JOHHNY GRAY ENDS SEASON IN SEMIFINALS OF SUNDAY’S NHRA FINALS
POMONA, Calif., November 13, 2011 – Johnny Gray ended his comeback Funny Car season by putting the Service Central/Big O Tires Dodge Charger R/T into the semifinal round of Sunday’s 47th-annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals here at Auto Club Raceway Pomona.
Gray, who had not piloted a flopper for five years when he joined Don Schumacher Racing at the beginning of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, lost traction and the third-round race to Robert Hight, after having defeated Hight’s two John Force Racing teammates in the first two rounds.
“It was a bit disappointing losing to Robert, but beating Mike (Neff) in the second round helped out Matt and Jack (DSR teammates Hagan, who went on to win the race and the Funny Car championship, and Beckman), which was good,” explained the 58-year-old Artesia, N.M. native. “I’ve had great fun throughout the season, especially in the last several races when this Service Central car has been a terror. I said when we didn’t make the Countdown, we’d cause trouble for those who did and we delivered on that promise.”
Gray qualified the Service Central car sixth on the strength of a 4.107-second lap at 308.28 miles per hour which set up a first-round race with reigning and 15-time Funny Car champion John Force. He defeated Force with a 4.090 pass and followed by a win against Mike Neff on the strength of a 4.105 run.
“That’s a great team and great racers,” said Gray. “But we weren’t concerned because lately we’ve been able to perform well against anyone. Rob and Dickie (Wendland and Venables, co-crew chiefs) and the rest of the Service Central guys have just done a great job.”
Hight derailed Gray’s effort to reach a fourth-consecutive final round.
“We had fun this year and we’ll have more next year as this team has really jelled,” said Gray who finished 11th in the Funny Car standings and recorded his first pro win earlier in the season. “This season is over and we’ll get right after it with some testing next month to prepare for 2012, which I know will be a great one for the Service Central team.”