TOPEKA, KS (May 21, 2017)- One could not have asked for better racing conditions today at Heartland Park. The air was crisp, the sun was out, and the traditional Sunday morning race day optimism was buzzing. For Gray Motorsports Rookie driver Tanner Gray, this was the ideal way to start the day at the 29th Annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties.
Even though the race track environment was story book, the round one match up was not the most fortunate way to begin the battle on Sunday. Tanner Gray would face Gray Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman.
"Racing someone who you share a pit with is never an ideal way to start Sunday's eliminations," Tanner Gray said. "We always hope for a final round pairing."
The match up saw a red light start for Drew Skillman, advancing Tanner to the quarterfinals with the lowest ET of the round of 6.553 seconds at 210.73 mph.
Tanner Gray would then have lane choice over Greg Anderson in the quarterfinals, who in first round left the starting line before the tree was activated.
The quarterfinals pairing again favored the Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS with a hole shot victory; Tanner Gray's 0.011 second reaction time to Greg Anderson's 0.057 second reaction time.
The semi final round would feature a first time pro stock match up for Tanner Gray and Vincent Nobile. The win light would go to Tanner Gray with an ET of 6.577 seconds at 210.14 mph as Nobile shook the tires mid track.
The last Pro Stock cars standing late in the afternoon on race day, would be former World Champion Jeg Coughlin Jr and the youngest driver to win a national event in NHRA history, Tanner Gray. What was deemed as going to be a good race was quickly over at the starting line when Jeg Coughlin Jr red lit by -0.051 seconds. Tanner Gray went on to win national event number 2 in his rookie season.
"Jeg (Coughlin Jr) is one of the greatest drivers to come to the sport, if not the best," Tanner Gray said. "My guys gave me a great race car. I wouldn’t be sitting here if not for them. They make my job easy and I am very fortunate."
The Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS Pro Stock team will enjoy the Memorial weekend off and continue the chase for the 2017 Mello Yellow Yello Pro Stock World Championship in Epping, New Hampshire at the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, June 2-4, 2017.