Johnny Gray Sees Better Things Ahead Going Into NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
The numbers might not look like it, but Service Central Racing Team Funny Car driver Johnny Gray believes the Don Schumacher Racing fielded program has been making definite improvements in recent races, all leading to his excitement about participating in this weekend’s 11th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals here at Bristol Dragway.
The 58-year-old Artesia, N.M. native and resident went out in the quarterfinals of the Englishtown, N.J. event about two weeks ago, slipping to 10th in the Funny Car standings, but said the overall experience there was quite encouraging.
“I’m excited for this weekend and the remainder of the season because I know things are heading in the right direction for the Service Central team,” he said. “We cured the steering problems which have plagued us for a while and this Funny Car is really nice to drive.
“Even when I had to pedal the car last time out, it went down the track straight and true, an indication to me things are getting better.”
Gray attributed the steady improvements to the diligence of crew chief Lee Beard and the entire team.
“There had been times before the last race when I flat couldn’t steer the car; it’s now a totally different animal, thanks to Lee and the rest of the guys.
“I really believe we are getting better and better, sorting out issues which will come up with a new team (DSR formed the Service Central team shortly before the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season began). This is just part of getting a new program up and running.”
Gray has not raced a Funny Car at Bristol Dragway in more than a decade, having been out of the nitro floppers for the past five years (while pursuing a Pro Stock program). He is not sure what to expect, but looks forward to the overall experience.
“I love Bristol – the facility, the positioning between the mountains, the sounds, it’s all really neat,” he said. “I do know the track is a bit bumpy, which is really tough on Pro Stock cars; we’ll just have to see how the Funny Car reacts – but at least I know I won’t be fighting the steering system.”