Some NHRA Pro Stock class history was made during last weekend’s Nationals held at Las Vegas….
Tanner Gray, a third generation racer who is only 17 years old, became the youngest Pro Stock winner ever when he raced his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to victory during NHRA’s Denso Spark Plugs Nationals.
Antron Brown piloted his Matco Tools dragster to the Top Fuel victory as did Tommy Johnsson Jr in Funny Car at the conclusion for the the 18th annual event which was the fourth event of 24 on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
In the Pro Stock final round Tanner, who is son to Shane Gray and grandson to Johnny Gray used a run of 6.681 secs @ 206..61 to defeat Bo Butner and his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevy Camaro on a holeshot in the finals. Butner ran a quicker 6.678 at 206.76 but his reaction time of .088 at the start was too slow for Gray’s .010.
“I can’t thank everybody enough,” Gray said. “My crew is definitely the reason I’m here. I do a small part. This was something (drive Pro Stock cars) I wanted to do since I was real young and I finally got the opportunity to do it. When I started this deal I told my dad I wanted to be the youngest Pro Stock winner. To be able to do that feels really cool.”
Tanner’s win did help to avenge his father Shane’s final round loss to Greg Anderson in the previous day’s running of the K&N Horsepower Challenge event – an annual and lucrative affair for Pro Stock class racers. Anderson that $50,000 first place payday — it was the 6th time he had won that speciality event.
Gray is now fourth in the points standings after taking on Drew Skillman, Greg Anderson and defending world champ Jason Line before reaching the finals. Butner lined up against Alan Prusiensky, two-time champ Erica Enders and veteran Jeg Coughlin en route to his finals appearance.
In Top Fuel Brown, who won the event in 2016, raced to a 3.747-second pass at 321.04 mph to defeat Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher who ran a 3.809 at 325.14 in his U.S. Army dragster. This is Brown’s 46th career Top Fuel victory, and first of the season. It was also Don Schumacher Racing’s 300th team win.
Today was tough battles,” Brown said. “When you race two of your teammates you know you got a battle on your hands because you all have the same quality parts. And when you go up there you have to throw everything up there. Especially with Tony he hasn’t been an eight-time champion for nothing buddy he knows how to race. We had to push hard.”
Brown, who has been racing Top Fuel for 10 years, has won a race every year of his Top Fuel career. He is the only racer in NHRA history to have a win in 10 consecutive seasons.
He defeated Scott Palmer, No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence and two-time 2017 event winner Leah Pritchett en route to the finals. Schumacher faced Terry McMillen and Doug Kalitta before seeing Brown in the final round.
In Funny Car, Johnson Jr. claimed his first victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since 2001 when he outran rookie Jonnie Lindberg with a 3.933 pass at 323.66 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. It is his 15th career win and first of the season. Lindberg pushed his Head Racing Toyota Camry to a 4.016 at 302.14 in his second consecutive runner-up effort in 2017.
“Today was a pretty trying today,” Johnson Jr. said. “It was pretty hot. Probably the hottest track we’ve seen this season yet. The guys did a great job. When we came out first round and were low ET by at least three hundredths I thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a good day.’ This is just a great facility. When I come in the gate I have a good feeling because I’ve had some success here, a win prior to this, and a couple runner-up finishes.”
Johnson Jr. pushed past Jim Campbell, Robert Hight and 16-time world champion John Force before facing Jonnie Lindberg in the finals. Lindberg defeated Cruz Pedregon, Jack Beckman and Gary Densham before falling to Johnson Jr., who moves to second in the points standings. Lindberg is now eighth.
The Las Vegas event provided NHRA fans with another treat in the form of participation of the fearsome Top Fuel Harley class category which drew in 13 machines for the 8 available qualifying positions.
The defending Top Fuel Harley Champion, Jay Turner, Julian, N.C., won that very spirited affair and took a step closer to defending his title again; registering a victory pass of 6.460, 215.10 over Canadian Mike Pelrine in the final round.
Turner had qualified #3 at 6.297 secs and he defeated Kevin Boyer (Edmonton) and Bob Malloy in rounds one and two.
The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues at the 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals April 21-23 at Royal Purple Raceway.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
The 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals took place this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the NHRA Lucas Oil Racing Series in full gear as winners were recognized in Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car, Comp Eliminator, Stock, Super Comp and the rest of the classes that encompass the nationwide series.
Garrett Bateman, Albany, Ore., and Casey Grisel, Orangevale, Calif., faced off in the Top Alcohol Dragster final round. Grisel’s car was up in smoke early and clicked off, registering a runner up pass of 8.195 seconds, 112.59 mph. Bateman finished strong at 5.384 seconds, 271. 24 mph to reel in the victory.
In an all California Top Alcohol Funny Car final round, Shane Westerfield, Anaheim, Calif., earned his 2nd national event win of the season and 3rd overall. Doug Gordon, Paso Robles, Calif., fouled at the line giving Westerfield the victory. Westerfield registered a victory pass of 5.547 seconds, 265.17 mph.
Allan Ellis, Mapleton, Utah, and Tony Mandella, Easvale, Calif., put on a great show in the Comp Eliminator final round. Ellis pulled out the victory by less than 20 feet on the drag strip; finishing at 6.535, 187.89. Mandella runner-upped at 8.490, 155.45.
Chuck Phelps, Chandler, Ariz., took home his 1st national event Wally in the Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com final round. Phelps, produced an almost perfect reaction time of .001, finishing at, 6.603, 200.32. Kyle Seipel, Pleasanton, Calif., finished at 6.941, 197.36.
Dean Hall, Guerneville, Calif., was able to hold off Ed Olpin, Pleaston Grove, Utah for the Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com national event Wally. Hall started off with a great light and never looked back cruising to 7.295, 188.89 to Olpin’s, 7.160, 192.28.
The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle were Chris Hall in Stock Eliminator; Mike Loge in Super Stock; Ryan Herem in Super Comp; and Rick Cates in Super Gas.
Posted with files by Sara Slaughter, Keith Yazdanseta & Bruce Biegler
All photos by Bruce Biegler
To view additional photos from the NHRA Denso Spark Plugs Nationals visit our photo gallery : HERE