JOHNNY GRAY TAKES THIRD-STARTING SPOT FOR SUNDAY’S NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
CHANDLER, Ariz., October 15, 2011 – Johnny Gray, quickest in three of the four qualifying rounds, drove the Service Central Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the third-starting spot for Sunday’s 27th-annual NHRA Arizona Nationals here at Firebird International Raceway.
Melanie Troxel, 14th-qualifier, provides the opposition in the first round of final eliminations, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. CDT, for the 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver who has been one of the hottest drivers over that last five races of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
“I have the most incredible group of guys,” said the driver who has a category-leading 10-4 round record, including a win and a runner-up finish in the last five events. “People keep asking what we’ve done to turn this car around, and the answer is simple – this team, especially under the leadership of Rob Wendland and Dickie Venables (co-crew chiefs) – has found its legs. We were a new team born just as the year started and we just needed some time to get our playbook in order.
“We’re there now and this Service Central Funny Car is quick and it’s fast. We might not be in the Countdown, but we’re going to make it tough for any championship-contending car that we meet on race day.”
The number-one qualifier at the last race where air and track temperatures were more than 50 degrees cooler and 3,000 feet closer to sea level, Gray opened qualifying Friday with a 4.310-second pass. A 7.683 second-session run dropped him to sixth, but his two solid runs today, 4.240 and 4.264, propelled him into the third position.
“We’re having fun out there,” said the Artesia, N.M. native. “I told everyone we’d get here, so I don’t think anybody should be surprised. I just have to thank Rob, Dickie, and the folks at Service Central and, of course, Don Schumacher for making this possible.”