TOPEKA, Kan. – Johnny Gray raced to his third victory of the season Sunday and moved back into the Funny Car points lead at the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. All three winners were presented special-edition silver Wally trophies in honor of the event’s 25th anniversary.
Gray took his first win at Heartland Park Topeka and the sixth of his career by outrunning Robert Hight in the final round. Gray drove his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger to a final round performance of 4.067 seconds at 314.90 mph, while Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang lost traction and slowed early in the run in his first final round appearance in more than a year.
“Rob [Wendland, crew chief] gave me a great race car that ran real hard all day,” said Gray, who beat Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham and defending event winner Jack Beckman in earlier rounds. “Sometimes you can win races on an intimidation factor and Rob had her tuned up to where she was a little intimidating today. Robert had a great race car too, but they just missed it a little bit. They have a great team over there. Our car went right on down through there. My guys are giving me a car I can’t screw up in right now.”
For the first time in his career, Gray takes sole possession of the series lead. He holds a 10-point advantage over second place Cruz Pedregon. In his only other time at the top of the standings, Gray was tied for first with teammate Ron Capps after his win at Gainesville, Fla. in March.
“It’s a long way before we start running for the championship, but if the car keeps running like it’s running, then we’ve got as good a shot as anybody out there,” Gray said. “The better the car is, the better it makes the driver look.”
In Top Fuel, Langdon used the quickest time of the weekend to defeat his arch-rival Tony Schumacher in the final round and take his second win of the season. Langdon covered the distance in 3.750 at 324.20 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, while Schumacher’s U.S. Army machine trailed with a 3.781 at 327.27. All three of Langdon’s career victories have come with seven-time world champ Schumacher as his final round opponent.