Don Schumacher Racing press release
JOHNNY GRAY STARTS 11TH IN U.S. NATIONALS IN QUEST FOR FINAL COUNTDOWN SPOT
INDIANAPOLIS, September 4, 2011 – When Johnny Gray wheels the Service Central Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the starting line for Monday’s first-round of the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals here, he will be within three race-round wins of snaring the 10th, and final, spot in the Countdown to 1 playoff for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship.
Number-11-qualifier Gray opens final eliminations, at 11 a.m. EDT, against sixth-qualifier Dan Wilkerson. Bob Tasca III, holding a 58-point lead over Gray, qualified 10th to earn an opening-round match with reigning champion John Force.
“As I’ve said for the past several races, we have to continue running well, have some luck, and get some help from folks like John,” explained the 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver. “Winning the last race (Brainerd, Minn.) was huge; it meant we had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs this weekend.”
The Artesia, N.M. native posted a 4.124-second pass at 308.85 miles per hour in the fifth and final qualifying session in today’s cool evening air to grab the 11th-starting spot.
“We were set for a run in the 4.0s, but it rattled the tires during the run,” he explained. “We’re pretty sure what happened and should be able to take care of it for tomorrow. Rob and Dickie (Wendland and Venables, co-crew chiefs) have good data for the track and the conditions should get better for tomorrow.
“We’re excited about race day, about going out and giving it our best shot to grab a spot in the Countdown. It won’t be easy, but the Service Central Funny Car is running well and we may surprise some people.”
The top-10 drivers in the Funny Car standings at the conclusion of the U.S. Nationals will have their points reset before beginning the Countdown at the season’s next race in Charlotte, N.C.
“Even if we don’t make the playoffs, we’ll be a factor,” vowed Gray. “We’ll be a problem for some of those teams which gave us problems earlier in the season while we were struggling. This hot rod is running really well now and we’ll be a force for the rest of 2011 and next year.
“Speaking of the Countdown, I’m excited that my son Shane clinched a spot in it for his Service Central Pro Stock car; I just hope we can join him!”