Don Schumacher Racing press release
JOHNNY GRAY WINS FIRST PRO RACE AT THE 30TH-ANNUAL LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
BRAINERD, Minn., August 21, 2011 – Johnny Gray drove the Service Central Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the winner’s circle here today at the 30th-annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals for his first National Hot Rod Association pro-category win.
Gray nosed out Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps for the victory on a day when DSR, for the first time in the multi-car-organization’s 13-year history, had all four nitro cars in the final round. (Antron Brown defeated Tony Schumacher to win the Top Fuel trophy.)
The 58-year-old Artesia, N.M. native, with 173 NHRA pro-category races in his 15-years of competing at that level, needed his best round of the weekend, 4.113-seconds (and quickest of race day) at 307.02 miles per hour, to top Capps, who ran 4.134 at 307.37 (which was top speed of the weekend).
“Rob Wendland (crew chief) and the Service Central guys gave me a real hot rod for that last round,” he said. “Ron wasn’t going to give us anything; he wanted that win as badly as I did. If anything, the car was better than the numbers because I probably left a bit on the table with my slow roll off.
“I’ve wanted to win a race in Funny Car and it feels great to have finally made it. You’ve got to have a good car and a bit of luck to win – we had both of them today.”
The win allowed Gray to close the gap with Bob Tasca III, whom he defeated in the third round, and to get within 63 points (just over three race-round wins) of the 10th, and final, spot in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Funny Car championship.
“We’ll take this momentum to Indy (for the U.S. Nationals Labor Day weekend which ends the regular season and sets the Countdown field) and do the best we can,” Gray explained. “If Tasca has some bad luck, we’ll have a chance.
“If we don’t make the Countdown, well some of the cars, who crucified us early in the season when we didn’t have a good car, will pay in those last six races. We’ve got a good race car now and it’s going to get better.”
Before he defeated Tasca in the semifinals, Gray, coming out of the seventh-starting position, bested Jeff Arend and Cruz Pedregon.
Gray’s pro-category career has included seven previous trips to a final round, including one at the Las Vegas race earlier this year. Three of those were in a Pro Stock car, two in 2009 and one in 2010.