BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 26, 2012) - This weekend, NHRA's Full Throttle Series returns to the dragstrip near St. Louis for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at the recently re-named and updated Gateway Motorsports Park. For Johnny Gray and the Service Central branch of the Don Schumacher Racing team, the days ahead will be very important in their quest to earn their first Funny Car championship title.
"We've got to up our game in the next two races if we want to be a contender," said Gray without hesitation. "What we do here in the next few weeks will be of utmost importance to the final outcome. All season long we've been taking it race by race with our NTB/Service Central hot rod, and that got us into the Countdown to the Championship. Now it's time to turn it up a notch."
Unlike last season, when Artesia, N.M.-based Gray just missed making the cutoff for the Countdown and a chance to race for the title, this year the focused team and their Rob Wendland-tuned NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger are in the thick of things. Gray, currently occupying the No. 8 position amongst the top 10 drivers vying for the coveted title, has so far this season accumulated two wins in three final rounds and was twice the No. 1 qualifier (in Phoenix and Norwalk).
The regular season ended at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis with a semifinals finish for Gray and the Service Central crew. Although he has yet to garner a round win after the first two events of the six-race Countdown to the Championship, Gray and company have identified key elements that required attention and determinedly worked to iron out the issues in preparation for the last four races of the year.
"We kind of played spoiler last year and made it our mission to beat up on the other guys in the Countdown, but we're having way more fun this year because we actually have a shot at the championship," said Gray. "We're going to St. Louis with a hot rod that we feel is back on track, and we're playing for all the marbles."
Gray, a professional NHRA drag racer since 1993, returned to the seat of a Funny Car in 2011 after three years of ultra-competitive Pro Stock racing. His last two appearances at the St. Louis-area facility netted a pair of No. 9 qualifiers and a round win. In 2011, the series did not stop at Gateway.
JOHNNY GRAY, NTB/Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T
Pts Races Wins R-up Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2012 8th 19 2 1 2 0 23-17
Career 200 3 11 3 40 124-157
AAA INSURANCE MIDWEST NATIONALS FULL THROTTLE NITRO SCHEDULE (all times ET)
FRIDAY: Nitro qualifying, 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY: Nitro qualifying, 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m.
SUNDAY: Final eliminations, 11 a.m.
Sunday: Qualifying, 1 - 2 p.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: Eliminations, 8-11 p.m. (ET), delayed
About Service Central
Service Central® is the automotive service offered exclusively at Tire Kingdom®, NTB-National Tire and Battery®, Merchant's Tire and Auto® and Big O Tires®. Available at more than 1,300 locations, the certified ASE technicians use state-of-the art equipment to provide quality service.
About TBC Retail Group
Headquartered in Juno Beach, Fla., TBC Retail Group, Inc., a subsidiary of TBC Corporation, operates more than 900 tire and automotive service centers under the brands: Tire Kingdom®, NTB - National Tire and Battery®, Merchant's Tire and Auto Centers®, Midas®, and SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up®, along with nearly 1800 franchised Big O Tires®, Midas and SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up® stores. TBC Retail Group employs more than 500 associates at its headquarters and approximately 10,000 associates nationally. To locate a store, call 800-NEW-TIRE. TBC Corporation, headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is the largest marketer of automotive replacement tires through a multi-channel retail and wholesale strategy.
About Don Schumacher Racing
Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., consists of seven professional NHRA teams: in Top Fuel, the U.S. Army dragster driven by seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, the FRAM/Prestone dragster of Spencer Massey and the Matco Tools dragster of Antron Brown; and in Funny Car, 2011 NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in the Aaron's Dream Machine/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, Valvoline NextGen Dodge piloted by Jack Beckman, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge of Ron Capps and the Service Central Dodge of Johnny Gray. DSR has won 193 NHRA national event titles and nine world championships.
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