Don Schumacher Racing
Johnny Gray Qualifies Sixth For NHRA Northwest Nationals
Johnny Gray today qualified the Service Central Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car sixth for Sunday’s 24th-annual NHRA Northwest Nationals here at Pacific Raceways.
The 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver, while pleased with the 4.145-second lap at 297.94 miles per hour in the fourth and final qualifying session, was not happy about meeting DSR teammate Ron Capps in the opening round of final eliminations.
"There’s good and bad in racing Ron in the first round," said Gray. "The good is a DSR car will make it to the quarterfinals; the bad is a DSR car will go out in the first round. We just want the winner in the round to be the Service Central Funny Car.
“I hate racing a teammate, but there is nothing I can do about how the ladder turned out.”
Winning rounds is crucial for Gray, who heads into Sunday’s first round, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. PT, holding 11th place in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings, one spot out of the playoff picture. With three races remaining, including Sunday’s contest, in which to make up the 61-point deficit (which equates to just over three rounds of competition) to Tim Wilkerson for the final Countdown to 1 spot, every points-scoring opportunity must be maximized.
“I believe we’ll get there,” Gray said. “This car is running better and our Service Central team is improving on a round-by-round basis.
“Our success today came because the guys keep getting the combination better and better. They are learning the car, how it reacts to their adjustments and how to best adapt it to the track conditions.”
Gray posted a 4.159-second pass at 303.03 mph in today’s first session, which put him into the top-half of the field for Sunday’s race.
The track challenged crew chiefs in both nitro categories throughout qualifying, especially for those running in the left lane. It improved from Friday to Saturday, but lane choice might still be a factor on Sunday.
“As for lane choice, which seemed to be on everyone’s mind today – ask me after the dragsters run which lane we want,” Gray explained. “I just take everything a day at a time; a round at a time. Right now, things are going good.”