RECORD RUN PUTS JOHNNY GRAY ON POLE FOR AUTO-PLUS® NHRA NATIONALS
MOHNTON, Pa., October 1, 2011 – Behind the wheel of the Service Central Racing “Lemonator” Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, Johnny Gray today made the quickest 1,000-foot pass in his career to both set a Maple Grove Raceway record and grab the pole for Sunday’s 27th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals here.
The 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver blasted through the cool Southeastern Pennsylvania air in 4.010 seconds at 318.62 miles per hour for his first number-one qualifier of his professional career. The lap earned him a first-round race with Leah Pruett in the final eliminations which begin at 11 a.m. EDT.
According to Gray, everything came together in today’s final qualifying round.
“The air was good, the track was awesome and my guys – under the direction of Rob Wendland and Dickie Venables (co-crew chiefs) – were awesome,” explained the Artesia, N.M. native. “John (Force) might have surprised some folks when he made his run (a 4.011 just prior to Gray’s) and I guess we may have shocked them – but the Service Central Funny Car has been running great for a while, so we weren’t shocked.”
After opening Friday’s qualifying with a tire-smoking 5.025, the veteran racer ran 4.023 that evening and a 4.034 in today’s first session.
“We’re excited about tomorrow’s race; we hope to do some damage against guys in the Countdown,” he said. “It’s a shame we didn’t make the playoffs, but since we’re not in it, we aim to make life miserable for some of the cars which hurt us earlier in the season.
“We hope we can help the rest of the DSR Funny Cars, but we’ll race them straight up if we face them.”
Gray spent a portion of the day helping TBC Retail Group’s affiliated outlets (Tire Kingdom, NTB-National Tire and Battery, Merchant’s Tire and Auto Center and Big O Tires) continue its support of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in its race to find a cure for childhood cancer. He presented a $181,129 check to the Foundation representing money the company raised in its July fund-raising program, including the debut of the Lemonator in Denver.
“In Denver, I visited a children’s hospital, met some of the kids and their families, and, it put things into perspective,” Gray said. “Obviously, smoking the tires at the track just wasn’t’ that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.”