CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 22) — Following a steady start to the 24-race NHRA season in Pomona, Calif., where rookie Tanner Gray and his father Shane both reached the quarterfinals, the two drivers have swapped their Valvoline-backed Chevrolet Camaros for this weekend’s 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals.
“Dave (Connolly, crew chief) feels like he has a better handle on the car Dad drove in Pomona and even though the guys were spending most of their time on the car I was driving, Dad qualified better and had a slightly quicker car every round,” Tanner said. “They made the call to switch cars so I’ll be in that one this weekend and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
Shane, racing part-time this year in support of his son’s rookie effort, qualified fourth in Pomona with a best pass of 6.547 at 210.97 mph. Tanner was ninth overall with a 6.578 at 210.80 mph.
On race day, Tanner opened the action by upsetting Chris McGaha with a 6.588 at 210.73 mph before losing to eventual race winner Jason Line with a 6.604 at 210.18 mph. Shane beat Allen Johnson with a 6.575 at 211.16 mph before bowing to Bo Butner with a 6.581 at 210.64 mph.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact we are all totally behind Tanner’s racing and if this car is quicker than the other one, even if it’s only by a little bit, it’s worth making the change,” Shane said. “He’ll be in the car I finished last year with and we ended up winning the Vegas race in the fall so we know that car can find the winner’s circle right away.
“Tanner did pretty good in Pomona. He handled his nerves, drove the car well and was sharp on the tree. I was proud of him. He should only get better from here.”
The early championship standings show Shane in sixth place and Tanner in eighth, although they are only separated by four points.
“My feeling is you can always be better and being a new driver in this class I know I have lots of room to improve,” Tanner said. “Having my dad and grandfather helping me has been huge and Dave also is a really good coach. He’s won a bunch of races in Pro Stock over the years so he knows what’s up.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect run and I guarantee that if you had a chance to talk to Jason (Line) he’d say that even though he won the race he could have done things better. It’s like a never-ending quest to make that perfect run. Maybe we can get closer to that goal this weekend and pull off a win. That’s our mentality going in.”
The two men will try to qualify their respective cars during sessions scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. MT, Friday and Saturday. Eliminations start at noon MT, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with two qualifying shows from 10-11 p.m. MT, Friday, and 10-11 p.m. MT, Saturday, followed by three hours of elimination action from 4-7 p.m. MT, Sunday.