Don Schumacher Racing has announced it will field an Funny Car entry in this year's NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series for Pro Stock veteran Johnny Gray. The car will be sponsored by Service Central, whose TBC Retail Group (which operates the retail tire and auto service outlets Tire Kingdom, NTB – National Tire and Battery, Merchant's Tire and Auto Centers, and Big O Tires) sponsored Gray in Pro Stock and is also backing Graham Rahal's Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar this year.
“Johnny has done a great job both driving for and representing our brands this past season," said Bob Crostarosa, senior vp of marketing at TBC Retail Group. "We believe teaming him with the resources of a great organization like Don Schumacher Racing is the perfect way to get the Service Central brand in front of the drag racing fans while really increasing our chances to earn some Wally's along the way.”
Gray thus returns to the Funny Car wars in which he competed from 1999-2004 and again in '06. His Pro Stock career, which began with two campaigns in 1993-'94, had resumed in 2008.
“It's been great driving Pro Stock, but it was time to move up into Funny Car for added exposure and we decided Don Schumacher Racing was the way to go,” said the 57-year-old Gray. “I had driven a Funny Car for Don several years ago (six races in 2004) and knew his was the right organization for our program. Lee Beard (team crew chief) and I get along real well and always have. This looks like it was meant to be.”
Team owner Schumacher said combining Gray with Lee Beard should mean a team that is capable of winning the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship right from the season-opening Winternationals.
“Johnny brings great driving experience,” said Schumacher. “We believe DSR, with Lee in the lead, can provide him and Service Central with the ability to move into the top tier of the Funny Car category."
Added Gray, “I've raced since about 1969 in various [drag racing] categories, including alcohol dragster and alcohol funny car, as well as some circle track and road racing. Funny Cars may not be the hardest racecars to drive, but they are the most exhilarating!”
Gray joins 2010 top-10 Funny Car drivers Matt Hagan (second), Jack Beckman (fourth) and Ron Capps, as well as Top Fuel pilots Tony Schumacher (second), Antron Brown (fourth) and Spencer Massey (did not race in 2010) on DSR's NHRA program for 2011.