Shane Gray snaps KB Racing qualifying dominance in Chicago

Shane Gray is the No. 1 qualifier for the NHRA Pro Stock class at Sunday's Route 66 Nationals.

Alex Owens

Pro Stock racer Shane Gray understands he’s the special someone.

After 12 races of total domination by the three-car KB Racing team, Gray became the first to qualify No. 1 outside of the Summit Racing Equipment team since the season started.

Joining Gray atop the leaderboard at the NHRA K&N Filters Route 66 Nationals outside of Chicago, were fellow No. 1 qualifiers Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Brittany Force (Top Fuel) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Gray’s 6.578-second, 209.46 mph qualifying attempt on Friday snapped what has been the most impressive qualifying success story ever achieved in NHRA Pro Stock history. Up until this point, KB Racing has led every session except for three since the season opened.

Gray has now led the most sessions of anyone outside of KB Racing.

“I’m real pleased with the progress we made (Saturday) and I’m really stoked about racing (Sunday),” Gray said.

Gray also had the quickest ET on Saturday with a 6.587-second lap in Q4. Butner (6.596), Line (6.598) and Anderson (6.610) are two, three and four in the qualifying ladder.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Gray said. “I say we caught up to them (KB Racing) at this race. We will see where we are at a couple of races down the road. Hat’s off to everybody involved with this team and my dad (Johnny) supporting this team, going on 10 years now. Without him we couldn’t do it and we couldn’t do it without anybody who we have got. We have a great group of guys and they are like family and we’re having fun going to the races again.”

Funny Car racer Hagan saved his best for last as he overtook teammate Jack Beckman during the fourth session and established a new track record in the process with a 3.882-second blast at 331.12 mph. His run stuck for his second No. 1 qualifying effort this season.

“Obviously, Q4 is not usually the time you do it,” said Hagan. “It’s always late Friday night [Q2], cool out and the track is great. Dickie Venables (Hagan’s crew chief) came over the radio and said let’s push the primary and see what we can do.”

The Monster Top Fuel dragster driver Force, who ran 3.692, 325.69 during Friday qualifying, was able to withstand two sessions of qualifying to claim her second No. 1 effort of the season, and sixth of his career.

“The main focus today was getting two consistent runs down the track today, and we were able to do that, and we had four good runs all weekend, so that’s exactly where we want to be,” Force said. “Being No. 1, that just tops everything. I think we are comfortable and confident going in and I am looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Smith broke a dry spell of No. 1 qualifying efforts dating back to March 2015 when his track record time of 6.842 at 195.51 held through Saturday’s sessions.

“It feels good to be back up top,” Smith said. “We know we have a top four or five bike. Luckily we got in the running and got the top spot yesterday. We almost were quickest today. The bike is running good and is consistent. Hopefully, we can turn on some win lights tomorrow. We need to get Victory their first win.”

Coverage of final eliminations begins Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FS1.

***

Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus