GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Johnny Gray got off to a good start Friday in the NHRA Gatornationals and hopes that it can propel him to winning one more race than he did a year ago at Gainesville, Fla., when he was runner-up for the event title in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Gray with crew chief Rob Wendland put their Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T in the provisional No. 2 qualifying spot with a best run of 4.071 seconds. The team also posted the top speed in Funny Car at 313.22 mph.
"That was a good run, and we're starting to feel more confident in a lot of ways," Wendland said. "We came here with a new front half (of the chassis), and to be able to make a run like that shows what a great (fabrication) shop we have at DSR.
Thanks to Joe (Fitzpatrick), Tom (Patsis) and Daniel (Heman). This run is a credit to their hard work just as much as it is to ours."
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team posted the third best time of the day with a run of 3.812 seconds at 321.88 mph for Don Schumacher Racing.
DSR teammate Spencer Massey was quickest in the first session in the Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher dragster and is fourth best going into Saturday's last two qualifying sessions for Sunday's championship eliminations.
"The main thing is that we backed the car off so we could get down the racetrack," said Brown, the reigning Top Fuel world champion.
"We didn't know what it was going to run. We just knew the first time we didn't get down the racetrack, so the first thing the boys wanted to do was to fix that.
"The car was trying to run way too hard, way too early," Brown said of the team's first attempt when it went it slowed to 121.72 mph and took 5.533 seconds to complete the pass. "The car was trying to run (3.77 seconds) on that first run, and it just wasn't out there.
"(Saturday), the track's only going to keep getting better and better even though it's going to be a little hotter."
Current Top Fuel points leader Tony Schumacher and DSR's U.S. Army team rank eighth with a time of 3.849 (321.65).
The two most consistent of four DSR Dodges were Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman, winners of the past two world championships.
The resurgent Magneti Marelli Mopar/Rocky Boots team recorded runs of 4.122 (302.55) and 4.144 (286.62). Hagan, who is qualified fourth, and crew chief Dickie Venables are coming off a runner-up finish three weeks ago near Phoenix.
Beckman is close behind at No. 8 in the Valvoline NextGen/MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors Dodge with a best time of 4.115 after a 4.122 in the first session.
Ron Capps and the NAPA Filters team, the current NHRA Funny Car points leader and winner of the last event, ranks fifth with a time of 4.115 (304.94).
Don Schumacher Racing