NHRA Rookie Tanner Gray wins!
SALISBURY, N.C. – NHRA Pro Stock regular Tanner Gray returned to his oval-racing roots Wednesday night and picked up his first Millbridge Speedway win of the season during the sixth-mile track’s second week of Wild Wednesday Series competition.
Gray started from the pole and led all 20 laps of the headlining 500cc Open division feature, wheeling his black No. 15 Fusion Custom Trailers mini outlaw to Race City Steel/Bryan Clauson Victory Lane after a dominant performance.
The 18-year-old survived two chaotic attempts at the initial start, including one where Ethan Mitchell had to drive through the infield on the frontstretch after outside polesitter and defending track champion Tom Hubert’s machine popped a wheelie and stacked up the grid as a result.
Following one more caution with a lap complete, when Kyle Beattie spun on the backstretch, the final 19 circuits ran uninterrupted and saw Gray run out to a one-second victory over longtime rival Ethan Mitchell.
“Traffic was rough tonight,” Gray said after climbing from his kart. “The track’s been really rough the last few times out here, so the key is just to get to the fence, get that clean air and then see if you can move down to the middle as the race goes on. We did that tonight, kept it as straight as we could and it paid off.”
“The bump (coming) out of (turn) two was getting me pretty bad tonight, but I did what I could. I didn’t know if it was Tom (Hubert) or who it was coming up behind me, but I figured they’d be coming on me at the end … they just never got there.”
Gray has had the support of former Millbridge track champion and current big block modified racer Max McLaughlin this season, with McLaughlin serving as his crew chief for the opening two races of the season.
The partnership is one that Gray said has buoyed his team and led to his early-season success.
“Max came back and he’s done a great job helping me with this piece,” he explained. “It’s been pretty good so far. We were a little bit loose last weekend and ran fifth, but we came back and he knew exactly what changes we needed to make to get the most speed out of the kart. It’s fun working with him and it’s obviously led to some success so far … hopefully we can keep it going.”
Mitchell, Hubert, Buddy Wise and opening night winner Nick Hoffman completed the top five.
Ryan Israel continued his dominance of the Intermediate division for 250cc motors, winning his second-straight race in the class to start the season with another wire-to-wire performance.
The 13-year-old has led all 40 laps that the class has contested at the sixth-mile so far this season.
Track co-owner Jeremy Burnett told Race Chaser Online after the conclusion of the racing program that a $100 bounty will be up for grabs for any Intermediate driver that can defeat Israel in next Wednesday’s event.
Trevor Cline got redemption in the 20-lap Box Stock main event, winning for the first time this season after spinning out of the lead with four laps to go in last week’s feature, while Cassidy Keitt scored the Beginner Box Stock victory in their 15-lap race.
Millbridge Speedway returns to action on April 5 for week three of the Wild Wednesday Series for winged mini outlaw karts.