Don Schumacher Racing press release
SEMIFINAL FINISH FOR JOHNNY GRAY AT THE FOURTH-ANNUAL NHRA NATIONALS
CONCORD, N.C., September 18, 2011 – Johnny Gray accomplished his goal of being a spoiler at today’s first round of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the fourth-annual NHRA Nationals here at zMAX Dragway by taking out Countdown to the Championship contender John Force in the first round.
The 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver came out of the number-six qualifying position against the reigning Funny Car champ and won in a tire-smoking “pedalfest.”
“It wasn’t a pretty drag race, but the Service Central Funny Car put on the win light at the end of the strip, which is what counts,” said the Artesia, N.M. native. “I said after qualifying I wanted to ‘ruin’ John’s first attempt at recapturing the title and we did.
“This car had run great throughout qualifying, but in nitro drag racing, sometimes you need a bit of luck as well as a great car to get a win. Today we had both, but lost in our best run of the afternoon.”
Gray took another traction-challenged round by defeating Jim Head in the quarterfinals before turning in a solid 4.118-second lap at 311.20 miles per hour in the semifinals. Unfortunately for the DSR flopper pilot, points leader Mike Neff ran a 4.080 at 309.91 mph to gain a final round match with DSR teammate Matt Hagan, who was the eventual race winner.
“We put up three runs in the 4.0s during qualifying, a great effort by Rob Wendland and Dickie Venables (co-crew chiefs) and the entire Service Central team, to get the top-half-of-the-field starting position, so we knew – and everyone else here in Concord – we had a good race car,” said the veteran driver. “These guys are really cooking and we will continue to be a force in the final five races this year and look out next year when this team will really be on its game.”
The next opportunity for Gray to leave a mark on the Countdown contestants comes this coming weekend, September 22-25, in the 26th-annual AAA Texas NHRA Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis.
“I can’t wait because we are having a lot of fun driving this hot rod.”