DENVER, Colo. (July 22, 2012) – Funny Car driver Johnny Gray has won on the mountain before. In fact, he did so well in the sportsman categories in Denver earlier in his career that for a spell he was known as King of the Mountain. However, this weekend at the 33rd annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Gray ran into a whole mess of trouble early and was stripped of the opportunity to stake his claim at Bandimere Speedway in the professional nitro category.
The first day of qualifying was brutal for the Service Central team as they were faced with multiple issues in the internal workings of their Big O Tires/SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up Dodge Charger R/T. Computer problems that prevented data accumulation left them without a guideline for the tough conditions at high altitude, and problems in the fuel system meant that they had no choice but to stay late into the night on Friday to sort everything out.
Saturday, though, the Big O Tires/SpeeDee Dodge came out swinging. In the first session, they were quickest of the field, and in the final qualifying round, Gray was second-quickest of the nitro floppers.
Starting from the No. 11 position, Artesia, N.M.-based Gray drew John Force Racing driver Mike Neff, a competitor he recently beat in the first round of eliminations in Chicago. This time around, though, it was Neff getting the win light, 4.275 to 4.366.
"We just got behind the eight ball on the first day, we qualified in the bottom half of the field, and you just can't do that," said Gray, who started from the No. 11 position. "We were starting to find our way back on Saturday in qualifying, and we thought we had it figured out for this morning and were thinking that we could keep it running on all eight – but we went out there and hit that little bump in the right lane, she dropped a hole, and my day was done."
There will be no rest for the Service Central Racing team as they prepare the Big O Tires/SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up Dodge for the next event on the Full Throttle Series tour: the NHRA Sonoma Nationals are scheduled to take place in just a few days, July 27-29.
"My hat is off to Mike Neff. He ran a good race; we just weren't there to run with him," said Gray. "It'll be different in Sonoma. Oh, he doesn't want us there."
Johnny Gray Big O Tires/SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up Dodge Charger R/T
Final qualifying position: No. 11
Round one: Neff (4.275 seconds at 299.00 mph) def. Gray (4.366, 282.95)
2012 NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
1. Robert Hight 1060
2. Ron Capps 994
3. Mike Neff 863
4. Jack Beckman 862
5. Johnny Gray 766
6. Courtney Force 701
7. Cruz Pedregon 680
8. Jeff Arend 661
9. Bob Tasca III 654
10. John Force 643
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 185 NHRA national event titles and nine world championships.
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