BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 24, 2012) – These days, Artesia, N.M.-based Funny Car driver Johnny Gray is known for piloting the NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger Funny Car, but in the early 1990s, he was an ambitious Comp Eliminator driver blazing a trail in NHRA drag racing in hot pursuit of a barrier-breaking run in his Reher Morrison-powered A/Dragster.
Gray worked up to the magnificent target at the national event in 1993 held at a venue now known as Royal Purple Raceway (formerly Houston Raceway Park) with four qualifying passes eclipsing 198 mph, and he finally achieved the goal with a resounding 201.60 mph run in the first round of eliminations.
“It’s been so long ago now, but people still do bring it up,” said Gray, who enjoyed much success in the sportsman ranks and earned three national event wins in Lucas Oil Series competition, including one in Top Alcohol Dragster and two in Top Alcohol Funny Car, before turning Pro. “It was a pretty nice run for the time, and boy, it was fun. Not quite as fun as driving my Service Central Funny Car, but it was really something.”
The heart of his cheering section is still the same – wife Terry and sons Shane (then 20) and Jonathan (then 11) were by his side for that historic pass, and they now support Gray as he commands the 7,000 horsepower NTB/Service Central Funny Car to over 310 mph; Shane races competitively on the Full Throttle Series tour in the NTB/Service Central Pro Stock Pontiac and Jonathan drives another Service Central Pontiac in Comp Eliminator.
So far this season, the elder Gray has qualified in the top half at all but one event, and in Phoenix he was the No. 1 qualifier for the second time in his career. One race later, he commanded his Rob Wendland/Rip Reynolds-tuned Dodge to a final round, and Gray will arrive in Houston for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries sitting fourth in the series standings.
“We have faced some challenges, but we tested after the last race in Charlotte and really feel like we found some things that will help our program become even better,” said the driver who won rounds at each of the two events since Gainesville but is itching for another final.
“Rob and Rip and the guys have been working alongside the braintrust of Don Schumacher Racing crew chiefs, and we won’t know until we get there, but we think we may have gotten the consistency back that has been missing. Houston has been good to us before; let’s see what we can do now.”
(through April 15; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in BOLD)
1. Robert Hight, 520 (4)
2. Mike Neff, 375
3. Jack Beckman, 333
4. Johnny Gray, 301
5. John Force, 292 (1)
6. Cruz Pedregon, 278
7. Ron Capps, 274
8. Bob Tasca III, 262
9. Courtney Force, 213
10. Bob Bode, 198
12. Matt Hagan, 171
FULL THROTTLE EVENT SCHEDULE
FRIDAY: 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m., Qualifying
SATURDAY: 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., Qualifying
SUNDAY: 11 a.m., Championship Eliminations
SATURDAY: 5-7 p.m. (EDT), Qualifying coverage (delayed)
SUNDAY: 7-10 p.m. (EDT), Championship Eliminations (delayed)
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