JOHNNY GRAY REACHES FINAL ROUND OF SUNDAY’S NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
CHANDLER, Ariz., October 16, 2011 – Service Central Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver today finished as the runner up in the 27th-annual NHRA Arizona Nationals here at Firebird International Raceway continuing his strong performance in the past six races of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
Starting with his win in Brainerd (Minn.) in August, the 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing flopper pilot has now compiled a 13-5 elimination-round record, best in the category. That total includes three final-round appearances.
“Somebody told me we had the ‘winningest’ Funny Car since Brainerd,” said the Artesia, N.M. native who lost in the final round to DSR teammate Jack Beckman. “But it’s not a surprise when you have the ‘winningest’ crew working on your car week in and week out. I’ve said it all year long – this Service Central team has great guys on it and now, with the leadership of Rob Wendland and Dickie Venables (co-crew chiefs), we are really showing just how good we are.”
The team’s prowess received recognition as it captured the Full Throttle Hard-Working Crew Award for today’s event “for advancing to their second-consecutive final round.”
Having qualified third – including posting the quickest runs in three of the four qualifying sessions – Gray opened final eliminations with an opening-round victory over 14th-qualifier Melanie Troxel.
Gray then defeated Matt Hagan in a second-round match crucial to his DSR teammate’s Countdown to the Championship position before downing Jim Head to reach the finals against Beckman, who is battling Hagan for the playoff leadership.
“I kind of feel bad that we beat Matt and didn’t beat Jack so we could keep it even, because I love them both,” said Gray who has vowed to go after every round and race despite not being involved in the 2011 Countdown. “We play it straight up here at DSR – period!”
The next chance for Gray to pay a role in determining this season’s champion comes in less than two weeks on the Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I’m excited about going to Las Vegas and continuing on our development for next year,” he said. “The Service Central Funny Car will be a force to be reckoned with, in the last two races of this year and next year, as well.”