BROWNSBURG, Ind. (June 27, 2012) - Every event on the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour presents another opportunity for NTB/Service Central Funny Car driver Johnny Gray to build strength. For the Artesia, New Mexico-based Funny Car pilot, the sparring that has been going on these days for lofty positions in the standings has been a blast, and he intends for the fun to continue this weekend at the 15th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals held just outside Chicago at Joliet's Route 66 Raceway.
Gray is as friendly as can be - until the body of the NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger R/T comes down. Then it's game on, and the opponent in the other lane knows good and well that they must bring their A-game if they're going to survive the match.
So far this season, Gray has proved that he won't be caught cold; the patriarch of Gray Motorsports - sons Shane and Jonathan respectively compete in NHRA's Pro Stock and Comp Eliminator categories - already has a win (at the recent SuperNationals in Englishtown) and a runner-up (at the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals in Gainesville). He was also the quickest car in the field early this year at the Arizona Nationals in Phoenix to earn the second pole position of his career.
Lately, Gray's blows have been coming even more fast and furious as his red and blue NTB/Service Central Dodge has earned a reputation as a consistent threat with tuning decisions led by crew chief Rob Wendland and complemented by assistant tuner Rip Reynolds. Gray, currently fourth in NHRA's Full Throttle Series Funny Car standings, relishes the battle.
"Let's leave [points leader] Robert Hight and my Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps [currently in the No. 2 position] out of it because they're kind of in a league of their own right now, but it's such a tight, tight battle between third, fourth and fifth," said Gray. "Boy, it's just fun to go. Mike Neff is third, and if he stumbles, I'll get around him in this NTB/Service Central hot rod. If I stumble, Jack Beckman is going to go around us. If Jack and I both stumble, well Neff is going to get points out ahead of us.
"Right there in that little area, we're just having a ball trying to play leap frog and hop back and forth in points. My goal this weekend is to go out, get around Neff, and work ourselves up into third."
Gray will pack a little extra power in his punch at the stadium-sized Route 66 Raceway; crew chief Wendland, a former drag racer himself, earned a victory at the facility driving a Top Alcohol Dragster in 1999.
"Anytime your crew chief has had good success at a racetrack, that gives him confidence going in - and most any driver will tell you that the more confident the crew chief is, the more confident you are when you sit down in the car," said Gray. "You never know until the weekend is over, but with that being the case, we really should perform well and have a great weekend. Lynn and Cynthia Parker from Service Central will be there to cheer us on, and it should be a good time for all of us. We are extremely excited."
Source: Don Schumacher Racing