Gray upbeat heading into this weekend's Southern Nationals Johnny Gray, who ended a five-year hiatus from the Funny Car category this year, hopes his return to Atlanta Dragway here this weekend for the 31st annual NHRA Southern Nationals will see a repeat of his 2003 trip into the final round.
The 58-year-old driver of the Service Central Racing Dodge Charger R/T also got to the finals of the 2003 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, but his next Funny Car final round came last month in Las Vegas when he finished within an eyelash of defeating Robert Hight, the highlight of his return to floppers.
According to Gray, who did not qualify for the last race in Houston, there has been some frustration for the Service Central team members, but no reason to hang their heads.
“You have to remain upbeat,” said the Artesia, N.M. native and resident. “You’ve got to keep everyone moving forward, despite the results. We seem to be struggling, but with Lee Beard’s (crew chief) guidance and the hard work my Service Central team is putting out, we’ll find our way, we’ll get that consistency we need.
“And when we do, this thing will be fast!”
The Don Schumacher Racing driver, who drove a Pro Stock car in 2008 and 2009, is relishing one aspect of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
“I thoroughly enjoy driving the car,” he said. “I get a kick out of hitting the throttle and spending those few seconds behind the wheel. I want to win rounds for the folks at Service Central, for Don [Schumacher] and for the guys on the team because they deserve it and have given me this great opportunity, and because each time I win a round, I get to drive the car another round!”
Gray comes into this race in 10th place of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship standings.