BRADENTON, Fla. – Jonathan Gray, the youngest son of veteran drag racer Johnny Gray and brother to fifth-year Pro Stock driver Shane Gray, earned a Pro Stock license of his own Monday at a test session at Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park.
Gray was a quick study and was soon at ease behind the wheel of the powerful Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. He will make his professional debut in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock category at the 45th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., this weekend, March 14-16.
The Mooresville, N.C.-based rookie settled into a Pro Stocker for the first time just five days ago at Mooresville Dragway, where he got his feet wet with a pair of burnouts and a couple of partial runs. Gray, who raced a B/AA Pontiac GTO in NHRA’s Comp Eliminator category in 2012, had little trouble in his new venture but was cautiously optimistic following the initial foray.
“It’s tons different than my old Comp car,” said Jonathan Gray. “There is a lot more going on. You have to think about throttle control a whole lot more, changing gears, keeping it straight. There is just a whole lot more to worry about in the Pro Stock car than the automatic car, that’s for sure. It was a big sense of relief getting the first burnout out of the way. I know I can do it now, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
Gray Motorsports co-crew chief Justin Elkes was right-away impressed.
“It’s going very well,” said Elkes, who led the charge last fall at the Las Vegas national event for Shane’s third career Pro Stock win and the first victory for the resurgent team in 60 races. “Jonathan is doing great burnouts, he has control of the car, and overall it’s going really well. We’re ready for Bradenton.”
With realistically high hopes, Gray and the Gray Motorsports team arrived in Bradenton and were joined by a gentleman well known in the world of Pro Stock, both as a driver and as an important contributor to the success of several notable teams, Tommy Lee.
With the support and guidance of Lee as well as brother Shane, dad Johnny, Elkes, and the entire Gray Motorsports team, Jonathan Gray made two successful partial passes and then blasted down the racetrack in his third attempt to clock a head-turning 6.662 at 206.75 mph. His fourth journey down the race track at Bradenton Motorsports Park completed the licensing requirements and netted a 6.684 at 206.80 mph.
“Today was just awesome,” said Jonathan Gray. “I was just trying to do everything as right as I knew how to do it, keep it straight, and not drive it too far past the finish line, make sure the ‘chutes came out and everything. Everything worked out, and it was real good. I’m very happy.”
Gray, who most recently campaigned a dirt late model in the Southeast, will continue testing in Bradenton this week in preparation for his debut as the third driver for the Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team. Dave Connolly will wheel the Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro for the group while Shane will pilot a brand new Jerry Haas-built 2014 Chevrolet Camaro with bright red KYMCO colors in Gainesville.
“I’m glad Jonathan did this,” said Shane Gray. “I haven’t seen him smiling like that in a long time. He’s doing a good job, and I’m real proud of him. We’re all excited to see him get qualified now. It’ll be pretty neat to have three cars there in Gainesville, and I think it’s great that it’s Jonathan driving the third car.”