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Apr 21, 2013 - 07:05 AM
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2013 NHRA: Johnny Gray Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Qualifying Report
Posted by: newsla on Apr 21, 2013 - 07:04 AM
2013 NHRA: Johnny Gray Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Qualifying Report

Funny Car driver Johnny Gray continues to surprise this season, but at this weekend's 4th annual Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, the surprise was most unfavorable for the Artesia, N.M.-based driver and his devoted Pitch Energy team. For the first time since the Chicago race in 2011, Gray missed the field and will not race on Sunday.


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The first day of qualifying for the four-across event at zMAX Dragway was a rain-plagued affair that canceled activities before they even began for the nitro-fueled categories, and the Funny Cars and Top Fuelers were relegated to just two sessions on Saturday to get a handle on the racetrack.

In the first session, Gray's Pitch Energy Dodge stumbled and emitted a puff of tire smoke downtrack, resulting in a 7.56 that set him temporarily in the No. 12 position. The Pitch Energy team labored before the final qualifying round to ensure a spot in the field, and Gray launched determinedly towards the finish line but encountered still more trouble about 300 feet into the run. A final time of 5.363 was not enough, and a 38-race qualifying streak came to a disappointing end.

"You know, it's all good. The guys were real down when we got back after that run, and I told them, I know this is bad," said Gray, who held longest qualifying streak for the Don Schumacher Racing Funny Cars entering the event. "But a couple of years ago, we were right here and we were struggling. We didn't think there was any way unless we got straightened out quick that we could make the Countdown. But right now, where we are and with what this team has already accomplished, we're on the opposite side of that. It would be pretty difficult for us to mess up enough to not make the Countdown."

So far this year, Gray and his Rob Wendland-led crew collected a win in Gainesville and enjoyed the view from the No. 1 spot with a low qualifier award in Phoenix. The Pitch Energy team eagerly awaits the next race where they can safely leave the uncharacteristic performance at zMAX in the past, and they won't have to wait long: the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals will take place at Royal Purple Raceway in Houston next weekend.

"Right at this moment, something is aggravating our car so we're going to stay and test on Monday to sort it out. This deal isn't over, and this is not time to hang our heads. Now we have to really pull together and get going, and we can do it. This is a great, great group of guys. We'll be fine."

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