Risky track conditions cost several Pro Stock drivers at Charlotte

NHRA Pro Stock driver Shane Gray goes airborne during a second-round crash at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at zMax Dragway at Charlotte. Gray was unhurt, but his accident underscored driver Erica Enders' complaints the round before about track conditions. (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

Pro Stock driver Shane Gray's wild ride during the quarterfinals of the NHRA's O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Charlotte put an exclamation point to the statements competitor Erica Enders made following her problems with the racing surface in the first round.

She called the track, at least the left lane, "unsafe" and "the worst surface I've been on in thousands of runs." She had to abort her run -- one in which she was headed to a clear victory over Warren Johnson.

"I didn't have a choice. I hung on to it longer than I should've," she said. "At the end of the day, my job is to get the car back to this trailer safely. We've got a car in one piece to go on in the Countdown. That's the only good thing about that." She described her frustration as "just extreme and utter disappointment in the preparation."

Gray seconded her remarks with a frightening flip and wall-banging, sliding-on-his-roof accident that began in that same lane in the next round, also against Johnson.



 

His car got loose and made a sharp turn toward the guard wall, slammed into it. The Camaro flipped onto its roof and slid on the roof before flipping over backwards, landing right side up, and sliding to a stop against the right guard wall.

Gray was unhurt and said, "It happened so quick. The car barely drifted, and then all of a sudden it darted and rolled. Other than being a little sore, I'm OK."

He said that at this weekend's race at Dallas he will use his Pontiac GXP that he hasn't driven since June at Englishtown, N.J.

Enders' teammate and crew chief Dave Connolly also had to cut his pass short when he slid in the same area of that left lane. That's when the NHRA decided to work on the track. By then, that was of little comfort to Enders.

"It was extremely loose," Enders said. "My rear end was going side-to-side-to-side, and I'm trying to chase the car the whole way down the race track. When we're in high gear, the car is up on the tire, and we have no downforce. That's the most dangerous part of the run.

"It made two big swings, and coming around on that third swing, it was the same feeling I had when I crashed in Bradenton due to lack of experience," she said. "I got the 'chutes out to get the car straight, and Warren came around us."

She knew her car had plenty of horsepower to hold off Johnson. "I left on him, and we were .988 down low," Enders said of her .020-second reaction time and 60-foot time. "Providing we had a good race track, we were going to the next round to race Shane Gray and not Greg Anderson. That was a big, big mistake - not on our part."

Veteran Pro Stock driver Larry Morgan, who's not afraid to criticize the sanctioning body, had his own take on the situation Sunday. He said he had his steering wheel turned a quarter of the way around, adding that "turning a quarter-turn in one of these cars is a big deal."

Morgan told Competition Plus, "In my whole career I've never had that much. I watched Erica from the other end of the track, and she was big-time loose. There was nothing she could do."

Still, he didn’t blame the NHRA. "The spray just won't adhere to the track," Morgan said. "You have moisture in between and there's nothing you can do."

 

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