2013 NHRA: Gray, Brown Win NHRA Gatornationals Titles To Push National Event Wins To 200 For Don Schumacher Racing
Forty years ago, pioneering Funny Car driver and owner Don Schumacher won his first NHRA national event trophy.
It was at the biggest event on the NHRA circuit; nothing topped winning the U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis.
But the native Chicagoan who lives mostly in Florida now, will consider the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., as home to one of the biggest days in his illustrious career.
On Sunday, reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown and veteran Funny Car driver Johnny Gray won their respective categories at the Florida track to push Don Schumacher Racing's total of NHRA national event titles to 200.
"It's a tremendous reward," said an emotional Schumacher, who will be inducted May 2 into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Ala.
"I can't say what this personally feels like. When we won both championships in November, my mother passed away on the day of the banquet the next day. I haven't had joy really since then ...
"Today brings a special meaning to all of my efforts out here for all of these years."
Brown's Matco Tools team led by crew chief's Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald won their 14th title for DSR while Gray and crew chief Rob Wendland and the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T team won its fourth title for Schumacher.
"I just feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this whole organization," said Brown, who moved around DSR teammate Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army to take the points lead in the NHRA Mello Yello Series.
"It wasn't just Johnny and me who brought Don that 200th win, it was all of us together at DSR that made it happen. It wasn't just my team and Johnny's team, it was all of us together."
For Gray, who turns 60 on Wednesday, he could not think of a better way to thank Schumacher for giving him a championship-caliber race team.
"It was awesome. Don has been absolutely great to me," said Gray, who moved into a tie for first place with teammate Ron Capps and the NAPA Filters team.
"It's an awesome feeling for Antron and me, but it's also an awesome feeling for everybody back down the line who contributed to the wins including Don who started it."
One of the first congratulatory messages came from Pietro Gorlier, president and chief executive of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC's service, parts and customer-care brand.
"On behalf of everyone at Mopar, I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Don Schumacher and his team for reaching the 200-win milestone with victories by Johnny Gray in Funny Car and Antron Brown in Top Fuel," Gorlier said.
"Don has been a long-time loyal supporter and friend of the Mopar brand, as both a team owner and driver, making his first of many trips to the winner's circle in a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda Funny Car at the U.S. Nationals. We applaud his drive and determination that led him to this remarkable milestone and wish him many more wins in the years to come."
The following are DSR results from this weekend's NHRA Gatornationals and other notes:
Event winner: Antron Brown (DSR)
No. 1 qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.779, 326.32 mph
Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Qualifying position: No. 2
First round: BROWN (3.782 sec., 321.81) def. Larry Dixon (3.881, 302.55) Second round: BROWN (3.771, 326.48) def. Steve Torrence (3.793, 326.08)
Semifinals: BROWN (3.777, 320.74) def. Spencer Massey (3.799, 325.92)
Final: BROWN (3.761, 318.77) def. Clay Millican (3.813, 319.67)
Spencer Massey, Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher
Qualifying position: No. 6
First round: MASSEY (3.797 sec., 323.04 mph) def. David Grubnic (4.165, 203.75)
Second round: MASSEY (3.802, 323.27) def. Shawn Langdon (4.149, 259.56)
Semifinals: Antron Brown (3.777, 320.74) def. MASSEY (3.799, 325.92)
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster
Qualifying position: No. 5
First round: Khalid alBalooshi (4.147 sec., 260.16 mph) def. SCHUMACHER (9.317, 76.39)
Event winner: Johnny Gray (DSR)
No. 1 qualifier: Cruz Pedregon (Cruz Pedregon Racing) 4.047 sec., 296.05 mph
Johnny Gray, Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 2
First round: GRAY (4.038 sec., 311.56 mph) def. Jeff Arend (4.484, 210.67) Second round: GRAY (4.080, 312.28) def. Alexis DeJoria (4.127, 307.16)
Semifinals: GRAY (4.140, 302.89) def. Jack Beckman (4.390, 290.32)
Final: GRAY (4.053, 315.49) def. Del Worsham (4.100, 303.50)
Jack Beckman, Valvoline NextGen/MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors Dodge
Qualifying position: No. 11
First round: BECKMAN (4.121 sec., 301.13) def. Ron Capps (4.276, 307.09) Second round: BECKMAN (4.094, 309.91) def. Matt Hagan (4.130, 306.67)
Semifinals: Johnny Gray (4.140, 302.89 def. BECKMAN (4.390, 290.32)
Matt Hagan, Magneti Marelli by Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 3
First round: HAGAN (4.091 sec., 308.00 mph) def. Bob Tasca III (4.259, 269.51)
Second round: Jack Beckman (4.094, 309.91) def. HAGAN (4.130, 306.67)
Ron Capps, NAPA Filters Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 6
First round: Jack Beckman (4.121 sec., 301.13) def. CAPPS (4.276, 307.09)
NEXT EVENT: April 5-7, Las Vegas
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES
(Unofficial standings after three of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. ANTRON BROWN, 269
2. TONY SCHUMACHER, 265
3. Shawn Langdon, 207
4. Doug Kalitta, 187
5. Khalid alBalooshi, 183
6. SPENCER MASSEY, 177
7. Clay Millican, 165
8. Morgan Lucas, 159
9. Brandon Bernstein, 146
10. David Grubnic, 144
1. RON CAPPS, 244
1. JOHNNY GRAY, 244
3. Courtney Force, 216
4. MATT HAGAN, 209
5. Cruz Pedregon, 181
6. Del Worsham, 168
7. Robert Hight, 156
8. Bob Tasca III, 155
9. JACK BECKMAN, 148
10. John Force, 144