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Oct 07, 2012 - 07:04 AM
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2012 NHRA: Johnny Gray Starting Fourth In The NTB Service Central Lemonator
Posted by: newsla on Oct 07, 2012 - 06:59 AM
2012 NHRA: Johnny Gray Starting Fourth In The NTB Service Central Lemonator At Maple Grove Raceway

The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals have already lived up to high expectations for swift performances at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, and the final session of qualifying continued the thrilling trend at the historic racetrack. For Johnny Gray and the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation "Lemonator" Dodge, fast was the name of the game as he wheeled the NTB/Service Central backed hot rod to a rocket-like 4.028 at a booming career best speed of 318.99 mph.


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"We were excited that the Alex's Lemonade Stand car made a good run, but we were also somewhat confused," admitted Gray, who saw his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman break into the 3-second zone with a 3.989 at 320.58.

"We knew it was out there, and my crew chief Rob Wendland really thought we had enough tune-up in it to run a little bit quicker than we did. In all honestly, we thought it would either run a 3.99 or smoke the tires. But we've been trying to catch up with the tune-up vs. the air, and we're still just a hair behind. Rob is doing a great job though, and we're getting there."

Gray's run in the final session was the second-quickest overall of the round (Beckman, who backed up the national record in the third session, was a touch quicker than Gray in the fourth qualifier with a 4.01).

The favorable performance and lofty position were a glass of cool water for the consistently persistent Service Central team. Prior to the Reading event, Gray was experiencing a streak of less-than-stellar qualifying performances, but he will start fourth at Maple Grove, his best raceday start since the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd in August.

In the first round on raceday, Artesia, N.M.-based Gray will line up next to Bob Tasca III, a driver that he has defeated in each of their previous two meetings this season.

"The Alex's Lemonade Stand car is looking real strong for tomorrow," said Gray. "Where we qualified and who we run, well it really doesn't matter because we know we have a great racecar. We're going to go out tomorrow and see if we can be as lucky as we were last year – if we get to the final like we did then, maybe we can win it."

Gray, with the support of TBC Retail Group and Don Schumacher Racing, is campaigning for the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation this weekend with the Lemonator body on his Dodge Charger R/T. The goal for the team is to bring awareness to and raise funds for the foundation based on the dream of cancer patient Alexandra "Alex" Scott (1996-2004), who started a front-yard lemonade stand at 4 years old to raise money towards finding a cure for all children with cancer. The foundation that has carried on in Alex's name funds over 250 research projects annually in the race to find a cure.

Everyone is encouraged to make a $5 donation to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation simply by texting "CANCER TBC" to 85944 during the course of the weekend.

Johnny Gray, NTB/Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T

Qualifying position: 4th

First round opponent: Bob Tasca III

Friday Qualifying

Session one: 7.397-second at 82.20 mph

Session two: 4.090, 313.37

Saturday Qualifying

Session three: 4.039, 315.05

Session four: 4.028, 318.99

SUNDAY: Final eliminations, 11 a.m.

ON ESPN2 (all times ET)
Sunday: Qualifying, 6-7 p.m. delayed
Sunday: Eliminations, 7-10 p.m. (ET), delayed

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