VOLUME XII,  ISSUE 3 - JULY - SEPTEMBER,  2018

EVENT COVERAGE

NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis

 

Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Chris Haverly and Ron Lewis

 

Tanner Gray entered the 64th Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals over the Labor Day weekend with two stated objectives: win his first Pro Stock race at Lucas Oil Raceway and secure the No. 1 seed for the National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

The 19-year-old’s broad smile in the winner’s circle proclaimed his success.  

 

Gray, the No. 1 qualifier in the Gray Manufacturing Technologies Chevrolet Camaro SS entering race day in the regular-season finale, defeated three-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. on a holeshot in the final round.

 

“This is so cool to win here, especially at a Chevy race,” said Gray, whose .003-of-a-second reaction time was the difference when he ran 6.641 seconds to Coughlin’s 6.639 and .023 light. “When you can go up there and beat one of the best to come to the class on a holeshot, that definitely means a lot. I am so proud of my guys. They gave me an awesome race car all day and I didn’t really do a good job of driving it till the final round.”

 

The second-year Pro Stock driver enters the six-race playoff that begins Sept. 14-16 with the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pennsylvania, as the No. 1 seed.

 

Gray enters the Countdown with momentum, having advanced to the final round in the past three races (winning two). He has 10 wins and four runner-up finishes in his 42 career races, and joined his father, Shane (2014), as the Pro Stock winner of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. He was tied with Greg Anderson for second entering the Countdown last year.

 

“I have a lot of confidence going into it,” Gray said when asked about his position going into the Countdown. “At the same time, I know how fast you can go from hero to zero in this sport. We have to keep that in mind. I truly feel like we’ve done everything right this year. Last year we had a good car but I feel like some of the wins we had we sort of lucked into them. This year, I feel like we’ve earned every win that we’ve got. I feel like we have a really fast race car and I feel like I’m driving well. I’m just excited.”

In the second round of competition, Drew Skillman (near lane) took his Camaro to a 6.646 at 207.53 win over Erica Enders’ 6.666/206.39. 

 

Gray defeated 2017 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Pro Stock winner Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro SS) in a rematch of last year’s semifinal with a 6.651/208.42 for Gray to Skillman’s 6658/207.78 for Skillman. Coughlin beat No. 3 qualifier and reigning Pro Stock champion Bo Butner (Jim Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS) in the other semifinal, 6.651/206.13 to 6.662/206.20.

Gray secured the No. 1 seed when four-time Pro Stock champion Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS), a six-time winner at Lucas Oil Raceway, lost to Coughlin on a holeshot in the quarterfinals.

 

No. 4 qualifier Erica Enders (Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports), No. 9 Jason Line (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS), and No. 11 Matt Hartford (Total Seal Chevrolet Camaro SS) were also first-round winners.

John Force and Robert Hight met in the first round with Hight’s 3.985/321.35 getting the better of his team owner, who had to get off the throttle when the Funny Car’s tires spun. 

 

John Force Racing teammates Courtney Force (Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS) and Robert Hight (Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS) enter the Countdown as the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds, respectively, in Funny Car competition.

Ms. Force completed the regular season with four wins and 10 low-qualifier honors.

 

Stephen Bell of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Arthur Kohn of Richmond, Texas, advanced to the semifinals of the School of Automotive Mechanics and Technology (SAM Tech) Factory Stock Showdown in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros. Bell won at Gainesville and Kohn won at Charlotte earlier this season in the seven-race series.

 

Jeff Myers of Decatur, Indiana, reached the semifinals of Super Stock in his COPO Camaro.

 

Brett Candies of Thibodaux, Louisiana, advanced to the Stock Eliminator quarterfinals in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro.

Jeff Lopez of Irving, Texas, reached the fourth round of eliminations in his COPO Camaro.   

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