(Photos courtesy GrayMotorsports.com; other photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Pro Stock driver Shane Gray

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Pro Stock driver Shane Gray:

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Driver: Shane Gray

Age: 44

Hometown: Carlsbad, New Mexico

Team: Gray Motorsports

Sponsor/car: Valvoline USA/Nova Services Chevrolet Camaro

Crew chief: Justin Elkes then Dave Connolly

2016 season finish: Third in Pro Stock.

2016 season statistics: 23 races, 1 win, 0 runner-up, 9 semifinals, 5 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier two times. Round-by-round record: 27 wins, 22 losses.

Career statistics: 163 races, 5 wins, 8 runner-up, 31 semifinals, 51 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 7 times. Round-by-round record: 156 wins, 155 losses. Three DNQ.

What went right in 2016: Gray enjoyed his best season to date in Pro Stock, earning the highest season finish of his career, plus capturing his first win since 2014. … Biggest race of the season for Gray was Las Vegas 2, the second-to-last race of the season, when he earned his first win in dominating fashion.

What went wrong in 2016: The season was a mixed bag for Gray. Even though he finished third in the Pro Stock standings, he also struggled with inconsistency, including eight first-round losses (one-third of the season’s 24-race schedule). Considering how dominant teammates Jason Line (eventual 2016 Pro Stock champ) and Greg Anderson (runner-up, lost to Line by just three points) were, it’s not exactly a disappointment that Gray finished 147 points behind Line.

What to look for in 2017: Shane Gray will not be racing in 2017. Instead, son Tanner will replace his father behind the wheel of the family owned and operated Chevy Camaro. Shane Gray has not said he’s retiring from the sport, just that he’s taking a hiatus for at least 2017 to see how Tanner performs. But given the way he finished in 2016, we’d say it’s a safe bet that we have not seen or heard the last from Shane Gray.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Alexander Rossi’s Grand Prix of Alabama gamble fails to pay off

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Alexander Rossi bobbled for the first time in 2018 with an 11th-place finish in the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

And to add insult to injury, Rossi also lost the points lead as a result.

Rossi got off to about as great a start to the season as possible. He finished third at St. Petersburg and sat third in the standings. He finished third again at Phoenix and climbed to second in the points.

Rossi won the Long Beach Grand Prix after starting from the pole and leading 71 laps. That put him at the top of the standings after three races.

Then, as quickly as he climbed to the top, he got knocked down a spot after finishing off the podium for the first time in 2018.

Rossi not only missed the podium, he finished outside the top 10.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted,” Rossi said after the race. “That remains a mystery. But at the end of the day it was about survival. We couldn’t make the tires last; we couldn’t really get a great fuel number.”

The biggest negative was the one factor that was mostly out of his control. Rossi gambled that he was facing only a brief shower when rain began to fall with about 15 minutes remaining. He was wrong.

“We tried to be pretty aggressive on the dry tires and stay out and survive the rain, hoping it would dry out,” Rossi said. “And it didn’t really work.

“Sometimes you’ll have those days.”