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National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Drag Racing Topics:  NHRA

National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

Johnny Gray
June 5, 2013

THE MODERATOR: You joke about Matt Hagan, you faced each other in the second round, but still, you lost by I think by a 2000th, a great race; are you seeing a resurgence of maybe even Jack's car who raced to the finals and a resurgence of the Schumacher funny cars right now?
JOHNNY GRAY: Yeah, I think they are all running really good right now, and October will be right in our eye in just a heartbeat here. All of Don's stuff and all of the resources he gives us to run with and the camaraderie between all the different crew chiefs and thought processes and everything else, yeah, I'd rather run anybody out there than one of my teammates, because I know what they are capable of doing at any second.
So, yeah, it's great; to have all that resources, I just wish they wouldn't use it on me when we have to run.

Q. On the same lines about that, having those teammates that sometimes come up and beat you, but could you talk a little about what the difference is, having three teammates or three of you sharing that information and taking that out, that really gives you maybe an advantage?
JOHNNY GRAY: Well, you know, if you‑‑ first off, none of these cars are tuned exactly alike. Each driver is a little bit different. We do a little bit different things in the cars, and the crew chiefs, they will have a basic, what they are doing, but then they go off on their own little tangents to a certain extent. That is how we try to beat each other, you know.
And so that all makes it real good. The beauty of it is if one of you gets lost, he can go sit down and talk to the other crew chiefs, and they will look all his stuff over and go, well, if it's mine, I'd do this, and the other will go, well, if it was mine, I'd do this.
And when you have that, when you have that at your disposal, I think it shortens up the period of being a little bit lost. I think every crew chief out there gets maybe somewhat a little bit lost once in awhile because the thing is just run on a ragged edge. If you get something just a hair out of kilter, it can take you two or three races to get back.
And the beauty of being affiliated with somebody like Don's organization, where you've got all these brilliant crew chiefs; well, they will all sit down and go, well, I think right here is where you're off. So it brings everybody back together.

Q. And being that this is your last year, what do you feel like you're going to miss the most after you're not behind that wheel?
JOHNNY GRAY: The people, the little kids in the ropes back there behind the car when you're packing up the parachutes. And don't misunderstand me, the adrenaline rush in one of these things is unbelievable. I love to drive them, and that's the part I'll miss.
The part I won't miss is the fact that if I decide I want to go fishing, I can't do it. If I've got something else going on, and here a while back, I was invited to go out on an aircraft carrier and spend the night and we had a race that weekend; I couldn't go.
So there are other things, but, well, I'm going to have to wait and see how they compare to this.
THE MODERATOR: You talked about your chew chief, and I think Rob Wendland has quietly become one of the better tuners in the sport and has quietly asserted his dominance so far this season. How has your relationship with him grown this year, and what are your thoughts on him and his tuning abilities?
JOHNNY GRAY: You know, the beauty of it is Robby and, I used to run Alcohol Funny Cars and Dragsters and I always tuned my own car, and Rob, he was tuning somebody else's car.
So we've been friends and acquaintances for a lot of years, and you know, so when Rob stepped in, you know, he's seen over the years what I've done and I've seen what he's done, and so we have the utmost respect for each other. When you start out like that, it makes it very good.
We have a lot of faith in each other, so that makes it pretty nice on race day, you just get in, sit down, shut up and hold on.
THE MODERATOR: That's one way to put it (laughing). We talked to Cruz a little bit about fathers and sons, and obviously with Shane in Pro Stock and your dad in Pitch Energy. Can you explain Pitch, the card game, and your connection with your son and racing on Father's Day weekend?
JOHNNY GRAY: Well, the card game of Pitch, it's kind of comical, because typically the guys that come up and go, hey, we used to play Pitch all the time or we still play Pitch all the time, well, they are my age. The younger generation doesn't know much about the game.
But it's just a game where you have high/low, Jack, joker game. You bid, everyone gets your hands and then you bid on how many tricks you think you can catch in that hand. And if you think you can catch five tricks, you bid five tricks. But the hand that's on my card is the card you'd better be sporting if you think you're going to be catching five tricks, and that's called a shooting hand.
My dad loved the game. The accountant called one day, we were setting up a new LLC and the accountant asked our new cooperation, what do you want to call it. And dad said, well, I don't know; think of something‑‑ well, we are playing Pitch, so let's call it pitch.
My dad loved the game. He would come to the races, when I started running Fuel cars, he started showing up at the races there. He would bring up some of his cronies and we go warm up the car and they would go over there by the car table while we were getting ready and sit there and play a round of Pitch. He just loved the game and it's an honor to have him on the car and riding with us this year.
THE MODERATOR: What's it like to have your son out there in Pro Stock? You won and he came up a little short in a final this year. Is it nice to have that family connection out there during the course of a weekend?
JOHNNY GRAY: Yeah, we have a blast, and my younger son, Jonathan, he came out and ran for just a little bit and he looked at me and said, you know, I just really like the dirt cars. So, go run them then. I ran dirt cars for year. So he's still running the motor cars and running on dirt.
It's just, I've got two of my grand kids are now running the 600cc Sprint cars out there. So it's just great to have the whole family pulling together to do something. We are starting to get the Pro Stock car where it's coming around. We really struggled with it the last couple years and it's coming around.
So that's another reason that I'm stepping out is I want to try to help that program go forward and you just can't really spend my time messing with it when you're trying to drive a Funny Car, you know.
THE MODERATOR: This stretch coming up, as a driver, how important is it for you to stay focused and what is your mind‑set going into this four‑race stretch here coming up in Bristol?
JOHNNY GRAY: You know, I'm two‑thirds ADD, so the best thing I can do is not worry about it until they put me in the car and then try to stay focused for that few minutes that they are asking me to do something.
You know, it is hard on everybody but it's just part of the game. I worry about getting rained out as much as I do anything, because with the schedule we have got nowadays, if you get one of these big stretches going and then you have a rainout, well, then that really messes it up. But you know, go out and do the best we can.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let you get back to it and thank you for joining us today.
JOHNNY GRAY: Everybody, y'all come out to Bristol, we've got a big golf tournament out there for Father's Day, myself, both of my boys and one of my grand kids are going to play in the golf tournament, so we'll all be there. Y'all come out and say hey.
THE MODERATOR: We will definitely do that. Thank you very much, Johnny.

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