2013 NHRA: Shane Gray Set For Return To Form In Brainerd
With only two races left to determine final positions for NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, Shane Gray and the Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro crew are "all systems go" for this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Fourth-year competitor Gray, son of Funny Car driver Johnny Gray, has already been enjoying one of his best seasons to date and is locked into a run for the championship. Inching into a higher position would only serve to aid his bid for a career-first Pro Stock season title, and Gray and his team are prepared for a full recovery this weekend following a slight stumble.
Although Gray's sleek and speedy Camaro has played the role of intimidator much of the year, Gray and his determined team were a bit flustered by a mechanical gremlin at the event in Seattle two weeks ago. For the first time in 13 races, Gray qualified in the bottom half of the field. Although he picked up a win in the first round, the Denver, N.C.-based competitor was sent home in the quarterfinals and fell one spot in the points, to No. 5, when Vincent Nobile skirted his way around Gray by winning the event.
"Seattle was the end of the Western Swing and three races in a row, and we were ready to get back home after that and regroup," said Gray. "We didn't have a very good race, but we know what the problems were. We are more than ready to get back out there and redeem ourselves this weekend in Brainerd. I want to get back in the car, and we're all excited because we've done pretty well at Brainerd before. We're ready to go."
In Gray's first season of competition, he was a finalist at Brainerd International Raceway and the No. 6 qualifier. Although stopped short from scoring his first win, it was just a few races later when Gray closed the deal on a victory by finishing the season holding the last event trophy up for grabs at the NHRA Finals in Pomona.
So far in 2013, Gray has been a finalist four times, and on three separate occasions he has earned a start from the No. 2 spot. Supported by a driven team led by crew chief Justin Elkes and with a solid in-house engine program through a partnership of Gray Motorsports with Elite Performance, the second-generation drag racer is in a prime position to achieve his goals.
"This year has been great, and aside from the race in Seattle, we have just had a great racecar," said Gray. "I know without a doubt that we have a chance of winning every time we pull in the gate. The Countdown is in sight, but we aren't going to do anything to change our mindset, we're just going to continue running the races like we have been and see where we end up. Brainerd is a neat race, it's a lot of fun, and we're serious about doing well there. We just have to stick with our plan and see how it goes."
SHANE GRAY, Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro
Last event (August 4, Seattle): Qualified No. 13, lost in second round to Jeg Coughlin
A year ago at Brainerd: Qualified No. 16; lost in first round to Erica Enders-Stevens
Career at Brainerd: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 0
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Poles DNQ Win/Loss
5th 16 0 4 3 0 0 21-16
84 2 6 12 0 3 64-79
MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(After 16 of 24 events)
1. Mike Edwards, 1421
2. Allen Johnson, 1333
3. Jeg Coughlin, 1241
4. Vincent Nobile, 1032
5. SHANE GRAY, 999
6. Jason Line, 955
7. Greg Anderson, 894
8. V. Gaines, 778
9. Erica Enders-Stevens, 743
10. Rodger Brogdon, 692
LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS SCHEDULE
Friday: Qualifying, 3:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 12:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 11 p.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: Eliminations, 9 p.m. (ET), delayed
Friday: High 79; 10 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 80; 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 81; 10 percent chance of rain