Infinenon Raceway Sears Point
Johnny Gray Grabs 11Th-Starting Spot For Fram/Autolite NHRA Nationals
Johnny Gray, driver of the Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, will come out of the 11th-starting position in Sunday’s 24th-annual FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals here at Infineon Raceway with his sights set on regaining a place in the top 10.
The 58-year-old Artesia, N.M. native will take on Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, who qualified sixth, in the first round of final eliminations, which begin at 11 a.m. PT.
“We’re going to take their tune up, tweak it and ambush them,” said Gray with tongue firmly in cheek, referring to the DSR internal cooperation which has Rahn Tobler, Beckman’s crew chief, helping set the base-line tune up for the Service Central car. “I want Jack to know I’ll still love him even after we beat him.”
Gray banked his run of 4.182 seconds at 300.86 miles per hour in the cool of Friday night’s second qualifying session for his position on the starting grid.
When the action begins tomorrow, the DSR driver will be 22 points – or just over one race-round win – behind Tim Wilkerson in the competition for the final spot in the field for the Countdown to 1. Results this weekend are important since there are three races left before the playoffs, which begin following the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
In addition to his pursuit of Wilkerson, Gray has to hold off any charge from Tony Pedregon who sits 23 points behind him in 12th place of the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings.
“We know what we have to do and I believe the car is getting better and better,” said Gray. “Rob (Wendland, in his third race as crew chief) is getting more and more confident, getting a better handle on the car with every passing day, and the crew is responding.
“I said earlier in the season we’ll surprise some people in the Funny Car category and I still believe we will.”
By: don schumacher