NTB driver Johnny Gray flies under gray skies at Brainerd

Johnny Gray
Johnny Gray

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Brainnerd, Minn. - The NTB/Service Central Funny Car team had an extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on awesome conditions in the final session of qualifying at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals when a storm passed through at Brainerd Int'l Raceway and put the action on hold in the middle of the Funny Car session. Beneath gray skies and with much cooler conditions, a souped-up Gray raced to a stellar 4.055 at 316.75 mph to reset the track record for speed and score a start from the No. 4 position.

"If you can believe it, we're actually a little disappointed," said crew chief Rob Wendland. "We wanted to go 4-flat out there, and we really thought we could do it, but we're out-powering the clutch application. We have great numbers from 660-1,000 feet, but our early numbers haven't been as good - and that's tough to make up for."

Wendland's projected 4.00-second blast would have topped Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman's incredible No. 1 qualifier-worthy 4.018 clocked in the lane next to them. However, Wendland was definitely enthusiastic regarding the exceptional speed that the NTB/Service Central car recorded in both the first and second runs of the day. The 316 mph pass was preceded by a track record-besting 314.46.

"Our mph shows the kind of power this car is making, and we have yet to catch up with it," said Wendland. "But you have to look at it and realize that this NTB/Service Central Dodge is a great car. We're spoiled, and we always want to be No. 1, but we really do have an awesome racecar."

Gray, the defending event champion, scored the first victory of his nitro Funny Car career here in Brainerd just one year ago and has the potential to earn his first repeat trophy. Since winning here last season, the Artesia, New Mexico-based driver has collected two more event titles - in Englishtown and Sonoma, both this year.

"We'd like to do it again here in Brainerd, we always want to win, but no matter what happens tomorrow we already know we've secured our position to race for that championship," said Gray, who clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs when he made his first qualifying pass this weekend. "That's a real good feeling, and that good feeling is only going to get better and better. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough."

Johnny Gray, NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 4
First-round opponent: No. 13 qualifier Jim Head

Qualifying Results
Session 1: 4.907-second at 159.44 mph
Session 2: 4.098, 311.20
Session 3: 4.08, 314.46
Session 4: 4.055, 316.75

FULL THROTTLE NITRO SCHEDULE:
Sunday: Eliminations at 11 a.m. (CT)

Source: Don Schumacher Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Article type Qualifying reports
Tags brainerd, don schuhmacher, gray.ntb, nhra