Johnny Gray Tops Norwalk Winners List
NORWALK, Ohio – In a thrilling side-by-side final round duel, NHRA Funny Car driver Johnny Gray picked up his fourth win of 2013 on Sunday with a victory against Ron Capps at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, the 13th of 24 in the 2013 season.
In the championship round, both Gray and Capps powered their Dodge Chargers to identical times of 4.103 seconds, but Gray posted the quicker .061 reaction time to win by .006. Gray’s Pitch Energy Charger went 314.02 mph in the final round, while Capps, who was making his 400th career start, had a run of 314.09 in his NAPA Auto Parts Charger.
Gray is now a perfect 4-0 in finals in 2013, picking up his seventh career victory in the process. Gray outran Alexis DeJoria, Chad Head and defending Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman to reach the final round against his Don Schumacher Racing teammate.
“Everybody said it was back-and-forth all the way down the track, and it was just a great drag race,” said Gray, who won for the first time in Norwalk. “You just can’t say enough for what my crew does for me and (Sunday) was my day. We came to Norwalk and the car never missed a step. When I get a race car like this, it’s really hard to screw it up.”
After a series of frustrating races, Gray’s team replaced the entire front half of his 8,000-horsepower Funny Car heading into Norwalk and the move paid off in a major way. Gray, who qualified No. 4 and went as quick as 4.047 during eliminations, climbing back to second in the points standings.
Matt Hagan maintained the points lead in the super-tight Funny Car class, while Capps, the No. 3 qualifier, climbed to fourth.
“We struggled pretty good for about three races,” Gray said. “We were getting a little frustrated because we threw everything but the kitchen sink at the car and it just wouldn’t respond. Now it’s going right down the race track and doing everything we want it to do. (Crew chief) Rob Wendland just does an awesome job.”
In Top Fuel, alBalooshi claimed his first victory of the season and second of his career, knocking off No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta in the final round in his 8,000-horsepower Al-Anabi Racing dragster. AlBalooshi covered the distance in 3.935 at 271.30 to knock off Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster, which went 4.215 at 268.54.
Since losing 12 straight times in the first round to open his career a year ago, alBalooshi has responded with three final round and three semifinal appearances. AlBalooshi also secured the seventh spot in the Traxxas NHRA Shootout (the eighth spot will be determined by a fan vote).
“The last race I lost in the first round last year was at this track, and this week I won my first trophy (in 2013) at this track,” alBalooshi said. “I’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time, especially when I was in Englishtown in the final with our teammate (Shawn Langdon).”