Route 66 Raceway
New Crew Chief Sparks Johnny Gray’s Optimism For This Weekend’s Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Thanks to the addition of a new crew chief, Johnny Gray drives into this weekend’s Route 66 NHRA Nationals here at Route 66 Raceway full of renewed optimism for the entire Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team.
Rob Wendland was promoted from assistant crew chief to crew chief after the last race to help rejuvenate the Don Schumacher Racing entry. The team, which was formed during the off season, started the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series campaign by qualifying second at the opening race, but after a brief hold on fifth place in the standings, has dropped to 10th, where it has spent much of the season.
“This car is capable of better, more consistent performance,” said Gray who has missed qualifying for two races and went out in the first round at four others during the season’s first 10 events. “Some of it was me getting used to driving a Funny Car after five years away from them and some of it was sorting out a new team and a new car.
“I’m thrilled with the appointment of Rob as the new Service Central crew chief and I like how we will be setting up our car like (DSR teammates) Ron (Capps) and Jack’s (Beckman) cars are setup. This means Rob will be able to really share information with the other great DSR crew chiefs and we’ll get this car where it belongs – in the midst of the top 10 Funny Cars.”
Positioning is crucial as there are six races remaining for the top 10 drivers to qualify for the Countdown to 1 post-regular-season playoffs. Gray sits but a few rounds ahead of Tim Wilkerson, Jim Head and former champion Tony Pedregon.
“This is a very competitive, superb Funny Car group,” said Gray. “You can’t take anything for granted and the results from one race can mean jumping or falling multiple places in the standings – and now is not the time for falling!
“I’ve said all year we have a car which can go fast, which can compete, and we’ve shown it. We went to a final round in Las Vegas and a semifinal one in Topeka (before losing both times to Robert Hight, who won both races); we just have to be consistent and make laps. I think the changes we just made are a great step in that direction.”