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Oct 28, 2012 - 05:01 PM
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2012 NHRA: Johnny Gray Las Vegas II Qualifying Report: No 5
Posted by: newsla on Oct 28, 2012 - 04:55 PM
2012 NHRA: Johnny Gray Las Vegas II Qualifying Report: No 5

Service Central Funny Car driver Johnny Gray wheeled his Big O Tires Dodge Charger R/T to the top half of the field for the 14th time this season with a swift 4.089 at 313.22 mph recorded in the third qualifying session of his sponsor's title event, the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


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The efficient blast to the 1,000-foot finish line mark was ultimately good for more than the No. 5 position in the line-up; it was also worth three valuable bonus points to add to the pile as Gray pursues a career-best finish in NHRA's Full Throttle Series Funny Car championship battle.

Qualifying wasn't exactly a cakewalk for Gray and his branch of the Don Schumacher Racing team, but as the dedicated group tends to do, they landed in a pleasing position when all was said and done. The weekend began with a 4.143 at 291.95 mph in the first session, followed by an improved yet somewhat disappointing 4.123 in what could have been the best session of the weekend.

"We felt that was a missed opportunity when we dropped a hole out there on Friday night," said Gray. "But we went back and they guys worked real hard, and we came out this morning and found a little bit of what we were looking for."

Gray opened the day on Saturday with the powerful 4.08-second run and came back for more in the final round before the field would be set. After an extended delay while NHRA's Safety Safari worked to repair damage to the racing surface, Gray strapped into his Big O Tires hot rod and launched into what he had imagined would be another head-turner.

"Well, it dropped a cylinder, then it threw a blower pulley, and then the car was all over the racetrack," said the Artesia, N.M.-based Gray, who kept it as steady as possible and tripped the final timer with a 4.170 at 281.07 mph.

"Sure, it was a bit of a letdown after we did so well there in the earlier run, but that's done now, that's history. You go back now, figure out why it didn't do what we thought it was going to do, and we get it fixed for tomorrow."

Gray, starting from the No. 5 position, will have lane choice over No. 12 qualifier Tim Wilkerson in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Earlier this season, at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Gray made his way to the winner's circle on the springboard of a first-round victory over friend and rival Wilkerson.

"We don't think about it like that because there is no sense in looking back at the good or the bad," said Gray. "You just have to look forward, and all we have to do is concern ourselves with what's happening in our lane tomorrow. I'm feeling pretty darn good about the Big O Tires Dodge and this Service Central team. It's always a good deal to have lane choice, and we've got that in our pocket. It is very realistic to imagine that we can see the inside of the winner's circle tomorrow, but we'll start with round one and see how far we can take this Big O Tires Dodge."

Johnny Gray, Big O Tires/Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: 12th
First round opponent: Tim Wilkerson

Friday Qualifying
Session one: 4.143-second at 291.95 mph
Session two: 4.123, 302.41
Saturday Qualifying
Session three: 4.089, 313.22
Session four: 4.170, 281.07

SUNDAY: Final eliminations, 11 a.m.

Sunday: Qualifying, 4-5 p.m. ET (1-2 p.m. PT)
Sunday: Eliminations, 8-11 p.m. ET (5-8 p.m. PT)

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