Right now the Gray Motorsports team is in the middle of a really good year. I think, to be honest, this is the best year we've ever had. I think back to a year ago and the trouble that we had, and I just shake my head because it seems so long ago but still a little too close for comfort.
We couldn't win a round to save our lives for a while there, but this year is a different story. We partnered with Elite Performance on our engine program, and Nick Ferri heads up that deal. What we've all been able to do together is showing on the racetrack – I have the best team out there, the best, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. They don't ever give up, and every weekend we all feel like we're getting closer and closer to getting the win or even getting to be the No. 1 qualifier. We're close. Last week we were No. 2 in Sonoma, and we were No. 2 in Englishtown and Houston earlier this year. That No. 1 is close.
The Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro is, by far, the best race car I've ever had. It's a lot of fun to drive. It's kind of funny because I never thought about it before, but I realize now that having such a great car puts a lot of pressure on the driver. All the crew guys are looking at you, hoping you can take what they've given you and make good use of it. I've never had the luxury of being able to race like this before, and it definitely takes a different mindset. I'll admit that I just don't want to let anyone down. Not my team, not myself, not my family. The trick is to not worry about any of that and to just drive. Easier said than done, but I'm working on it, and I am just so proud of this team for sticking with me though everything that we've been through. That win is coming, guys.
Last week we got bonus points every round, and those bonus points belong to the crew chief and to the team. I can't say enough about the caliber of people that I have surrounding me. We have a hell of a hot rod out there, and that's a big team effort. Can you even believe how this team has come together? We have the best in the class right now. I mean that. Every time we let the clutch out it's exciting. To have low e.t. of the event in Sonoma, to do that in the first round on Sunday, that was just awesome. Now we get to go to Seattle this weekend and build on it.
We've got three more races before the Countdown starts, and last year we didn't make the cut off. This year, we're almost ready to clinch a spot. My buddy and teammate Rickie Jones is pretty much the only one who is holding us back from securing our spot, but that's just another testament to the power that we've got on this team. Rickie has done pretty well out there lately, too, and we're happy for him, his team over there, and his dad, Rick. Rick Jones has been a great resource for our program, and we're real happy to have him to talk to.
We'll see what we can do this weekend in Seattle before we head on back home to North Carolina, but no matter what, I'm happy. This has already been a great year.
The guys are already set up in Vegas, and I'm just about to head out there with the family for the SummitRacing.com Nationals. It's a fun race, and one that I haven't done really, really well at in the past, but I'd sure like to change that. We had a pretty decent test session in North Carolina last week, and we were just about as quick as guys who have been doing this a lot longer than this team, so we were pretty happy.
You gotta feel happy about getting the racecar down the track quicker than you ever have before. We were making runs in the 6.40s on the first day so that had us pretty encouraged, but the second day of testing we had a timeslip that said 6.457 on it. On the record, my career best is a 6.51, so that was pretty quick!
You want to celebrate a little bit, you work so hard for every thousandth of a second out here, but we always try to be realistic. A lot of it was the weather – it was just really good. But we have made a lot of changes to our Gray Motorsports Camaro, and I think we're learning how to run the engines a little bit better now. A bunch of little things are starting to add up to something a little bit bigger.
We need to bring it to the racetrack now. We can do well in testing, but none of it matters unless you show up with it when it's time to race for trophies. I'm hoping that we get to Vegas and we're able to run well. There isn't any reason why we shouldn't. We know we have the power, so we don't have any excuse. The missing piece has been consistency and experience, but I think we're gaining on both of those things now. This is our fourth year, and we need to get back to what we were able to accomplish in our first year out here.
The whole family will be in Vegas, and we'll be celebrating a birthday for one of my boys over the weekend. Look for pictures on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/ShaneGrayPS). We just got set up on this deal called Instagram, too. We're figuring it out, but it's a neat little deal where you can find pictures of our Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team and dad's Pitch Energy Funny Car guys, too. Plus, we're hoping to have some dirt track stuff on there, too. Search graymotorsports and then give us a follow.
Tanner in his sprint car last weekend
Sprint car racing in NC on Saturday night
We've had a lot of fun lately. Me and two of my boys, Bryce and Tanner, went out and raced our sprint cars last Saturday night at Lincoln County Speedway. It's just about 30 minutes from home so it's pretty convenient, and we had a great time. We ran 4th, 5th and 6th, and we had a blast. My dad flew in, Amber's folks were there, and it was a real good time. Tanner, our youngest, brought his little buddy Jack Line with him, so they had some fun too watching it all. It's pretty different than drag racing, and it's a great way for us to spend time together as a family when we aren't out here Pro Stock racing.
A big part of the Gray Motorsports shop is dedicated to Pro Stock, but we've got all our dirt cars in there, too. My brother Jonathan has his dirt late model car, and we've got Gray Motorsports engines in another late model car driven by Tim Allen. He won for the first time since 2009 down in Fayetteville just a few weeks ago, and things are going really good with that. Tim is doing a good job and representing us well, and he's a great guy. This whole dirt thing is just a lot of fun, and we have a long history in it, so it's neat to get back to it a little bit.
It's time to go Pro Stock racing again, and I'm really looking forward to this weekend. It's good to have a couple weekends off to spend with the family, but I'm ready to get back in the Gray Motorsports Camaro. Las Vegas is a fun place to race, and I'm excited to get out there again.
