You in fact read that headline correctly. Some of you may have heard that former NHRA World Champion, and arguably one of the best drag racers ever to pilot a car, Rickie Smith, recently had back surgery. What we have also learned is the Jonathan Gray will be piloting the IDG backed Camaro for the next few races.
Jonathan, who most know as a stand out in Pro Stock, as well as the previous Pro Mod record holder after taking the wheel in the Precision Turbo Camaro at the beginning of last season. After a tire blow out early last season, Jonathan decided to step away from pro mod racing for the remainder of 2016.
Jonathan comes from a family of racers. His Father Johnny Gray was a well accomplished Pro Stock Driver, his older brother Shane currently competes in NHRA Pro Stock, and in fact was the winner of the class a few weeks ago in Gainesville. He is also the uncle to Tanner Gray, Shane's son, who became the youngest winner of a pro class last weekend, when he took home his first Pro Stock win in Vegas.
Rickie, who is coming off a 2016 championship winning season and has long talked about retirement. Seems to be something that the champ tosses around at the end of each season, but we are glad that he gets sucked back in every year. While we aren't sure what the reason for Rickie's back surgery was, and personally I don't think it's our business anyways. I am sure we will see Rickie back in the car as soon as possible.
The one constant in Rickie's life, beside performance and his amazing marriage of 45 years, has been his friend and usually lone crew man Chad Hester. We confirmed with Chad that he will be crewing while Jonathan is driving as well. This will certainly be a boost for the team, as there is nothing about that car Chad doesn't know.
In the mean time, as reported on Drag Racing Online, Rickie's son Matt, who is a long time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle stand out will be piloting his dad's car in the opening ADRL race of the season at Rockingham this weekend.