2016 NHRA season in review: Pro Stock driver Shane Gray

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

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Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”