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Tue, 9 Sep 2003, 07:59 AM

Johnny Gray Resigns as CSK Blue Team Driver
Courtesy of Bob Wilber

Phil Burkart, Jr. to Take Over Immediately

INDIANAPOLIS -- Just one day after finishing the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals as the Funny Car runner-up, popular Funny Car driver Johnny Gray announced his resignation from the Worsham Racing team, effective immediately. Gray informed Del and Chuck Worsham of his decision via telephone, citing business commitments as the main factor in his decision.

"As I told Del and Chuck, I'd already made up my mind that I wasn't going to come back in 2004," Gray said. "Our oil business is keeping me extremely busy, and the pace of flying back and forth across the country every week is too much, for me and for the business. Watching the Budweiser Shootout this past weekend at Indy, it occurred to me that the best thing to do was just to step aside right now, so that the team can get on with the transition and start collecting 2004 Shootout points with the new driver."

After accepting Gray's resignation, Worsham announced that Phil Burkart, Jr., who has been filling in for the injured Arnie Karp as driver of the Worsham team's Artisan Home Entertainment "T2: Extreme DVD" Pontiac Funny Car, would be taking over in the blue Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Firebird. Burkart will make the move immediately, and will be driving the blue CSK Pontiac this weekend at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania.

"Johnny Gray has been a great teammate, driver, and representative of our sponsors," Del Worsham said. "He's also been a great friend, and that will never change. This season has been a grind, and how Johnny has been able to juggle his oil business and our busy racing schedule has been hard to comprehend. I understood completely when he told me he was resigning, and on behalf of everyone at Worsham Racing I want to thank Johnny and his wife Terry, for everything they've done for us.

"Phil has done a great job filling in for Arnie in the T2 car, and I'm absolutely confident he'll do very well for us in the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen car," Worsham continued. "I know we've made Phil's life a little hectic lately, throwing him in the T2 car with hardly any notice, and now shifting him over to the blue team, but he's handled it all like a pro."

Burkart was surprised by the move, and is eager to join Team CSK as Worsham's teammate.

"When Del called a few weeks ago to tell me Arnie had injured his leg and they wanted me to fill in, I was extremely excited," Burkart said. "Even though I knew that driving the T2 car was a short term, fill-in type deal, it was great to be welcomed as a part of Worsham Racing. I guess these things happen for a reason, because now I'm moving over to the blue Checker, Schuck's, Kragen car as the full-time driver. Johnny did a great job in the car, as well as with the fans and sponsors, so I know I've got a high standard to live up to."

Worsham did not announce who would be taking over as the new "relief driver" on the Artisan team, but he said an announcement would be forthcoming very soon.

"We're talking to the people we want involved, and we should be able to announce it within the next 24 hours," he said. "Arnie is working very hard at coming back as soon as possible, but in the meantime we want another talented professional driver in the T2 car, and that's what we'll announce, as soon as we can."

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