Gray nets first Pro win; Brown, Anderson, Tonglet also victorious in Brainerd
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Johnny Gray collected his first Pro victory, scoring in Funny Car at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd Int'l Raceway. He was joined in the winner’s circle by Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and reigning world champs Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The event is the 15th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Pro Stock driver-turned Funny Car pilot Gray raced to his first NHRA win when his run of 4.113 at 307.02 mph in his Service Central Dodge Charger was strong enough to get past Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in Gray’s second final-round appearance of the season.
“I really wanted to win a race in a fuel Funny Car,” said Gray. “I’m 58 years old, so there’s probably not a whole lot of time left. There are no words for it.”
With the win, Gray moved to within 62 points of 10th-place driver Bob Tasca III with just one race left before the cutoff for the Countdown to the Championship.
“The Countdown is one of those deals,” said Gray. “If Tasca has bad luck, we might have a chance. If he runs like he normally does and has good luck, we’re pretty well done. No matter what, we’re putting together a good car that we can carry into next year. The way I look at it, there are guys out there who crucified me when we weren’t running good, and we’ll see if we can’t ruin their chances at a championship.”
Brown raced to his fourth win of the season in Top Fuel when he powered his Matco Tools dragster past fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the final round. His final round run of 3.844 seconds at 319.22 mph proved strong enough to secure his fourth win of the season and 29th of his career. It also moved him up to the second spot in the point standings with just one race remaining until the start of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoffs to determine the world champion in each category.
“We were thrown some curveballs in qualifying when we were going for the gusto and trying to get the No. 1 spot, but the Matco team was ready for race day,” said Brown. “Mark [Oswald] and Brian [Corradi, crew chiefs] really put their heads down and gave me an incredible race car this weekend. Without a doubt, there’s no love lost with the Al-Anabi cars. We have a lot of respect for that race team and know that the championship goes through them, so we put a lot into trying to win those rounds. We’re going to stay poised and try to take our momentum to Indy.”
While Brown moved up in the point standings, Top Fuel pilot Brandon Bernstein clinched his berth in the Countdown to the Championship with his second-round finish on Sunday. Only the final three spots in the top 10 points standings in Top Fuel remain open.
In Pro Stock, defending world champion and Minnesota native Anderson followed up his runner-up finish in Seattle with a win against Erica Enders. Anderson drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.599 at 209.26 mph to get his fourth win of the season and 69th of his career. The win also moved Anderson to the top of the Pro Stock points standings.
“This was a perfect weekend,” said Anderson. “On Friday, our cars were good off of the trailer. Jason [Line, teammate] and I qualified 1 and 2, and we had a ton of confidence. It all fell into place, and the only dark spot was Jason losing in the semifinals. We have two good cars right now, and I’m proud of our team for that. Jason and I only win races because of our team.”
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Tonglet raced to his fourth win of the season. Tonglet powered his Nitro Fish Suzuki past runner-up Hector Arana Jr. with a 6.954 at 191.27 for his ninth career win. The win also moved him up to the third spot in the point standings.
“I can’t believe what we’ve been able to do the last few races, and I really didn’t think I was going to beat Hector Jr. the way he’s been running,” said Tonglet. “For him to slow down so much, I don’t know what happened. I’m just happy for us to get the win. I waited for him to go by me and he never did.”
Fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors Andrew Hines, Matt Smith, and Hector Arana Sr. all clinched their berths in the Countdown to the Championship with their performances during Sunday eliminations.
Lucas Oil victories at the event went to Jim Whiteley (Top Alcohol Dragster), Kris Hool (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Randy Hopkins (Super Stock), Ron Mattson (Stock), Gary Stinnett (Super Comp), Randy Vados (Super Gas), and Brian Antony (Top Sportsman).
Friday: Massey, Hagan, Edwards, Krawiec lead Brainerd fields
Saturday: Worsham, Hagan, Line, Krawiec lead fields into eliminations in Brainerd