EPPING, NH (June 4, 2017)-The 18 year old Rookie Tanner Gray's competitive edge has been groomed for race day. Coming into Sunday's eliminations at the Fifth Annual NHRA New England Nationals, he would be the racer to beat after clenching the pole Saturday afternoon.
Round 1 for all classes Sunday seemed to feature quirks and upsets, Pro Stock was no different. During round 1, Tanner Gray would face Val Smeland. Smeland would never make it off the starting line, as Gray would spin the tires and capture the win light with an ET of 14.715 seconds at 77.37 mph.
“We shook and I had a tough time getting the car into gear,” Tanner Gray said.
With a 14 car field, taking the first round stripe gave Tanner Gray a bye into round two, that would catapult him straight into the semi finals.
The quarterfinals bye run featured another lucky pass. Gray would leave the starting line again only to shake the tires. At this point on race day, the youngest driver to win a national event had yet to successfully make a solid run down New England Dragway.
“I am very thankful to have qualified #1 in order to set me up for the favorable run schedule today," Gray said. "I was lucky in round one and two; on days like today I would rather be lucky than good.”
The semi finals match up was all Gray Motorsports power. Tanner Gray would take on teammate Drew Skillman. Finally, the number 1 qualifier would successfully make it down the track and turn on a win light.
For the second week in a row, Rookie Tanner Gray was headed to the final round. His opponent, Erica Enders Stevens.
“I am excited to race in the final," the two time national event winner said. "This is probably the most excited I have been this season.”
In his young rookie career of 9 professional pro stock starts, Tanner Gray had been to two final rounds and won both.
During the final round, Enders had an .004 advantage over Gray off the line and ultimately won the race at the finish line. This would be Gray's first runner up finish this season.
"We had a heck of a day racing today," Gray said. "It was unpredictable. We may have lost the race, but we made great improvements toward the championship.”
After today's final round appearance, Tanner Gray is now 2nd in the points, only trailing two time National Event Winner Bo Butner by 35 points.
The NHRA New England Nationals was the first of a four race swing throughout the north eastiern U.S.. The second of four for the Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS team, will resume this weekend at the NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey June 9-11,2017.