It's kind of hard to believe that it's already time to go racing again, but I tell you what. I'm ready. By the time Pomona came around last November, I was really ready for the year to be done. Racing had gotten to the point where it just completely lost being fun, and it seemed like nothing was going right no matter how hard we tried or what we did. We tested so much, tested all the time, and we worked so many hours in the shop. This Pro Stock deal is tough – anybody out here will tell you that. Even though it was hard to get through all of that, we can look back on the year as a learning experience. That's the thing. We're always, always learning.
I'm not going to lie. After we lost the first round in Pomona at the end of the season, I took off my jacket at the top end, threw it in the car, and said, see ya later. I could not wait to put that year behind us so that we could go home and get started on something different – whether it would be good or bad, it just needed to be something different than what we were doing.
We came home and pretty well junked everything we had and started over. It's been very busy, and we have been at the shop every weekday. We knew we had to keep moving forward to see where we would end up, to see if we were moving in the right direction or not.
In December, we tested some things on the GXP and were pretty happy with the results, then just before Christmas we got the new Camaro from Jerry Haas and let me tell you, that's a pretty car. Getting a new car ready comes with a huge to-do list, though, and my crew chief Justin and the guys really came together to just start checking things off. We've all worked very hard, and I am real proud of the guys I get to work with.
Christmas seems like ages ago, but it was good for the family. My mom and dad came out and we celebrated at their place with everyone – my family, Amber's parents, my brother Jonathan's family. Then mom and dad went back to New Mexico and off to celebrate New Years in Las Vegas, and we had a few people over from the race shop. I barely made it 'til midnight and dozed off a couple of times, but I made 'er.
Come January, we took the Camaro out to test for the first time, then towards the end of the month we took the car back out again and we were real, real pleased with what we saw that second test session. I've been working on my driving because I really feel like I did a horrible job last year, and I'm not going to let that happen again. As a team, we're going to keep digging on things and we're going to take what we learned and just put last year behind us, and we're going to keep it in the past. This is a new page for the Gray Motorsports team, we're rebuilding confidence in ourselves and our program, and we're optimistic about what the future holds.
We recently got the car wrapped with our Gray Motorsports scheme that we're starting the year with, and I think it looks real good. It isn't very flashy, but that's good for us. We want our performance to be what you notice, and that's what we've been working so hard to achieve.
Aside from what we're doing at the shop and in testing, it's been nice being able to spend time working around the house on the weekends, too. We didn't do anything real exciting over the winter because we had a lot to do to get ready for racing this year. But it's always nice to be able to spend time with the family. The boys are doing wonderful. They've been doing some planning for the future of their own – Tanner got a little 600cc mini sprint and that's going to be fun, and Bryce is getting all healed up after his motocross wreck and now he's looking at the stadium trucks like they run in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series. Taylor isn't sure what he wants to do yet, maybe Jr. dragsters or helping Tanner out with the sprint car, but once he gets of age, we'll see what he's going to do. It looks like motorsports are always going to be part of their lives. Huh, go figure.
We moved last year, and my wife Amber has been doing a great job getting our house set up. It was a big time project, but she worked real hard on it and got us through the holidays, and now we're getting back to normal. You can see that the family has been busy and we've been really busy over at the Gray Motorsports shop, and it's coming up on time to go racing. I hope that I have a bunch of good things to share with you all this year, and I hope you'll keep reading and following along on Facebook (GrayMotorsportsShaneGray) and Twitter (@ShaneGrayPS). Thanks for sticking with me. See you in Pomona!
As I write this, it's Tuesday night on the week of the U.S. Nationals, and we've just wrapped up another day of testing. Right now, we're in Martin, Michigan, and we're going to keep on testing here tomorrow and then head on over to Indianapolis. I can't believe it's already Indy. This year has been either one of the longest or one of the shortest of my life. I can't decide if time is standing still or racing past, but I tell you what, we sure haven't been resting.
Right after Brainerd, we headed on over to Rockingham and we had two good, solid days of testing. We had some misfire issues in Brainerd, and we knew we needed to make some changes. So we tried out a few things with our Service Central Camaro and we were pretty pleased with what we saw. We try to be cautiously optimistic, because you know how this game goes. You think you've found something or figured it out – but then you get a curve ball. But we feel like we are on the right track. We just have to keep on working at it, keep on digging.
Right now we're 8th in the points. We sure want to make the Countdown, but a lot of that depends on how we do in Indy – and also how Larry Morgan, V. Gaines, and Jeg Coughlin do. We want to be in there and finish in the top 10 again, but our attitude is that we are going to take it one run at a time and do our best. I always try to do my very best, and this race won't be any different.
Going back to Indy reminds me of going there as a kid and watching my dad race. Back in 2008, I made my first NHRA run there in a B/A Comp car, and let me tell you, I was scared to death. At that time, I knew I wanted to race Pro Stock, and I was sure hoping I'd get to, but I wasn't sure how it was going to work out. You just never know, but look at this deal now, we've got this NTB/Big O Tires Pro Stock Camaro, we've won a couple of races – which is more than a lot of guys have had the chance to do – and we actually have a shot at making the top 10 for the third year in a row.
It's real important to me that I don't let my ego get big, but I know I need to appreciate all the good that has come of this so far. You can look at this deal one of two ways: you can either see the negative in it and keep thinking about how hard it is and how much you want to win and what's standing in your way, or you can see the positive in it and think about how good it feels to win after you've worked so hard for it. We're looking at the positive, and we're going to keep looking at it that way, especially going into this race and then the last few races of the year. It's an honor to race in Indy, and I feel privileged to get the chance to do that. I'm not nervous about it like I felt that first time I raced there – but I am real excited. See you out there.