The 2012 season of NHRA Full Throttle Series Drag Racing has been memorable for Service Central Pro Stock driver Shane Gray, although not entirely for pleasing reasons. This weekend, at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Gray will seize the opportunity to put a cap on the year with an outing that he hopes will be remembered for the good that it brings.
The idea of a positive close to the season brings to mind the 2010 NHRA Finals in Pomona, when second-generation driver Gray drove his way to the final with round wins over Dave Connolly, Kurt Johnson and V. Gaines. Gray put the cherry on the cake of his rookie season when he beat Jeg Coughlin in the final round, 6.566 to 6.568, and earned the first national event victory of his career.
"I wasn't really worried about anything that day," recalled Gray. "I was just having fun and driving. I was confident in what I had, and everything just seemed to work. When I realized we were going to the final, I just thought, well – we've got a 50/50 chance; let's see what we can do. But when the win light came on down there, I thought, 'Whoa. What just happened?' It was pretty awesome, and I do think about that going back there. Especially for this race."
Although the 2012 season has been a departure from the ambitious driver's first two years in the class (Gray finished in the No. 4 position in 2010 and was No. 9 in 2011), the Denver, N.C., resident, currently 11th in the series standings, has fought relentlessly for every single point while plagued with a slew of struggles that has included falling just short of qualifying at two races and crashing his eight-race-new Camaro at his home track in Charlotte.
Gray and his team tested with an untiring nature all season long and never bowed out of competition, always keeping their eyes and hearts on a turn towards the better. A humbled Gray cautiously carries that ever-ignited spark of optimism to Pomona.
"I'm optimistic, but I'm also realistic," said Gray. "I know we don't have what these other guys out here have right now. We don't have it yet. But we're going out there to do the best we can do with our Big O Tires/Service Central Pontiac, and we plan to run to our full potential and make the most of this race. And then we'll be looking ahead at what we can do to make next year really and truly memorable in the best possible way."