POMONA, Calif. – The first event of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is already proving to be very productive for Pro Stock driver Shane Gray and his Gray Motorsports team.
Their performance thus far at the 53rd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona has yielded a raceday start and valuable data to grow their program.
"Even though it wasn't the quickest run of the weekend, the last qualifying pass was our best," said crew chief Justin Elkes, referring to a session that took place on a hot racetrack on Saturday afternoon.
"We made a good run in the heat when a lot of other teams were struggling to get down the racetrack, and that leads us to believe that we're really getting a handle on the new car and new engine. It was good to end qualifying on a high note."
The Gray Motorsports team arrived in Pomona with a new Jerry Haas-built Camaro that they only began testing a few weeks ago, and they traveled to sunny Southern California with a revised engine program and a partnership with Elite Performance.
"We did have one run during qualifying where we didn't have the correct gear ratio set-up [in the third qualifying session], but minus that run, we were pretty consistent," said Elkes.
"The fact is, this is still very new, and the more runs we have, the better we'll be. Even though the overall numbers didn't show a huge improvement, we could still see the small improvements when we looked at the data. That's very promising."
Gray, who scored the first victory of his career in Pomona at the last race of the season, the NHRA Finals in 2010, expects that what the team learns in every journey down the racetrack will only serve to strengthen the program.
"I had higher expectations for our first few runs of the season," admitted Gray. "But we can see what we need to improve on. We aren't in the dark, and that's a really good thing. This is only the beginning.
"Tomorrow should be interesting," continued Gray, the No. 13 qualifier who will meet Jason Line in the first round of eliminations. "The weather is going to be a little bit cooler, and you always want the conditions to stay as consistent as possible, but we can deal with it.
It's going to be fast in the morning, and the track will be really good. That should be great for us, and we think we can make a good run. I can tell you this much; I'm looking forward to getting in the Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro on raceday. It was a long winter, and we're ready."