CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Funny Car driver Johnny Gray is looking for continued success in 2012 as he heads into the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at zMAX Dragway, Sept. 14-16.
Defending winners of the first of six races in the NHRA playoff series are Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Despite not making the Countdown last year, Gray had one of the best performing cars during the playoffs. He raced to three consecutive final rounds and would’ve been a top challenger for the championship had he been one of the 10 Countdown-eligible drivers. He enters the playoffs this season with a new perspective and wants to put those lessons he learned to use.
“Through the end of last year and with what we’ve learned, we are able to approach the Countdown knowing that we have as good a shot as anybody out here to win the championship,” Gray said. “We have a great car, a great team and a great sponsor with Service Central. There is just absolutely no reason we shouldn’t go to Charlotte believing that we have a good shot.”
As he looks forward to racing at Charlotte, Gray and his Service Central Racing Dodge Charger team puts the previous race at Charlotte behind him and wants nothing more than a victory at the “Bellagio of Drag Strips.”
“I didn’t even realize I’d lost in the second round because I don’t look back – that race is over and it has no effect on my mind,” said Gray. “We go forward every race and we never look back. No matter how our race turns out, when we leave, we know that as a team, we did the best we could do. We may not have the results that we wanted, but everybody did the best job they could. But we go into this race in Charlotte with every intention of winning it and of winning the five races that follow it.”
Ron Capps enters the race as the top seed in the playoffs. He won three races and will hold a 30-point lead over four-time season winner Robert Hight. Former zMAX winner Jack Beckman and Indy winner Mike Neff are right behind Hight, followed by Gray, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon, John Force, Jeff Arend and Tim Wilkerson.
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown leads the championship points entering the Countdown with Spencer Massey just 30 points behind him. Tony Schumacher, who recently won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, sits in third followed by Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon, Brandon Bernstein, David Grubnic and Bob Vandergriff.
Allen Johnson enters the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series playoffs in Pro Stock competition as the leader with North Carolina residents Jason Line and Greg Anderson close behind in second and third. Erica Enders is currently fourth, while Vincent Nobile, Mike Edwards, Ron Krisher, V. Gaines, Larry Morgan and Jeg Coughlin round out the top 10 heading into zMAX Dragway.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec leads the points heading into the Countdown to the Championship with teammate and recent Indianapolis winner Andrew Hines right behind him in second. Rounding out the top 10 include father and son duo Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr., followed by Karen Stoffer, Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, Michael Ray, Shawn Gann and Matt Smith.