Utt is the father of John Utt, who has worked with Connolly since he began Pro Stock competition in 2003. Steve Johns was a longtime Jenkins engine-building employee before shifting to Cagnazzi last year.
After a slow start, Cagnazzi's first-year team - with new driver Erica Enders at the controls - picked up speed, closing with four top-five qualifying efforts, including No. 2 at the Auto Club Finals last month.
"When you look at the (engine performance) gains Erica made throughout the year you can see their motor program is going in the right direction," Connolly said. "They have a talented group in their engine shop and I think we'll be able to give Greg (Anderson, two-time reigning Pro Stock champion), Warren (Johnson, six-time champion) and the top teams a difficult time in 2006."
Connolly and Adams credit team owner Evan Knoll with providing Cagnazzi's predicted horsepower punch and the incentive to "do what it takes" to remain a serious contender for 2006 title honors. And they know one of the most important ingredients in any championship challenge is horsepower.
"We won't be cutting any corners," noted Connolly. "We plan to test as often as necessary. Evan wants us to win the championship and hopefully we can give him one. We're all anxious to get started and proceed to Pomona."
Adams, Connolly and crew are confident they'll be ready.
Connolly Busy Bracket Racing
Connolly's off-season has been busy, too, but in a different way. He returned to his drag racing roots in the past month, competing in 14 different bracket races in Florida.
"I drove someone else's car because my new Super Comp dragster wasn't finished at the time," he said. "We ran seven races at Bradenton, four at West Palm Beach, two at St. Petersburg and one at Snowbird. We won a couple of rounds and got to the third round once."
Connolly began his competitive career in Super Gas and Super Comp Sportsman categories and plans to drive his new Super Comp dragster in eight to 10 NHRA national events in addition to the SKULL GEAR Cobalt.
"I believe the more passes you make help make you a better driver," he explained.
His first NHRA national event win was in Super Comp at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago in fall of 2002. In his 59-race Pro Stock career, Connolly has five Pro Stock wins in 13 finals.