CONCORD, NC – April 26, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Tanner Gray has jumped into the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series spotlight with a quick start in his rookie season. But even at 18 years old, the Pro Stock rising star knows his performance is only made possible by the support of a strong team.
Gray, who won his first career Pro Stock race earlier this season in Las Vegas, has credited that strong backing for a seemingly smooth transition into the tough class driving his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro. The next challenge comes this weekend when he takes part in the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at state-of-the-art zMAX Dragway for the first time.
“Our team has a very special bond,” said Gray, who is fifth in points. “Since my crew is the same crew that my dad has and he’s been racing Pro Stock since 2010, my guys have watched me grow up and develop into the young man I am now. They support me, want the best for me, and would only give me the tools to succeed. Over the last five races, our team dynamic has grown closer. I have high expectations of myself and when I fall short, my crew is there to pick me right back up. The strength of the support of my crew is what has stood out the most thus far.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. (ET). It marks the sixth of 24 races during the 2017 season and Gray is already off to a sparkling start.
His father, Shane Gray, won in Gainesville and Tanner followed a race later with his first career victory. He followed that with a semifinal showing last weekend in Houston, building on the win with a solid performance. Continuing that impressive pace won’t be easy this weekend in Charlotte where an immense number of challenges present themselves. That’s especially true for a driver racing the Four-Wide scenario for the first time, but for Gray, who lives in nearby Mooresville, N.C., this is a race with added appeal.
“I’ve been looking forward to the (Four-Wide race) since I decided I wanted to race Pro Stock,” Gray said. “This is my home race so racing in front of my family and friends is always exciting. I anticipate that this weekend is going to be tough, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I have to be focused on what I am doing and not worry about the other three drivers that are racing against me. I’ve been told that if you are not keyed in on your light and your lane, racing the Four-Wide can really mess with a driver’s ability.”
Gray also has to contend with the loaded Pro Stock field, which has produced a different winner at each race this season. The latest was Bo Butner in Houston, joining a list that also features defending world champion Jason Line and points leader Greg Anderson. But Gray contends his sole focus is making improvements each time he steps in the car.
“The continued focus for myself as far as improvements is to continue on with the winning mentality and not to let the bad rounds, races, and performances get me down,” Gray said. “I constantly strive to perform better on the starting line. I practice on the tree every chance I get. With practice, and my ability to drive well, I think we will win some more races.”
Brittany Force won her first Top Fuel Four-Wide event last year, and will face off with three-time 2017 winner and points leader Leah Pritchett and two-time world champ Antron Brown.
Funny Car veteran Wilkerson won for the first time at zMAX Dragway last year, and will face off against the likes of defending world champ Ron Capps and points leader Matt Hagan in 2017.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines will try to make it four straight Four-Wide wins over the likes of Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec and defending world champ Jerry Savoie.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes the third of 12 stops at zMAX Dragway. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Muy Caliente Racing jet dragsters sponsored by Lucas Oil alongside Hanna Motorsports jet funny cars, and Douthit Motorsports Black Pearl Nostalgia Jet Funny Car as well. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 28 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 29, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 30.
Be a part of the action all weekend with a Three-Day Pass to the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals starting at $107. Tickets for children 13 and under are free with any paid adult ticket; to purchase general admission or reserved seats please visit www.zMAXDragway.com or call the box office at (800) 455-FANS (3267). For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: zMAX Dragway- Track is located on Hwy 29 off I-85 at exit 49 (Speedway Blvd.) in the Concord, N.C. area.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 28-30
FORMAT: Qualifying sessions and elimination rounds will be conducted using four lanes in all Mello Yello Series classes; Lanes will be identified from left to right facing downtrack as 1-4; The standard Friday qualifying procedure of a top 12 format will not be in use; Two Christmas trees will be in use, one between each two lanes; The Compulink Autostart system will continue to be utilized and it will not activate until all four vehicles are pre-staged and one vehicle has staged; The ladder structure will feature Race A: qualifiers 1, 8, 9, 16, Race B: qualifiers 4, 5, 12, 13, Race C: qualifiers 2, 7, 10, 15, and Race D: qualifiers 3, 6, 11, 14; Race A and Race B will be on one side of the ladder, while Race C and Race D will be on the other; Lane choice for eliminations goes to the driver with the quickest E.T., then the second-quickest, and so on; The first two drivers in each elimination round to cross the finish line advance to the second round and final; In the final round, teams will finish in the order they cross the finish line (barring any red-light starts), with winner, runner-up and two semifinalists in that order.
FRIDAY, April 28 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 3:45 p.m. and 6:15
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 29 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 30 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10:30 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES eliminations at 12: 55 p.m.
Friday, April 28, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, April 29, FS1 will televise three hours of qualifying highlights at 12 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, April 30, FS1 will televise three hours of elimination highlights at 5:30 p.m. (ET).
2016 EVENT WINNERS: Brittany Force, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Antron Brown, 2, TF; Jack Beckman, 2, FC; Robert Hight, 2, FC; Greg Anderson, 2, PS; Mike Edwards, 2, PS; Andrew Hines, 3, PSM.
Top Fuel – 3.713 sec. by J.R. Todd, March ’15; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12.
Funny Car – 3.876 sec. by Tommy Johnson Jr., Sept. ’16; 331.04 mph by John Force, Sept. ’16.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15; 215.48 mph by Greg Anderson, March ’15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.794 sec. and 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.658 sec. by Leah Pritchett, Feb. ‘17, Phoenix; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (800) 455-FANS. Tickets also are available online at www.zmaxdragway.com.
Glendora, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Leah Pritchett, 494; 2. Antron Brown, 440; 3. Tony Schumacher, 438; 4. Doug Kalitta, 358; 5. Steve Torrence, 352; 6. Brittany Force, 282; 7. Clay Millican, 269; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr., 228; 9. Terry McMillen, 195; 10. Scott Palmer, 180.
1. Matt Hagan, 400; 2. Ron Capps, 398; 3. John Force, 371; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 357; 5. (tie) Courtney Force, 301; Robert Hight, 301; 7. Jack Beckman, 282; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, 235; 9. J.R. Todd, 222; 10. Jim Campbell, 211.
1. Greg Anderson, 457; 2. Bo Butner, 426; 3. Jason Line, 403; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 372; 5. Tanner Gray, 370; 6. Shane Gray, 278; 7. Erica Enders, 255; 8. Chris McGaha, 246; 9. Vincent Nobile, 235; 10. Drew Skillman, 225.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Eddie Krawiec, 120; 2. Andrew Hines, 97; 3. Joey Gladstone, 81; 4. Steve Johnson, 74; 5. Jerry Savoie, 63; 6. LE Tonglet, 58; 7. (tie) Scotty Pollacheck, 52; Matt Smith, 52; 9. Hector Arana, 36; 10. Hector Arana Jr, 35.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association