When the Service Central Racing Pro Stock team and driver Shane Gray arrive in Dallas, the car that will emerge from the trailer will look a little different, yet still very familiar.
Instead of the Chevy Camaro that Gray has been driving in recent months, the Denver, N.C., resident will pilot the NTB/Service Central Pontiac GXP at the 27th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex. The GXP has been garaged since mid-season, and Gray last raced it at the Toyota NHRA Supernationals in Englishtown.
The unexpected car change was the result of a stunningly dramatic wreck last weekend at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Charlotte. Thankfully, Gray was uninjured, but the same could not be said for his Chevy Camaro that suffered irreparable damage.
"The Camaro was a great car, and we sure didn't want to scratch her up like that," said Gray. "But Jerry Haas has another one already in production for us, and we'll have our new car out as soon as we can. In the meantime, we feel real confident about the abilities of this GXP. I almost sold it a couple of times because I never thought I'd need a back-up car, but my dad gave me some good advice and told me to hold on to it just in case. Now I'm glad I did."
There may be a slight feeling of surprise for those who were witness to the magnitude of Gray's crash in Charlotte when they learn that he will race in Dallas this weekend, less than a week following the traumatic event. But for Gray, returning to the driver's seat is something that he wouldn't even consider delaying.
"The safety equipment worked just as it should have," said Gray. "That night, everyone was asking me how I felt – and I told them that I felt fine. I honestly felt like I could have made another run that night if I needed to. I think the whole thing was harder on my wife Amber, our friends, and the family than it was on me; it's a lot worse looking at it from the starting line than it actually is in the car. But they don't need to worry. I won't be doing that again, that's for sure."
With the exceptionally unfortunate incident in the past, Gray – originally from Carlsbad, N.M. – is looking forward to racing in Dallas, a track that he considers home because of its close proximity to the region where he grew up. It also holds special memories for the third-year Pro Stock driver who has two national event victories in the extremely competitive category.
"You know, I won my first NHRA race there in 2009," recalled Gray. "I was driving a B/Altered in Comp Eliminator the year before I started Pro Stock racing, and I won the points meet in Dallas. I also raced there in Outlaw 10.5 a few years back, so I have a lot of good memories to look back on every time we pull through those gates. I think this would be the perfect time to make a few more."