Shane Gray earns a spot in the quick field at Gateway Motorsports Park
MADISON, IL Gateway Motorsports Park has been good to Shane Gray and his Gray Motorsports crew, and there is still a full day left of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals to extract everything that the rejuvenated facility has to offer the resurging team.
Gray, the No. 13 qualifier, made respectable runs throughout qualifying, including a 6.585 at 210.24 in the first session and a 6.565, 210.67 in the third round that was 10th quickest overall. Gray closed out Saturday evening with a powerful 6.566, 210.37 that was eighth best of the 22 door slammers on the property for the session.
"This was huge progress for us," said Gray, who has been faced with trying circumstances this season including a non-qualifying effort at the rain-delayed U.S. Nationals, spectacularly crashing his new Chevy Camaro at his home track in Charlotte just two weeks ago, and then bringing his former car the Pontiac GXP out for the Fall Nationals in Dallas last weekend only to miss the field.
"We had a good day today, and we get to race tomorrow," said Gray. "We're going to go out there and do the best that we can. We have zero pressure on us; we're not in the Countdown this year, so we're just out there racing and testing. We've got Erica Enders in round one, and sure we have a chance against her tomorrow; everybody who is out there on Sunday has a chance to go rounds we're just happy that we're included in that group this week."
Crew chief Justin Elkes explained that a test session following the Dallas event contributed to getting the program on a more effective path.
"We made a lot of changes last week when we went to Rockingham to test," said Elkes. "We came here and the first run was fair, and then last night didn't go quite as planned. The conditions were quite a bit different from what they were when we tested, but we figured some things out and we just had to adapt to those conditions.
"This morning when we came out for Q3, we thought we made another fair run. We had to be the first ones down the track, so we were a little conservative, but we really stepped it up for Q4 and it responded well. There's still more left. We're really, really psyched going into tomorrow."
Gray is eager to share the positive progress with those who have supported the program and continue to work so hard each week to make gains.
"You know, I just really want to let everybody on the team and back at the engine shop know that we're making good progress, and I'm sure happy about it," said Gray. "We've got a great group, and we've recently brought on Keith Wilson as someone that we can bounce ideas off of. He has quickly become a very, very integral part of our engine program. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but things look like they're coming together."