Big O Tires Service Central Camaro driver Shane Gray counts Western Swing as positive experience
KENT, WA – The 25th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals is in the books, and with the final race of the notoriously challenging three-in-a-row Western Swing now behind them, Pro Stock driver Shane Gray and the Gray Motorsports team are ready to return home to Denver, N.C., and catalogue the data accumulated.
The Swing was a positive experience for Gray, driver of the Big O Tires/Service Central Racing Chevy Camaro, in more ways than one: he and his motivated crew ventured out West with a brand new engine combination and a list of ideas with the ultimate goal of improving as the Countdown to the Championship playoffs approach. Utilizing the block of races as a time to test proved effective, and the team made measurable progress in terms of performance and rose in the Full Throttle Pro Stock standings. Denver, N.C., resident Gray leaves Seattle 7th in the series points.
Gray's Seattle playbook entries began with four solid passes during qualifying to earn his best raceday start since the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, and his position as the No. 9 qualifier paired him with veteran drag racer Warren Johnson for the first round of eliminations at Pacific Raceways.
The second-generation driver was first to launch in their mid-day meeting on Sunday, clocking a very respectable .024-second reaction to his challenger's .063, but Gray soon got into trouble in the less-favored lane and shook the tires, sashaying away from the starting line and giving up e.t. while Johnson moved ahead for the 6.658 to 6.880 win.
"We went up there and we were conservative, but everyone shook in that lane," said crew chief Justin Elkes. "It's disappointing to end the Western Swing that way, but so many things went right, especially this weekend. We've got a couple more dots to connect, and then we'll be good. We're definitely heading in the right direction for the Countdown."
"We were the first pair out, and we knew it would tough out there," said Gray. "But these guys did a good job this weekend and, really, during the whole Western Swing. I'm gaining more and more confidence in this Big O Tires/Service Central Camaro, and that sure does help when you come to the starting line as a driver. Everything is coming together, this whole program. We've still got work to do, but this has been a very productive few weeks."