Former NHRA champ Tanner Gray full speed ahead on NASCAR career

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Adrenaline is adrenaline.

But how Tanner Gray experiences it has changed dramatically since he won the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock championship.

The 20-year-old traded in the adrenaline shots that came with seven-second runs at over 200 MPH for the more drawn out adrenaline rushes of NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series.

“You get different kinds of adrenaline rushes throughout the race, like the initial start you’re pretty amped up and ready to go,” Gray told NBC Sports. “The feeling on a restart is the same feeling you’re going to get lining up for a drag race.”

That’s what Gray experienced last Saturday when he claimed his first K&N Pro Series East win in an overtime finish at South Boston Speedway, a track he’d never visited before.

After earning his first career pole, the DGR-Crosley driver led 79 laps before a late caution set up a battle with Sam Mayer, the only other driver to lead more than one lap in the race.

The two drivers banged doors as they took the white flag with Gray grabbing the lead and then the win in just his fourth NASCAR start.

The win was a “relief” for Gray after his decision to change course in his career and return to racing on ovals after having previously competed in super late models.

“I think it definitely is a little bit of a relief to know when everything lines up we have the ability and have the talent and everything to do it,” Gray said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”

A third generation drag racer, Gray’s last two years had been spent racing Pro Stocks, culminating in becoming the youngest NHRA champion in history. But the New Mexico native always had his sights set on NASCAR, believing it provided a better future for him.

“I was pretty dead set on doing this,” Gray said. “I told my dad (former Pro Stock driver Shane Gray) whether I won the championship or even won a race, I said ‘I think this will be it.'”

As a member of David Gilliland‘s DGR-Crosley team, Gray is now “100 percent” more busy than he ever was in the NHRA, splitting time between the K&N East and West and the ARCA Menards Series.

“This year I think I have close to 30-something races,” Gray said. “(Compared to) the NHRA schedule I raced in 24 races. When you go to the NHRA race you’re at the same place from Thursday to Monday … You fly in Thursday and you usually fly out Monday. But you’re at the same place.

“This week I go to Tuscon (for the K&N West race) and then fly straight from Tuscon to Toledo to test … I’m constantly moving around to different places, testing a lot more and everything else.”

Three days after his win, Gray experienced another first: he drove on a speedway for the first time in a Tuesday ARCA test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Before that the biggest thing I had been on was a half-mile,” Gray said. “It definitely took a couple of runs just to get used to getting down in the corner and stuff. It didn’t feel really fast to me. … But I didn’t feel like it really took long to get used to everything. It’s going to take me a little bit to get to where I’m competitive.”

Despite the win in South Boston, Gray still feels very much like the rookie he is.

“I feel like I make new mistakes every race,” Gray said. “You’re just constantly learning. Last week at South Boston I had a really good race, ended up getting the brakes hot there towards the end and when you get brake heat, it creates tire heat and tire heat (causes) the tire to grow and it just gets tight. Even though I won, I still did some things wrong. Everything kind of lined up there for us to have that final restart and edge out Sam (Mayer). If it wasn’t for that final caution there, Sam probably would have won.”

Gray has blinders on now that he’s on his NASCAR path. Don’t expect to see him make any return visits to a drag strip. He considers that chapter of his life over.

Why ruin a good thing?

“It ended so well for me it’s almost not worth it to go back and go again,” Gray said. “My last race there I won the championship and won my last race the same weekend and ended with the best reaction time average. A bunch of different cool stuff. … If I’m not going to do it all the time then I really don’t feel the need to go back out there.”


Today’s Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, lineup and more

Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images
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A new look to the racing could take place today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Cup teams will use the new aero package, including aero ducts, that are intended to tighten the racing.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the racing will be like at this track. It’s time to find out.

Here’s all the information for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: NHRA drivers Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 3:46 p.m.

PRERACE CEREMONIES: Driver introductions begin at 3 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3:30 p.m. Cassadee Pope, season 3 winner of “The Voice” and a Grammy nominated recording artist, will perform the National Anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 68 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Brad Keselowski won the playoff opener at Las Vegas last September. Kyle Larson was second. Martin Truex Jr. placed third. Kevin Harvick won this race a year ago. Kyle Busch was second. Larson placed third.  

