As the saying goes, if you’re going to go out, go out in style, and that is exactly what veteran racer Johnny Gray is going to do. The likable driver has announced that 2013 will be his last year as a full-time drag racer, and Gray is devoting the year to pay tribute to his late father, John R Gray, with a special paint scheme on his Don Schumacher Racing Nitro Funny Car. Johnny and his sister, Terry Chandler, will sponsor the strikingly beautiful Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T and will compete at all 24 events of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Pitch Energy was one of many companies founded by Johnny’s father, who passed away at the age of 71 on Oct. 28, 2001, and was named after the card game. “My dad loved the game of Pitch,” Gray said. Every afternoon after work, he and a handful of his cronies would get together wherever they were and sit down and play for two or three hours.” It’s a real pretty car, and my sister and I thought this would be a fitting tribute to dad.”
Image courtesy NHRA/National Dragster
Gray, who turns 60 in March, is not closing the door on racing after this season. “I’m certainly not saying that I won’t race anymore, but I won’t chase the points after this year, and I won’t participate in the grueling schedule of a full season. It’s time to pay more attention to the kids and the grandkids and quit driving full time after this year,” Gray said. “The fact is I’ve always promised my wife that I’d quit at 60 – and I’m good with it. Trust me, I’m good with it. It’s been real, and it’s been fun. But it’s time for me to be done.”
Under the guidance of crew chief Rob Wendland, Johnny’s 2012 season yielded two wins and a career-best sixth place finish in the point standings. Team owner Don Schumacher understands Gray’s decision, and is hopeful the versatile driver can end his career with a championship.
“We’re happy that Johnny will be part of DSR for another season and not just because he is a great race car driver who has been an asset to our team the past two years,” Schumacher said. “Johnny is an incredibly good person who DSR has been fortunate to be associated with for many years as a friend and a team member. We would prefer this would not be his last season racing full time with us, but I certainly understand why he wants to spend more time with his family. “That Johnny is honoring his father this season on our Pitch Energy Dodge just shows what kind of people he and his sister, Terry Chandler, are. It’s going to be a very special year for Johnny and DSR, and nothing would be better than to have him bring DSR its third straight NHRA Funny Car championship.”