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May 12, 2013 - 05:45 AM
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2013 NHRA: Another Final for Shane Gray and Gray Motorsports Team
Posted by: newsla on May 12, 2013 - 05:44 AM
2013 NHRA: Another Final for Shane Gray and Gray Motorsports Team

Shane Gray and the Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team are making a habit of venturing to the final round of eliminations in NHRA's Mello Yello Drag Racing Series this year, and for the third consecutive event, the second-generation racer saw the inside of the closing act – this time at the rain-delayed 33rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.


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Two weeks ago in Houston, Gray was runner-up, and only three weeks ago, the Denver, N.C.-based driver experienced a taste of success at the unique four-wide event in Charlotte and was a contestant in the last round (NHRA officially records the Charlotte four-wide results as a final round for the only the two-quickest of the four drivers running for the title; Gray's results counted as a semifinals finish).

Gray, now sixth in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings, qualified in the No. 6 position in Atlanta and was lined up against Erica Enders-Stevens in the first round of eliminations. The challenges began early on raceday for Gray; Enders-Stevens has twice beaten him in the first round of eliminations this year, but on this day it was Gray taking the upper hand as he was first off the starting line with a respectable .030-second reaction and first to the finish, 6.618 to 6.652.

In the second round, things went awry at the starting line as the former Comp Eliminator driver realized he was missing a critical element in staging; his line-lock was broken. Gray kept his cool, however, and was able to leave the starting line without the necessary component with a lucky .008-second reaction time to Kurt Johnson's .032. When KJ got into trouble on the racetrack, Gray easily skirted around to take the win light with a 6.653 pass at just over 208 mph.

"We were pretty lucky there," admitted Gray. "When I put it on the limiter, the car started rolling forward. It was fortunate that I was staged so shallow, and it just barely started rolling. We went back to the trailer and fixed it, and the next round I knew I was racing Jeg. You know you better be good on the tree when you race him, so we just did our best, and the cards fell in our direction."

Gray continued the calm and cool approach and was an outstanding and unbelievable .002 at the start to Coughlin's .032. Although Coughlin had the quicker time at the top end, Gray was awarded the victory on the basis of a holeshot, and he was handed a ticket to the final round – the sixth of his career.

Gray continued to amaze at the starting line and launched with a psychic .001-second reaction time, but a broken valve spring ailed his efforts, and Edwards was able to get around him and record low e.t. of eliminations for the win.

The trip to the final was fairly remarkable for the driver who had yet to win a round in Atlanta prior to this weekend's festivities. He also qualified in the top half of the field in Atlanta for the first time this year.

"I'd have to say that I'm feeling good in the car," said Gray. "We're becoming more confident, but it doesn't change how we approach each race. We still pull through the gates just wanting to qualify. If we qualify, then we just focus on winning the first round. If we can keep going, great, but it starts with qualifying. We're doing better than we've done in a long time, and that's a great feeling, but we aren't going to get too excited about it just yet."

For Gray, the awesome weekend was rewarding on many levels: he celebrated a birthday on Thursday before the event, and the trip to the final round was a nice gift. It was also the first time that he and his father, Funny Car driver Johnny Gray made it to the final round at the same event and had a shot at sharing the winner's circle. Although the younger Gray fell just short of celebration, his father won the Atlanta Funny Car title.

"This was a good weekend," said Gray. "It was sure great to be here with my dad winning, and we almost won, too. That would have been a real neat deal, especially with tomorrow being Mother's Day. I'd like to wish my mom and my mother-in-law, Janet, a Happy Mother's Day. Today was awesome, but tomorrow it's going to be about the moms. I'm going to take my wife Amber, the mother of our three boys, out and do whatever she wants to do. But next week, we're going to Topeka and see what we can do there."

Shane Gray, Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro
Qualifying position: No. 6

First round: GRAY (6.618-sec., 209.01 mph) def. Erica Enders-Stevens (6.652, 208.30)
Second round: GRAY (6.653, 208.68) def. Kurt Johnson (7.986, 125.44)
Semifinals: GRAY (6.620, 208.75) def. Jeg Coughlin (6.607, 209.49)
Final: Mike Edwards (6.595, 209.14) def. GRAY (6.643, 208.17)

Session 1: 6.626-second at 209.23 mph
Session 2: 6.608, 209.56

NEXT EVENT: May 17-19, NHRA Kansas Nationals, Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.)

(Unofficial after seven of 24 events)

Pro Stock
1. Mike Edwards, 656
2. Jeg Coughlin, 530
3. Allen Johnson, 501
4. Erica Enders-Stevens, 482
5. Jason Line, 472
6. Shane Gray, 421
7. Vincent Nobile, 393
8. Greg Anderson, 380
9. V. Gaines, 370
10. Greg Stanfield, 322

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