Gray bounces back from explosion for No. 3 spot.
LAS VEGAS - Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team is on the cusp of winning their first pole of the season heading to Saturday's last two qualifying sessions in the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
"Today went well. We went out there and went A to B in the first session when the track was a lot better than we thought it was going to be for a hot temperature racetrack," said Brown, who won the pole in the spring Las Vegas event three years ago with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald.
"We ran well here last year with a (3.779) in the second round of eliminations. Brian and Mark and all of our Matco boys did another great job. I always feel blessed to be on this team. These boys are incredible.
"They stuck it to the coals. We just wanted to go for it."
Several on-track delays led to the second session being delayed by about an hour and long enough to put the final qualifying sessions under a darkening sky early in the evening and near ideal conditions for NHRA nitro racing in the desert.
In Funny Car, a Don Schumacher team is not on the pole but hold provisional qualifying spots third through sixth.
While DSR's Johnny Gray leads the DSR contingent, the New Mexico native provided the most exciting - and likely most expensive - run of the day.
Gray predicted his second qualifying attempt would earn his Pitch Energy team the Funny Car provisional pole. Although he fell a little short and had to settle for No. 3, it was a stellar comeback by the Don Schumacher Racing team.
Gray, who is tied for the points lead with teammate Ron Capps after winning the last title on March 17 at Gainesville, Fla., had a highlight-video run to open the day.
On his first qualifying attempt, the body of his Dodge Charger R/T launched skyward after an engine malfunction. It marked the second time in less than two years at Las Vegas that an engine explosion blew Gray's carbon-fiber body into the air.
"It's all good. Just needed another motor, another body, another everything," he said after completing his second run 4.107 seconds and 309.42 mph. "That was a good, nice run down the track."
With Saturday's sessions scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. and temperatures forecast to reach the low 80s, the event's ideal conditions might have been on Friday night.
"I don't know if it will stand," Brown said of his spot on the pole, "but if the sun gods come out tomorrow we have a really good chance.
The first session at 1 has a good chance (for a quicker time) because the track will still be cool enough and we have more teams out here capable of running fast. We'd love to keep it. We just want to go out and battle and have fun."
Don Schumacher Racing