TO THE REAR: Landon Cassill (changed gear) and Ty Dillon (engine)

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Steve Letarte creates site to help those looking for work in auto racing

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NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte is pioneering a way to match those seeking jobs in NASCAR and other forms of motorsports with teams that are hiring.

Letarte debuted the website RacingJobs.com on Thursday.

The site uses a searchable database that creates anonymous online profiles for prospective racing employees. Race teams can fill needed positions based on desired qualifications such as education, work experience, skill sets and pay scale.

“The response from the industry is clear,” Letarte said. “Race teams are excited for RacingJobs.com and the service it provides in helping them find the right candidates for the right job.”

Letarte notes that every job necessary in the sport, including pit crews, road crews, engineers, interior mechanics and fabricators, among others, will be available to be filled by a talent pool that will represent every series from NASCAR to drag racing to IndyCar.

Race teams can search based on potential openings, ensuring that a prospective employee’s education, experience and proficiency meet the job’s qualifications. A search can provide a list of candidates for teams and they can winnow the list to the best matches. The site then emails prospects on that filtered list to provide contact information and instructions for reaching the race team.

Letarte notes that in keeping the profiles anonymous, all prospective employees are on equal ground, and the barriers to entry in a challenging job market are reduced.

“I created RacingJobs.com to improve the hiring process in motorsports,” Letarte said. “This project has been several months in the making, and I’m excited about the site going live and making a positive impact in the industry.”

Richard Petty selected to North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame

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petty-hallSeven year after being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Richard Petty has been named to another auto racing hall of fame in North Carolina.

Petty, the seven time Premier Series champion, has been named a 2017 inductee to the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Petty and three others will be inducted on Feb. 18 at the 15th annual Shriners Hot Rod & Drag Racing Expo at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Joining Petty are Frank Teague, Jean Howard and Terry Adams.

Petty’s eligibility for enshrinement is a result of the year he spent in the form of racing in 1965.

“The King” went drag racing after NASCAR had banned the Chrysler 426 Hemi engine, which he had used to earn nine Cup Series wins in 1964 on the way to his first NASCAR title.

Petty built a Hemi-powered Barracuda, named it the “43 Jr.” and mostly competed in exhibitions across the country.

A 200-time race winner in the Cup Series, Petty won one event in the B/Altered class at the NHRA spring nationals at Bristol International Dragway.

Petty’s drag racing career was marred by tragedy in February 1965 when a crash sent his front suspension into the crowd, killing a child and injuring others.

That car was buried on Petty’s property and a new “43 Jr.” built.

But NASCAR eventually did away with its ban of the Chrysler 426 Hemi engine and Petty returned to stock car racing late in the 1965 season. Beginning in July, he competed in the final 14 races of the 55-race season, winning four times. He returned to full-time NASCAR racing in 1966, winning eight races and finishing third in the point standings.

FanVision launching ‘Legend’ for scanner, car diagnostic use

FanVision Entertainment

Beginning today, racing fans can pre-order the “Legend,” the latest offering from FanVision Entertainment.

The company produces the scanner-video devices that are available for purchase and renting at most NASCAR tracks.

The “Legend” is not just a slimmer, sleeker update of the original FanVision devices. The “Legend,” which can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter for as low as $279 for early backers and will be sold in retail for $349, can also serve as a car diagnostic tool.

With an analog scanner, the “Legend” can be used at most race tracks in NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and even local tracks.

The device is about the size of a iPhone 7 Plus but “a little bit thicker,” according to FanVision Entertainment CEO Andrew Daines.

“This product will be running a very modern Android powerful processor,” Daines told NBC Sports. “So as we develop new ideas or want to get into new racing series or just want to update the device to the latest and greatest software, it’s very easy over the air connected product compared to the old FanVision.”

With pre-downloaded and for-sale apps, those who use the “Legend” will be able to analyze temperature, tire pressure and more on their personal vehicle.

“Right now, car guys have 10 to 11 tools that this will combine into one tool, ” Daines said.

For people who race themselves, the device will also run a program called “Race Note,” which takes sensor data coming from the car and puts it all in one place.

“You can manage inventory, performance, time and scoring all on this one dashboard,” Daines said.

The “Legend” will be available in the spring of 2017.