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Feb 23, 2013 - 06:19 AM
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2013 NHRA: Gray Takes Pitch Energy Dodge To The Top On First Day In Phoenix
Posted by: newsla on Feb 23, 2013 - 06:15 AM
NHRA
2013 NHRA: Gray Takes Pitch Energy Dodge To The Top On First Day In Phoenix


The first day of qualifying at the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Raceway near Phoenix ended exactly as Johnny Gray intended: with his striking Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T, a tribute to his late father, John R. Gray, at the top of the heap as the quickest Funny Car on the property.

 

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Gray, of Artesia, N.M., was second quickest overall in the first session of the day, clocking a 4.124 at 301 mph despite a cylinder that was out of commission at the hit of the throttle. Upon their return to the pit area, the Pitch Energy team, with crew chief Rob Wendland and assistant crew chief Rip Reynolds leading the charge, rallied to ensure an improved journey down the racing surface in the second session. They were rewarded with a stunning 4.034 at 313.80 mph that vaulted Gray to No. 1.

"Rob and Rip just have a good handle on it," said Gray, who was the No. 1 qualifier at Firebird Raceway last season. "Needless to say, they gave me a really good racecar today. We've qualified well here before, but we've always sort of struggled, and I can tell you that I feel pretty good right now. That was just such a nice, easy pass. There wasn't anything stupid going on, it didn't get away, it didn't feel like it was edgy – it was just a nice, clean pass.

"We've never won this race, and I don't plan on being back in a fuel car next year, so it's on my bucket list to try to win here. First, we have to get through qualifying and then we'll see how things go on Sunday. But I'm feeling pretty confident in my Pitch Energy Dodge and in this team."

In his last full season as a Funny Car competitor, Gray is campaigning a very special paint scheme on his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger. He and his sister, Terry Chandler, are funding the car through their company, Pitch Energy, a business started by their father. An image of John R. Gray graces the quarter-panels on either side of the bright orange Funny Car body, and the 59-year-old driver is proud to be taking his dad along for the ride.

"There are really no words to describe this feeling," said Gray. "You would have to have known my dad. Of course, everybody feels the same way – but they're all wrong. I had the greatest dad. My dad and I were real close; we were business partners, best friends, and he was my dad.

"Boy, it's just such an honor to have him on the car. I feel like we have him right here with us. Tomorrow, we'll get back to it and see if we can stay on top, but right now, we're enjoying this moment."

Qualifying for the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals will continue on Saturday with two sessions, one at 1:00 p.m. and another at 3:00 p.m. Eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.

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