MECHANICAL ISSUE ENDS JOHNNY GRAY’S DAY EARLY AT 57TH-ANNUAL U.S. NATIONALS
INDIANAPOLIS, September 5, 2011 – A mechanical failure shortly after Johnny Gray hit the accelerator pedal at the start of his first round match-up led to an early exit today from the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil here at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
The first-round loss also ended the Don Schumacher Racing driver’s chances of climbing into the 10-car Countdown to the Championship playoff field for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car title.
“I hit the throttle and the car launched hard, but then everything slowed down,” explained the disappointed Artesia, N.M. native. “It seems we shook loose a pin in the parachute mechanism which allowed them to release before we even cleared the Christmas Tree.
“Of course I’m disappointed about the results because the Service Central Funny Car had been coming on real strong. We won the last race and saw good things during qualifying. We come to every race looking to go rounds and win, and this weekend was no different.
“We also know we won’t be contesting for the championship this year, but we knew at the beginning of the weekend that would take going deep into the race and some luck (Gray entered the day three race-round wins behind Bob Tasca III, who occupied the 10th, and final, spot for the Countdown).”
Gray, who qualified 11th on the strength of a 4.124-second lap at 308.85 miles per hour, lost to fourth-qualifier Daniel Wilkerson in the opening round (Funny Car points leader Mike Neff won the race), but expects good things from the Service Central team during the final six races of the season.
“This hot rod has been running well for the past few races, getting stronger with each run down the track,” he said. “I warned everyone: if we didn’t make the Countdown, we’re going to make it really tough on those who did and were tough on us earlier in the season.”