Johnny Gray will square off with Jeff Arend in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.
On Friday, the first day of qualifying, Gray powered the stunning Pitch Energy Dodge to an awesome 4.071 at 313.22 mph in the second session to vault all the way up to the No. 2 position and nab top speed honors. Gray's prime positioning was protected through the remainder of the sessions leading up to raceday, including a rocket-like blast in the third qualifying session when he clocked a best-of-the-round 4.079 at 308.07 mph in his Rob Wendland/Rip Reynolds-tuned hot rod.
"This team is just having a blast out here already, and tomorrow it's only going to get better," said Gray, who entered the event fifth in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car points. "We made a pretty nice run yesterday with the Pitch Energy Dodge. It rattled the tires just a little bit, but it made it. We were second-quickest of the day, so we were reasonably happy. But that run here this morning was really, really smooth. It just felt awesome. Tomorrow is a whole new ballgame, but we feel very comfortable this weekend. We have a good racecar, and I suspect we'll go some rounds with the Pitch Energy Dodge."
Last season, Gray was a finalist at the rain-delayed Gatornationals, and the memory of leaving Gainesville one round short of the title is one that the lifelong racer would like to abolish in this, his final season as a full-time Funny Car driver.
"I believe we have a better shot tomorrow than anybody here," said Gray. "I feel like our car is capable of being the most consistent and fast racecar out here, and if I go do my job, we'll win the race."