Funny Car driver Johnny Gray is looking for continued success in 2012 as he heads into the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at zMAX Dragway, Sept. 14-16.
Defending winners of the first of six races in the NHRA playoff series are Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The race will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Despite not making the Countdown last year, Gray had one of the best-performing cars during the playoffs. He raced to three consecutive final rounds and would have been a top challenger for the championship had he been one of the 10 Countdown-eligible drivers. He enters the playoffs this season with a new perspective and wants to put those lessons he learned to use.
“Through the end of last year and with what we’ve learned, we are able to approach the Countdown knowing that we have as good a shot as anybody out here to win the championship,” Gray said. “We have a great car, a great team, and a great sponsor with Service Central. There is just absolutely no reason we shouldn’t go to Charlotte believing that we have a good shot.”
As they look forward to racing in Charlotte, Gray and his Service Central Racing Dodge Charger team put the previous race in Charlotte behind them and want nothing more than a victory at "the Bellagio of dragstrips.”
“I didn’t even realize I’d lost in the second round because I don’t look back – that race is over, and it has no effect on my mind,” said Gray. “We go forward every race, and we never look back. No matter how our race turns out, when we leave, we know that as a team, we did the best we could do. We may not have the results that we wanted, but everybody did the best job they could. But we go into this race in Charlotte with every intention of winning it and of winning the five races that follow it.”
Ron Capps enters the race as the top seed in the playoffs. He won three races and will hold a 30-point lead over four-time season winner Robert Hight. Former zMAX winner Jack Beckman and Indy winner Mike Neff are right behind Hight, followed by Gray, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon, John Force, Jeff Arend, and Tim Wilkerson.
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown leads the championship points entering the Countdown, with Spencer Massey just 30 points behind him. Tony Schumacher, who recently won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus in Indianapolis, sits in third followed by Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon, Brandon Bernstein, David Grubnic, and Bob Vandergriff Jr.
Allen Johnson enters the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series playoffs in Pro Stock competition as the leader, with North Carolina residents Jason Line and Greg Anderson close behind in second and third. Erica Enders is fourth, and Vincent Nobile, Mike Edwards, Ron Krisher, V. Gaines, Larry Morgan, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. round out the top 10 heading into zMAX Dragway.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec leads the points heading into the Countdown to the Championship, with teammate and recent Indianapolis winner Andrew Hines right behind him in second. Rounding out the top 10 are father-son duo Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr., Karen Stoffer, Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, Michael Ray, Shawn Gann, and Matt Smith.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 and 5:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, and 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, call 800-455-FANS (3267) or log on to www.zmaxdragway.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 15, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 16.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on Sept. 14, and eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on Sept. 15 and continue through Sept. 16.
* NHRA PRO MOD SERIES presented by ProCare Rx: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its eighth start of the 10-race 2012 season at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries. The series features some of the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. The first qualifying session will be Friday, Sept. 14, at 2 p.m. Qualifying will continue on Saturday, Sept. 15, with a session at 2 p.m. and will be followed by the first round of eliminations at 4:30 p.m. Eliminations will continue Sunday, Sept. 16, at approximately 2:30 p.m.