JOHNNY GRAY REACHES FINAL ROUND IN RAIN-EXTENDED AUTO-PLUS® NHRA NATIONALS
MOHNTON, Pa., October 3, 2011 – Johnny Gray drove the Service Central “Lemonator” Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the final-round today in the rain-extended 27th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals here at Maple Grove Raceway.
Having set a track-elapsed-time record of 4.010 – one of the quickest 1,000-foot runs in Funny Car history – in gaining his second number-one qualifier of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, the 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing flopper pilot weathered two pedal-fests, defeating Leah Pruett and Mike Neff, in the early rounds Sunday before rain and cold caused suspension of the event.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky in this sport,” reflected the veteran racer from Artesia, N.M. “Rob and Dickie (Wendland and Venables, co-crew chiefs) did a great job throughout the weekend dealing with the cold air, cold track and wet weather. After a rough first qualifying round Friday, we put up three-consecutive runs in the 0s (4.023, 4034 and 4.010), so it was obvious they were getting the job done.
“We escaped with those first two runs Sunday and then came out today when the race resumed and did it again,” he added about the semifinal pass of 4.022 seconds at 310.55 miles per hour which defeated Bob Tasca III.
Confidence was high in the Service Central camp when Gray lined up for the final round against Robert Hight, but he lost traction at the hit of the throttle and Hight went right down the strip for the win.
“Robert made a quick, clean run,” said Gray. “We thought we had made the right adjustments for the conditions, backing it down a bit, but we smoked the tires and that’s all she wrote.
“It was a good weekend, though for this team. Again, we showed just how far we’ve come. And we were able to help out our DSR teammates by taking out a couple of the Fords (Neff and Tasca) they are battling for the championship. We plan to continue showing our abilities during the last three races of the season, beginn