Johnny Gray No. 1 qualifier in Phoenix once more

For the second straight year, Johnny Gray has been the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier at Firebird International Raceway.

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Final qualifying for the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix has concluded, and Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car driver Johnny Gray has once again stood out in the crowd at the desert facility. Gray, of Artesia, N.M., wheeled his gorgeous Pitch Energy Dodge to a series of spectacular runs that ultimately led to the capture of the fourth No. 1 qualifying start of his professional career and second consecutive pole at Firebird Raceway.

Johnny Gray
Johnny Gray

Photo by: NHRA

With crew chief Rob Wendland and assistant crew chief Rip Reynolds making the calls from a reliable Arizona playbook, the Artesia, N.M., resident was remarkable throughout qualifying. The weekend began with a hint of greater things to come as Gray lost a cylinder at the hit of the throttle but scurried on down to the 1,000-foot timer to clock the second-quickest run of the session, a 4.124 at 301 mph. In qualifying round two, the Pitch Energy Dodge was hitting on all eight and blasted to an awesome 4.034 at 313.80 mph to vault Gray to the very top of the pack.

The third qualifier was another strong showing for the Pitch Energy team as they lit up the scoreboard with a 4.045 at 314.46 to again establish themselves as the quickest in the field, more than two-hundredths ahead of the next best. The final session ended abruptly in tire smoke, but Gray's bold number from earlier in the weekend was untouchable, and he maintained hold of the coveted No. 1 position.

"We made a spectacular run Saturday morning," said Gray. "It was stupid fast for the session. We came back and thought we might have gotten away with something, so we backed it down just a little bit - and maybe we backed it down just a little bit too far. But hey, you learn every time you come to the starting line, and boy we feel really, really confident going into tomorrow. Who knows, maybe I can get this one off my bucket list.

"All my guys are just having a blast this year. We're all confident, Rob and Rip and the whole crew, and the excitement just continues to build with this team surrounding this car," said Gray, who will line up next to Robert Hight in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. "That means we're looking forward to tomorrow and doing what we can to put the Pitch Energy Dodge in the winner's circle."

Don Schumacher Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Johnny Gray , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight
Article type Qualifying report
Tags arizona, dodge, funny car, gray, mopar, phoenix, schumacher