Can Gray Continue Impressive Start?

ESPN2 will air live coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals this weekend. (Joe Secka/JMS Pro Photo)
Johnny Gray (left) battles Del Worsham in the final round of the NHRA Funny Car class during the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. (Joe Secka/JMS Pro Photo)

LAS VEGAS –- At first glance a lineup of six playing cards from the spades suit painted on the side of a race car would make one think that that car has been specially constructed for racing in Las Vegas, the world center of gambling and entertainment.

However, Johnny Gray will head to the The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with that exact design on his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger for the NHRA Nationals, April 5-7, and the veteran driver doesn’t expect to gain any lucky Vegas mojo from the design that is a tribute to his father, the late John R. Gray, who enjoyed playing the card game Pitch.

However, Gray is hoping that the momentum his team produced by winning the last event on the circuit – the tradition-rich Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Florida – will roll over and push him to a second-straight victory in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.

“”I don’’t think having any cards on the side of my car is going to help me one bit out in Vegas, this sport is pretty fickle,”” Gray said. ““The team has momentum right now and we just like to go out there and have fun. We have a blast at the track and we have a good running hot rod right now, so I like our chances to go there and double-up.””

Gray raced to an emotional victory at the Gatornationals two weeks ago. It was a race that he definitely wanted to check off his NHRA Bucket List before he hangs up the gloves and helmet at the end of this season.

““That was a real special win for me because I have a home in Florida now and have been spending a lot of time down there,”” said Gray, a New Mexico native. ““We had a lot of friends and family at that race and it felt great to win it not only for (team owner) Don (Schumacher), but because that is such a real prestigious race and it was my last time to get it done and I am glad we did.””

Gray says he will retire from racing the full NHRA circuit at the end of the year, so he’’s also anxious to keep checking items off that bucket list. Up next is The Strip at LVMS. He has claimed two runner-up finishes at Bruton Smith’’s state-of-the-art multi-purpose motorsports complex that sits just north of Las Vegas.