The Indianpost

2011 NHRA: Service Central Racing Labor Day

For the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series the 57th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals (Friday through Monday) is drag racing’s Big Go, the oldest, richest and most prestigious race, contested at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park).

The U.S. Nationals is also the final event before the top-10 drivers in each professional category compete in the Countdown to 1, a six-race championship playoff.

Service Central Funny Car pilot Johnny Gray, who has found an extra bounce in his step following his impressive victory in Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 21), faces a daunting task to qualify for the Countdown to 1.

He enters the U.S. Nationals in 11th place, one position and 62 points shy of the coveted 10th spot, currently held by Bob Tasca III.

Gray feels he can still qualify for the Countdown, but he also knows the stars have to align almost perfectly during the four-day event.

“I know it looks tough,” said Gray. “But it looked even tougher before Brainerd, and then we went out and put the Service Central Funny Car into the winner’s circle for the first time this year. We’ll need a little bit of luck and then have to go three rounds beyond Bob (Tasca), but that’s part of racing.

“For the past several races I’ve said it was going to be difficult getting into the Countdown, but we would keep working at it. And I’ve also said if we don’t make it, we will make it tough on those in it during the final six races of the year. We’ve shown everyone we can get the Service Central Funny Car to go rounds against anybody.”

Gray added, “The U.S. Nationals is our Super Bowl. If you don’t win the overall championship, the next best thing is winning the U.S. Nationals. We proved in Brainerd that we can win, and we can do it again.”

Gray’s Funny Car team got a big boost following Brainerd with the addition of former championship crew chief Dickie Venables, who will serve as co-crew chief with Rob Wendland.

Gray’s son and Service Central Pro Stock driver Shane Gray is in a more comfortable position to make the Countdown. He is currently ninth in driver points and has a 73-point lead over the 11th position.

“We kind of have mixed feelings right now,” said Shane. “We want to make sure we don’t blow the opportunity to make the Countdown, but we also need to start running better. We’ve been in a slump and that’s what you don’t want before the biggest race of the season. We’re going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at it this weekend. There will be no holding back in the Service Central/Gray Motorsports camp.”

Along with the Service Central branding, the Grays will also carry branding for NTB – National Tire & Battery®.

The U.S. Nationals schedule calls for one professional qualifying session on Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Finals eliminations will commence on Monday (Labor Day).

NHRA ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil. Three hours of qualifying coverage will air at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 4. Two additional hours of qualifying coverage will also air on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. ET. Eliminations for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will be featured during six hours of coverage on Monday, Sept. 5, starting at noon ET.

IndyCar Baltimore Grand Prix
The inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix will be contested on a 12-turn, 2.4-mile temporary street circuit that will incorporate the scenic Harbor Area and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

“I’m looking forward to racing in Baltimore and it’s cool to be a part of the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix,” said Rahal, who is ranked 10th in driver points. “I enjoy racing on street courses; I scored my first win on the streets of St. Petersburg and recently had my season-best finish of second with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing on the streets of Sao Paulo in Brazil. We’re coming off a solid top-10 finish in Sonoma, so I’m excited to see what we can do with the No. 38 Service Central car in Baltimore.”

Rahal’s No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Honda will also carry Merchant’s Tire and Auto Centers® branding.

Qualifying for the Baltimore Grand Prix is scheduled for Saturday and the 75-lap race is slated for Sunday.

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