Shane Gray secures a raceday start for the Big O Tires Pontiac in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV – Shane Gray and his Service Central team know how to come through in a clutch. After the first three sessions of qualifying at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, their Big O Tires Pontiac GXP was sitting outside of the quick 16, but in the final session, the ever-determined group bumped their way right into the field for a chance to race for the trophy at their sponsor's title event.
Gray was 6.70 at the finish line stripe in the first session of qualifying but experienced ignition failure in round two and did not make it down the track to record a time. That evening, the team went back to their pit area and sunk a fresh engine into the GXP and with high hopes returned to the starting line on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the tires of the Pontiac rattled hard and pulled the car to the right, necessitating an aborted run.
The Denver, N.C.-based driver again recorded no time in the third qualifying session, and the Gray Motorsports team made a series of changes to the Big O Tires-adorned Pontiac in preparation for what would be a critical matter in the fourth and final session.
"We were just too aggressive," said Gray, referring to the combination prescribed for the third session. "So for the last qualifier we softened everything way up. We were looking for a .65, but the 6.69 was all we needed and good enough to get us in the show.
"It was really important for us to get in and get a chance to race on Sunday for our sponsors. You know, we're out here with our Big O Tires/Service Central Racing Pontiac, and this is the Big O Tires Nationals. We always want to do well, but it's really important to us to do well here this weekend. We haven't shown our best side yet, but we're glad we get to wake up on Sunday and come out here and do some work."
Gray will be in the lane opposite No. 1 qualifier Jason Line in the first round of eliminations, a driver that he raced at the last event on the tour, the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Gray took a sizable starting-line advantage in their match-up there but succumbed to tire-shake and watched his opponent race to victory. In Las Vegas, the second-generation drag racer will be looking to turn the tables and come up on the winning side.
"It would sure be nice to see a win light in that first round," said Gray. "But all we can do is prepare the Big O Tires Pontiac to the best of our abilities, stay serious about our game, and hope for a little luck. If we don't go as many rounds as we hope to go, you can bet that we'll be watching dad [Johnny Gray, driver of the Big O Tires Funny Car] and cheering for him to win this race."