ATLANTA, Ga. (May 6, 2012) - The NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger steadily edged forward and showed spectacular improvement in the first round of eliminations at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Veteran driver Johnny Gray made gains in his hot rod during qualifying and was at the helm when it clocked the quickest run of the round in the opening act, a 4.125 at 307.58 mph.
Although the second round was where their day came to an end in a big bunch of tire smoke, the team was enthused with the advancements that were made over the course of the weekend.
“My crew chief Rob Wendland told me he was going to get after it first round, and that’s sure what he did,” said Gray, who moved up one position in the Full Throttle Series standings to fifth. “We’re real excited to finally see our NTB/Service Central Dodge coming back to us. From what we’ve seen here this weekend, we think we can continue in an upward direction, and boy does that make this Service Central team happy – especially this old guy.”
Gray, the No. 14 qualifier with a 4.224 at 297.16 mph, squared off with No. 3 man Bob Tasca III in the opening round of eliminations. The pair left nearly together, but Gray’s 4.12 was entirely too much for Tasca, who slowed from qualifying and recorded a 4.225, 302.62.
In round two, Gray launched ahead of Jeff Arend by a small margin, and the pair raced side-by-side down the track until right about the 330-foot marker, where Gray’s car lost traction and white smoke began to pour from the tires, allowing Arend to drive ahead for the win.
“Going into that second round with lane choice, we deliberately chose to be the last pair so that we could watch what the rest of the cars were doing,” said Wendland. “We backed it down, but it did something on the starting line that it had never done before: it carried the front end. It went crazily on the wheelie bar and just unloaded the backend, but that’s a good problem to have; we need to be able to carry the front end so that we can have a little bit better traction. Overall, we’re happy because we’ve been trying all year to make this car consistent and get it to move in the first 60 feet – and it’s finally responded to everything that we’ve done to it.
“We had a great weekend, we really did. Everything that we were trying to accomplish we did, and as a matter of fact, it even went a little better than what we anticipated. We came into the weekend knowing that it would take four laps to get our NTB/Service Central car back to where we needed it, and it took four laps. Now we have our car coming around, and things are looking pretty good. The team did a great job this weekend, and they were patient while we were going through this learning experience, and I know we keep saying this, but it’s true: we wouldn’t be here without all of the crew chiefs at Don Schumacher Racing. They are so good, and they have something special. It’s like a family that cares about one another; that’s what DSR has.”
The next event on the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour is the Dollar General NHRA Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka, May 18-20.
Johnny Gray, NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 14
Round 1: Johnny Gray (4.125, 307.58) def. Bob Tasca III (4.225, 302.62)
Round 2: Jeff Arend (4.188, 301.33) def. Gray (6.209, 108.25)