JOHNNY GRAY QUALIFIES 10TH FOR SUNDAY’S BIG O TIRES NHRA NATIONALS

Body blows off Service Central Funny Car on last run

Johnny Gray
Johnny Gray

Photo by: Motorsport.com / ASP Inc.

LAS VEGAS, October 29, 2011 – Johnny Gray’s first qualifying run today may have earned him the 10th-starting position for Sunday’s 11th-annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals here, but it was the spectacular explosion and ‘flying’ Service Central/Big O Tires Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body during the final round which punctuated the day’s activities on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“There was an engine explosion, the blower lifted, the body buckled and then flew off,” Gray said about the incident which was caused by a valve-train failure. “We were on a good run and thought we’d put up a real good time, but it didn’t happen.

“We’ve been struggling to get some TV time for the Service Central/Big O Tires car because we’re not in the Countdown, especially here at the Big O Tires event; I guess we got that taken care of.”

Gray posted a 4.118-second run at 312.57 miles per hour in the session prior to the blast which earned him a first-round race with seventh-qualifier Melanie Troxel when final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. PDT.

The 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver’s Friday laps were solid, 4.213 and 4.126 runs as the Service Central team continued its strong performance over a six-plus-race span. During that period, including the first four races of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, they have produced the best elimination-round record, 13-5, of the Funny Car category.

“This car has been running really well,” said Gray, who ran a 4.201-second lap at 253.90 mph without three-quarters of his Funny Car body in today’s final round. “We’ll head into tomorrow’s action with a new Service Central/Big O Tires body and keep doing what we’ve been doing.

“I was fine when the engine blew and the body flew; I just feel sorry for Don (Schumacher) who lost a perfectly good Funny Car body.”