Race Weekend Central

Nitro Shots: The NASCAR Snipe Hunt

The discussion began in our Open-Wheel Wednesday roundtable chat, but on further thought, it has some bearing on NHRA too. It was put forth that the rain delay for NASCAR last weekend, in spite of providing a perfect window for the IndyCar race, did not actually garner a lot of crossover traffic. Matt Stallknecht pointed to the NBA playoffs, noting there is evidence that most NASCAR fans are more likely to watch other general sports content rather than another form of racing. The conclusion is that NASCAR fans are not necessarily racing fans as a whole.

Not good for IndyCar but what does this have to do with NHRA? Simply this: IndyCar tries very hard to court those NASCAR fans, and at times, NHRA does too. In the Charlotte, N.C., market, there is absolutely a push to get NASCAR fans into the seats at zMAX Dragway and no doubt they succeed. They managed to sell out the very large grandstands at the track last month on a less than stellar weather weekend (the weather was perfect for the racing, not as much so for the humans sitting out in it all day).

The question is, does that equate to any gain in the long run? Do those people become NHRA fans? Do they watch the other races on television, read drag racing stories, follow the championship?

They will tell you that they enjoyed the experience. They might even come back to the next race, but does it really get the NHRA anywhere to have casual fans that come once or twice a year as a novelty? So the big question is, should they even be pursuing that NASCAR crowd or is there a better direction for the effort? Here’s another suggestion (credit Amy Henderson for this thought): keep the longtime fans happy and encourage them to bring their friends and family. Sounds a lot like the NHRA’s Baptism by Nitro campaign so perhaps they are on the right path.

What’s perhaps ironic is that NASCAR, in turn, spends all of its time chasing stick-and-ball sports fans.

What’s News?

  • The racing community is one big family, regardless of what the cars might look like. With that in mind, Kalitta Motorsports will honor the legacy of Steve Brynes this weekend by carrying the #ByrnesStrong logo on all four of the team cars in Houston.
  • Clay Millican had a bit of a startling flight into Atlanta this weekend. During the trip, there was a very loud bang that shook the aircraft. Upon landing at the Atlanta airport, Millican found out the plane had been struck by lightning from heavy storms in the area.
  • The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series returns to action for the second of 10 events this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway and The Real Pro Mod Association (RPM) has been named as the presenting sponsor. Pro Mod has proven to be a popular class with competitors and drivers and features a little bit of everything, from historic muscle cars like the ’69 Camaro to modern day late model American muscle. Cars boast more than 3,000 horsepower and make sub-six-second passes at speeds over 250 mph. “RPM is pleased to be the presenting sponsor of Houston,” said John Waldie, RPM executive board member. “We want to give a special thanks to all of our racers and sponsors who make our series possible. Once again we are experiencing full fields offering not only an exceptional variety of both current model and historic body styles with an exciting variety of supercharged nitrous and turbocharged engines, but also a colorful array of drivers and crew chiefs.”

Driver of the Week: Shane Gray

Category: Pro Stock
Hometown: Artesia, N.M.
Date of birth: May 9, 1972
2015 car: Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro
Crew chief: Justin Elkes
Team Owner: Johnny Gray

Career Highlights:
Career wins/runner-up finishes: 4/8
Best points finish: 4th in 2010 and 2014
Career best ET: 6.484 (Reading, 2014)
Career best speed: 214.45 (Englishtown, 2014)

2014 – Won the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis; scored four No. 1 qualifiers; set both career best elapsed time and speed.

2010 – Earned first career win at Pomona 2; made it to the Countdown and finished fourth in points.

Some Things Most People Don’t Know About Shane: It’s a family affair. Shane is a second generation driver. His father, Johnny Gray, raced in both Pro Stock and Funny Car. His teammate is his brother, Jonathan. The third generation has also taken an interest in racing, but in this case, it’s dirt racing. Shane’s oldest son Bryce has raced dirt bikes competitively. His younger sons, Tanner and Taylor, currently race mini sprints on a regular basis. Shane loves going racing with his sons.

Shane’s wife Amber is competitive, too. She was Shane’s teammate when they competed and won over 40 events in the United States Team Roping Association.

Before driving Pro Stock, Shane raced in NHRA’s Competition Eliminator category. He also competed in the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) and Outlaw 10.5 with a 1967 Chevy II, and has competed in Open Wheel Modified and Quick 8 bracket races. His first NHRA national events was the 1989 Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver where he raced in Super Comp when he was just 16 years old.

Shane now lives in Mooresville, N.C., and when he’s not racing, you’ll likely find him out on Lake Norman on his boat doing some fishing.

Finally, pay close attention this weekend! Shane and brother Jonathan have swapped cars so you’ll now see Shane in the black Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro while Jonathan takes over the white car.

What Happened Here?!

Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Jay Payne apparently suffered a mechanical failure that caused this freaky accident during the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. Payne’s car cut immediately to the left off the start and took out the Christmas tree.

Tech Facts

Time to put some nitro in Nitro Shots with a Top Fuel tech fact. Antron Brown stops by this week to talk about all that frantic action viewers see in the pits between rounds, namely the engine teardown that happens each and every time after the car makes a pass down the track.

Number of the Week: 328.86

As in mph, the speed record for Top Fuel at Royal Purple Raceway, site of this week’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals, set by Texas native Steve Torrence in April of 2014.

Where to Watch

The NHRA Mello Yello Series is back in action for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals from Houston, Texas, this weekend, April 24-26. This is the second of five live events on the slate for 2015, and for those who might like the cars that go in circles, NASCAR races on Saturday night. That leaves Sunday free for the straight-liners to be the show!

QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)

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