CHARLOTTE (Sept. 14) — There’s no place like home, just ask Pro Stock championship contender Shane Gray, who begins NHRA‘s six-race Countdown to the Championship this weekend at the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals just a stone’s throw from his home and race shop in nearby Mooresville, N.C.
“We’re lucky because we get two home races each year, so everyone gets to sleep in their own beds each night and be with their families a little more,” Gray said. “When you’re on the road as much as it takes to run a 24-race series, believe me, this is one perk you really embrace.
“I think it’ll help us a bunch to kick off the playoffs with fresh minds and rested bodies. The summer has been a bit of a grind, and I know the guys are enjoying this extended time at home. Hopefully, that good feeling translates to what we can accomplish on the racetrack.”
Tuned by crew chief and longtime family friend Dave Connolly, a past champion in the Sportsman ranks who most recently drove a Top Fuel dragster, Gray’s Valvoline/Nova Services Chevrolet Camaro has been on a rail since mid May. As consistent as a Pro Stock car can be, Gray and company have qualified in the top half of the field at 12 straight races, racing through to the semifinals in half of those starts.
“The guys have really bought into Dave’s philosophy, and everyone has worked hard to give me the best car possible each weekend,” Gray said. “As a driver, it’s a really comforting feeling to know your car is capable of winning any race, and it also allows you to fully concentrate on what you need to do in the cockpit.
“We feel very confident that we’re on the verge of winning races. Whenever you reach the final four, you’re very close to getting it done. Of course, the other three drivers in the final four are just as capable, so you have to be perfect and have a little luck as well.”
Aside from Gray’s own Chevrolet, the team supports Drew Skillman and Alex Laughlin, who are engine customers. As such, the three teams share all of their tuning data, giving them three times as much information in every round of action.
“Drew won Brainerd and qualified for the Countdown a few spots better than us, and Alex just missed the cut by two points, so both of those guys have run well this season,” Gray said. “There’s no doubt it helps for the crew chiefs to bounce ideas off of each other and adjust each car accordingly. If you look at the cars in the Countdown, eight of the 10 are with multi-car operations, so it obviously is a big advantage.
“It’s time to shine, and we really want to make a run at this thing. The points have reset and we’re closer to the No. 1 spot than we’ve been all year. There is a feeling we have nothing to lose, so we won’t hold anything back, beginning right here in our own backyard.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:15 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3 p.m.,Saturday. Eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 6 to 7 p.m., Friday, and 11 a.m. to noon, Sunday. Eliminations will air live from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.,Sunday. (All times listed in ET).
Credit: Geiger Media Global