Columbus: Gray taking steps towards first career victory

HEBRON, Ohio - Johnny Gray has been involved with NHRA drag racing for more than 30 years. He has raced in nearly every category but he may have found a home with the nitro Funny Cars. Gray joined Del Worsham and the Checker Schuck's Kragen Funny...

HEBRON, Ohio - Johnny Gray has been involved with NHRA drag racing for more than 30 years. He has raced in nearly every category but he may have found a home with the nitro Funny Cars. Gray joined Del Worsham and the Checker Schuck's Kragen Funny Car team before the 2002 season and the two-car team has developed into a contending force at each national event.

Gray has been the runner-up at two national events this season (Pomona, Calif. and Atlanta) and is aiming for his first NHRA national event victory.

Gray would like nothing more than to have his first career victory at the 39th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing at National Trail Raceway, June 12-15. Larry Dixon, Ron Capps, Greg Anderson and Craig Treble are the defending winners in their respective categories for the $2 million race, the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"We are having a lot of fun this season and I love driving this car," Gray said. "I know that every time I pull up to the starting line I have a chance of winning the race."

Gray joined the Worsham team in 2002 and finished in the No. 10 spot of the POWERade Funny Car standings. This year, with new co-crew chiefs Marc Denner and Chris Cunningham, the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird team has higher expectations.

"I still think we have a real good shot of ending up in the top five of the Funny Car point standings," Gray said. "We're also still looking to run our first 4.70-second pass and I think we should pull that off real soon. Chris and Marc are doing such a good job at making this car consistently fast. We are trying to get in the top five and win a race or two as well."

Gray will be the first one to admit that he joined the nitro ranks of competition at the wrong time. He thinks the Funny Car category has never been as tough as it is now.

"I entered the Funny Car scene at probably one of the worst times ever," Gray said. "The competition has just gotten tougher every year. I think we have done a very good job of stepping up this program and making both cars competitive every week. We have a great group of people working on both cars and it's a great feeling knowing that both cars are capable of turning in great numbers on every pass."

The two runner-up finishes are a first for Gray and since he has been so close to winner's circle, he has become more confident.

"The more competitive the car is, the more competitive the driver is," Gray said. "It can be very hard to be on top of your game and leave the line first if you think your car won't go very far. This is the most confident I have ever been in a fuel car and I'm loving every minute of it."

While Gray is still seeking his first national event victory, he doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to hoist the Wally trophy in the air.

"I haven't given it a lot of thought because it is just one of those deals where I know it is something I want to accomplish, and I will do everything I can to help make happen, but I can't spend too much time thinking about it," Gray said. "I'm real happy with how everything is progressing right now and our entire team feels like we are real close. Once we get all the stars lined up and have a little luck on our side, we'll be able to put together four solid passes and get the victory."

-nascar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Greg Anderson , Craig Treble , Johnny Gray