A familiar, championship-winning face will be back in the seat this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway, as former Pro Stock world champ Tanner Gray will be in action at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals.
Gray is serving as a last-minute fill-in for Deric Kramer, who will be missing the race this weekend due to COVID.
With Kramer sidelined, calls were made to Gray, who was the 2017 NHRA Rookie of the Year and world champion the following season. He was en route to Bristol for Thursday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race but agreed to drive Kramer’s Get BioFuel Chevrolet Camaro this weekend in Reading. It’s led to a hectic couple of days - and not much sleep - but Gray is looking forward to making a one-race return to Pro Stock.
“It worked out logistically for me to come. It was perfect timing for it all and hopefully, we can a good enough job to get (Kramer) some points,” Gray said. “NHRA is a really cool family atmosphere and I was happy to step in. I don’t know how well I’ll do, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a unique challenge for me, but hopefully I can get in and not look too dumb.”
That doesn’t seem likely with Gray collecting 13 wins in his 48 NHRA Pro Stock starts. KB Racing crew chief Dave Connolly initially reached out to Gray while the standout driver was making the trip to Bristol for the truck race, where Gray finished 17th on Thursday night.
After everything worked out, Gray headed back to Charlotte late last night and picked up a few items - including his seat insert and steering wheel - before heading to the airport this morning. He’ll make his first pass on Friday around 4:45 p.m. ET, with two more qualifying rounds set to take place on Saturday.
“I tried to get as much stuff as I had in my car to help make myself more comfortable,” Gray said. “I’m just trying to get more comfortable in the car. It’s a little bit different than I car I drove, so we’re working on it, and hopefully, it makes the transition a little easier.”
Jumping back into the loaded Pro Stock field will certainly be a challenge, but Gray is thrilled for the opportunity. Any points Gray earns this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway will also go to Kramer, who starts the Countdown to the Championship in 12th place.
“I'm excited and looking forward to it and hopefully I can have a good weekend for these guys and have some fun while I’m at it,” Gray said.