BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 19, 2012) - Last weekend's NHRA event in Charlotte was surprising for Johnny Gray and the Service Central Funny Car team; with two wins in three final rounds so far this season and a clear path to a career year, they did not expect to exit early in the first race of the Countdown to the Championship.
Thankfully, they won't have to wait long to set things right. This weekend, the ever-eager crew will hit the dragstrip at Texas Motorplex for a return to glory with their NTB/Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T as they compete for the title at the 27th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals.
"We actually found some things wrong with the Service Central Funny Car and the way the chassis was set up," said Artesia, N.M.-based Gray, currently 6th in the Full Throttle Series Funny Car standings with five races to go before the Championship is decided.
"Some things had been eating at us, so we're going to get those fixed. In the meantime, we have the car out that we were running on the West Coast [Denver, Sonoma - where Gray won, and Seattle]. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in that car, and we're going to Dallas to get caught up. We got a little behind, but there is still plenty of time to get to where we mean to be."
This weekend the Full Throttle Series tour returns to Texas Motorplex, one of three all-concrete dragstrips on the tour and the first of its kind when it was opened in 1986. Since then, it has cemented its place in history as a venue where national records and speed milestones are recorded.
"I've always been a huge fan of the Dallas track," said Gray, who was runner-up at Texas Motorplex in 2009 as a Pro Stock driver. "Texas is close enough to my hometown down there in New Mexico that I'll have a whole lot of family and oil field friends who will show up - everyone from oil and gas industry executives to field people. It's always a real neat deal for us, and it's something we look forward to every year."
The delayed Traxxas Shootout for the nitro Funny Cars will also take place this weekend. The event was originally scheduled to take place at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, but severe weather necessitated postponement for the Funny Car drivers. The Traxxas Shootout is a race within a race that will award $100,000 to the last driver standing in the eight-man/woman run-off. Gray earned his berth when he won the Toyota Supernationals in Englishtown earlier this season.
"We feel comfortable because we know we have a good hot rod, and we're really excited about this Traxxas Shootout deal," said Gray, who will square off with Mike Neff in the first round of the bonus event. "It's just going to be a great race. We're also going to have several of the folks from SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up out this weekend, and Lynn and Cynthia Parker from Service Central. We're excited to go out there and kind of redeem ourselves.
"As far as where we are in the Countdown, there is really no need to stress yourself out watching the points right now. It is what it is, and if you go out and go rounds, you're going to move up - you go out and have a bad race, you'll move back a little it. For the next few races, you just have to do the best that you can, and by the time we get to Las Vegas, we'll be watching the points and trying to figure out where we'll land. But at this point in time, it's still anybody's game. Trust me."
JOHNNY GRAY, NTB/Big O Tires Dodge Charger R/T
Pts Races Wins Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2012 6th 18 2 1 2 0 23-16
Career 199 3 11 3 40 124-156
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT - FUNNY CAR
Saturday (12:45 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m.)
First-round pairings: 1. RON CAPPS vs. fan vote/lottery winner Courtney Force; 2. Robert Hight vs. No. 7 Jeff Arend; 3. JACK BECKMAN vs. No. 6 John Force; 4. JOHNNY GRAY vs. No. 5 Mike Neff
AAA TEXAS FALL NATIONALS FULL THROTTLE NITRO SCHEDULE (all times ET)
FRIDAY: Nitro qualifying, 3 p.m., 6 p.m.
SATURDAY: Nitro qualifying, 11:45 a.m., 3 p.m.
SUNDAY: Final eliminations, 11 a.m.
Sunday: Qualifying, 1 - 2 p.m. & 3 - 4:30 p.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: Eliminations, 8:30 -11:30 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 192 NHRA national event titles and nine world championships.
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