17-yr-old rookie Gray conquers Vegas, along with Brown, Johnson
Tanner Gray became the youngest pro winner in NHRA history when he won Pro Stock in the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at the Strip in Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as Antron Brown and Tommy Johnson Jr. won the nitro honors.
Gray’s Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro clocked a 6.681 pass at 206.61mph to defeat Bo Butner and his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevy Camaro on a holeshot in the finals. Butner raced to a 6.678 at 206.76 but his reaction time of .088 at the start was too slow for Gray’s .010.
Gray said: “I can’t thank everybody enough. They are definitely the reason I am standing here. I do a small part.
“I was pretty nervous coming up [to the final]. This is something I wanted to do since I was really 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.”
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.
Antron Brown, who won the event in 2016, scored Don Schumacher Racing’s 300th team win with a 3.747-second pass at 321.04 mph to defeat DSR 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. He knows how to race. We had to push hard.”
Brown’s victory means he is the only racer in NHRA history to score a win in 10 consecutive seasons. He raced past 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.
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 was Johnson’s 15th career win and first of the season. Lindberg, a part-time and a rookie, pushed his Head Racing Toyota Camry to a 4.016 at 302.14 in his second consecutive runner-up effort of 2017.
“Today was a pretty trying day,” 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. passed 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.
Final finish order at the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
TOP FUEL: 1. Antron Brown; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Doug Kalitta; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Terry McMillen; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Steven Chrisman; 10. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 11. Steve Faria; 12. Troy Buff; 13. Scott Palmer; 14. Tripp Tatum; 15. Terry Haddock.
Final: Antron Brown, 3.747 seconds, 321.04 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.809 seconds, 325.14 mph
FUNNY CAR: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 2. Jonnie Lindberg; 3. John Force; 4. Gary Densham; 5. Matt Hagan; 6. Alexis DeJoria; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Robert Hight; 9. Jim Campbell; 10. Tim Wilkerson; 11. Courtney Force; 12. Ron Capps; 13. Phil Burkart; 14. Del Worsham; 15. Cruz Pedregon; 16. J.R. Todd.
Final: Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.933, 323.66 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.016, 302.14.
PRO STOCK: 1. Tanner Gray; 2. Bo Butner; 3. Jason Line; 4. Jeg Coughlin; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Greg Anderson; 7. Shane Gray; 8. Chris McGaha; 9. Allen Johnson; 10. Deric Kramer; 11. Vincent Nobile; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. Tom Huggins; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Drew Skillman.
Final: Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.681, 206.61 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.678, 206.76.
Point standings after four of 24 events in the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
TOP FUEL: 1. Tony Schumacher, 382; 2. Leah Pritchett, 376; 3. Antron Brown, 357; 4. Doug Kalitta, 301; 5. Brittany Force, 258; 6. Steve Torrence, 251; 7. Clay Millican, 187; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr., 176; 9. Terry McMillen, 164; 10. Scott Palmer, 148.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, 368; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 324; 3. John Force, 314; 4. Ron Capps, 275; 5. Courtney Force, 218; 6. Jack Beckman, 205; 7. Robert Hight, 201; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, 183; 9. Jim Campbell, 180; 10. J.R. Todd, 170.
PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 380; 2. Jason Line, 367; 3. Bo Butner, 299; 4. Tanner Gray, 296; 5. Shane Gray, 278; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 266; 7. Erica Enders, 219; 8. Chris McGaha, 193; 9. Drew Skillman, 190; 10. Vincent Nobile, 183.
Torrence, C. Force and Line are no. 1 qualifiers at Las Vegas
Making history in Las Vegas