CONCORD, N.C. – NHRA Pro Stock point leader Tanner Gray has confirmed that his family’s team, Gray Motorsports, currently has no plans to field an entry in the class once he transitions to NASCAR next year.
Gray, who leads the Pro Stock point standings by 89 over Vincent Nobile ahead of Sunday’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, spoke to SPEED SPORT prior to the second round of qualifications Friday about the decision and noted it would take “someone with a good bit of money” to have any hope of changing that.
“My idea was to have (current crew chief) Dave (Connolly) drive the car, and I actually brought that up in the beginning, but unless he brings a lot of funding to the table … there’s no chance,” said Gray.
“I wish he could get in the car, because I feel like he’s probably the best driver out here; he’s definitely better than I am!” Gray added of Connolly. “I would love to see him back in a race car, but this deal is tough and it’s hard to do without a lot of sponsor money. No one really cares much to put their company on the side of your car anymore – especially in this class.
“It’s a shame, but it is what it is.”
The news comes on an event weekend where the Pro Stock class only has 14 cars entered, two short of the minimum for a full weekend ladder.
Gray has won 12 national events over the past two seasons, including seven this year alone, since jumping behind the wheel of the Valvoline/Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro after his father Shane’s retirement from full time driving at the end of the 2016 season.
He made the Countdown to the Championship last year as a rookie and replicated that this season.
His family’s operation has won races in both Funny Car and Pro Stock, as well as two U.S. Nationals titles in Pro Stock – with Shane Gray in 2014 and Tanner Gray this season – since debuting in 2009 with family patriarch Johnny Gray at the helm.
Tanner, the third-generation of the Gray family, said that it will be tough not to see a Gray-owned car competing regularly in NHRA drag racing next year after their long history in the sport.
“It is a little bummer for the family. As long as we’ve been out here … it’s going to be difficult to part ways,” Gray admitted. “I know we’re keeping the engine shop and trying to keep some people around to keep that deal going, but I made this decision because it’s what I feel is best for me and my career, and my parents were really supportive when we sat down and talked about this.
There will be some aspects of the drag racing side of life that Gray did say he’ll miss once he goes back to oval-track racing next year.
“I’ll miss the people and the relationships we’ve developed together as a group the most,” Gray noted. “We’ve been together since I was about eight or nine years old, so that will be tough, but besides that I’m really looking forward to getting over to DGR-Crosley and getting started there, because it’s a new challenge and one I’m excited to take on.
“I will miss driving this (Pro Stock) car, though. It’s a different kind of adrenaline rush compared to anything else … hitting the tree is something I’ve always enjoyed as well,” he added. “It’s a unique challenge. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with this and we may complain about it at the time, but at the end of the day it’s what we’re all out here for and it will be a different kind of pressure next year.
“I’m super excited for the future, though. I really am.”