Monday, 24 October 2011 20:01
LAS VEGAS, October 24, 2011 – Carrying the best record during the past six races of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, Johnny Gray drives onto The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway here hoping to fulfill a sponsor’s dream by putting the Service Central/Big O Tires Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the winner’s circle of this weekend’s Big O Tires NHRA Nationals.
“We’ve been running really well these past few races and it would be really great to give the folks at Service Central and Big O Tires, who have stood behind us all year, a win at their race,” said the 58-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver. “The Service Central people along with Don believed in me and gave me a great race car and great team. They stuck with us when we had some rough times earlier this season and I’m thrilled things have turned around.”
Gray captured his first career Funny Car victory in Brainerd (Minn.) and, including that event, has put together a 13-5 round record, best in the category during the past six events, which includes runner up finishes in the last two races as well as the pole in Reading (Pa.).
“I knew we had a great team from the beginning of the year,” he said. “Rob and Dickie (Wendland and Venables, co-crew chiefs) coming on board to run the show has really made a difference. The guys have jelled and, obviously, we are the Funny Car to beat right now – it’s too bad we didn’t make the Countdown (to the Championship).
“But it’s great being a force in the Countdown. Those cars which treated us less than nicely earlier in the season are having a bit of trouble with the Service Central car now. I said if we couldn’t be in the playoffs, we would be a spoiler and now none of the leaders wants to face us – even if they wear DSR colors!”
Gray defeated the points leaders – Mike Neff and DSR teammate Matt Hagan – early in each of the last two races which directly impacted the standings.
“We race everyone the same way – to win,” he said. “We’re just continuing to dig and get ready for next year. We expect to compete for the championship in 2012, but first we’ll leave our mark on this year’s race.
“And we’re coming to Las Vegas, a track where we had our first final-round appearance (runner up) of this season (during the spring race). We’d like to go back to the finals again and close the deal this time.”
Friday, October 28 – Full Throttle nitro qualifying 4 and 7 p.m. ET
Saturday, October 29 – Full Throttle nitro qualifying 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, October 30 – Pre-race ceremonies 1p.m. ET; Full Throttle Series eliminations begin at 2 p.m. ET
Saturday, October 29 – ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights 10:30 – 12:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, October 30 – ESPN2/ESPN2HD will televise three hours of final-eliminations coverage 7 – 10 p.m. ET
Wednesday, November 2 – ESPN/ESPN2HD will re-air an hour and a half of eliminations highlights 2:30 - 4 a.m. ET
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