JOLIET, Ill. (July 1, 2012) – Johnny Gray called it “divine intervention” when the camshaft broke in his NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger R/T during the second round of eliminations at the 15th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals – what could have been a disastrous, Funny Car body-launching affair was downgraded to a tremendous jolt for Gray inside the cockpit as the part broke in the best way possible.
“I really felt like the car was on a winning run, and looking at the numbers [before the breakage], we really should have won,” said Gray, who ultimately clocked a 5.751 to opponent Jack Beckman’s 4.099 in their quarterfinals battle. “When the camshaft breaks, the valve train quits turning and the motor just dies instantly – it goes from pulling almost 4 Gs to about one negative. I really felt it in there.
“The bad luck was that we were on a really good run and the camshaft broke, but the good luck is that it broke right in the front and instantly killed the motor, otherwise it would have bent a bunch of valves, lit the blower up, and we’d have launched another body up over the bleachers. Mr. Schumacher [team owner Don Schumacher] would have been very upset with us, and I would have to get another one of those talking-tos from my wife. So it was both a bad and a good thing.”
Aside from the carnage-avoidance, Gray also avoided a downgrade in the Full Throttle Series point standings by taking out Mike Neff in the first round. The Artesia, New Mexico-based driver was 4.120 at the finish line stripe to Neff’s 4.164. Gray temporarily moved into third place and bumped Neff down to fourth, but Beckman’s victory in round two allowed him to go around both for the No. 3 spot. Gray is now back in fourth, and Neff is fifth.
“It’s going to be fun the rest of the [regular] season before the Countdown starts,” said Gray. “Trust me, there isn’t any give-up in Mike Neff, and there isn’t any give-up in this team. If Beckman thinks he’s going to sit there in third place and have it easy, he’s wrong. We’ll be coming after him, and I can assure you that Mike Neff will be coming after us. There are others back there that can get on a run and come after us too – it’s going to be a tough battle, but we’re up for it.
“I’m sure happy with this NTB/Service Central hot rod, and I’m real glad that the race in Norwalk is in just a few days. I won’t have to wait too long to get back in there and go some rounds.”
Johnny Gray, NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Final qualifying position: No. 6
Round one: Gray (4.120 seconds at 306.81 mph) def. Mike Neff (4.164, 299.46)
Round two: Jack Beckman (4.099, 306.60) def. Gray (5.751, 124.12)
2012 NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
1. Robert Hight 950
2. Ron Capps 854
3. Jack Beckman 701
4. Johnny Gray 687
5. Mike Neff 686
6. Jeff Arend 556
7. Courtney Force 554
8. Bob Tasca III 549
9. Cruz Pedregon 545
10. John Force 536
The next event on the Full Throttle Series tour is the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, July 6-8.
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