Early exit for Johnny Gray prompts change for Tire Kingdom Dodge

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 16, 2012) – The 5th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals ended early and abruptly for Tire Kingdom/Service Central Racing Funny Car pilot Johnny Gray, who qualified 14th at the event and drew Mike Neff as a first-round opponent.

Although Gray did not collect a round win in the first race of the Countdown to the Championship, he and his branch of the Don Schumacher Racing team gained valuable insight and are eager to continue their quest for the season title.

Johnny Gray
Johnny Gray

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Gray was first to leave in his first-round meeting with Neff, a driver he had faced three times prior in the season, but before he even tripped the 330-foot timer, Gray's forward march was stumbled as the tires shook loose, and he was sent home empty-handed.

"We've been dealing with some issues with this car," explained crew chief Rob Wendland. "We brought it out at the Indy test, and this car showed great potential there. But we scaled the car and found that it had settled – and we just didn't catch it, and that made the car very unpredictable on the starting line.

We're fixing it, but I'm bringing out the other chassis that we won two races with this year, and I'll fix the other car so that if something does happen and I want or need to bring it out, I can. As of right now, we're bringing back Ol' Betsy and putting her right back to where we left off at Brainerd."

Gray, who came into the first race of the Countdown in the No. 5 position, slipped down one spot to sixth with the early exit, but the motivated Service Central team is determined to keep their heads up and the intended goal well in sight without becoming flustered by any circumstances.

"We're not going to put pressure on ourselves, and we're going to continue to do the best job that we can," said Wendland. "We will race smart, and we won't let the pressure push us to do things that we normally wouldn't do.

But we're out here for Service Central, Tire Kingdom, and all of our partners, and we want to try to make them proud. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we will have done that."

The next event on the Full Throttle Series tour is in just a few short days. The AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals are scheduled for Sept. 20-23, 2012.

Source: Don Schumacher Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Johnny Gray , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff
Article type Race report
Tags charlotte, dodge, gray, nhra