ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - When Greg Anderson turned in his familiar wrench and screwdriver for a pair of driver's gloves and custom racing helmet three years ago, he hoped he was making the right decision. Many award-winning crew chiefs before him...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - When Greg Anderson turned in his familiar wrench and screwdriver for a pair of driver's gloves and custom racing helmet three years ago, he hoped he was making the right decision.
Many award-winning crew chiefs before him have made the same move, only to disappear from drag racing's radar screen, ultimately coming to the realization their talents were best utilized under the hood instead of in the driver's seat.
After recent stunning performances at Bristol Dragway and Atlanta Dragway at the wheel of a quick Pontiac Firebird, the Jacksonville, N.C. native, whose car-tuning brilliance aided Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson to several championships in the 1990s, can rest easy knowing that his instincts served him well.
He has no reason to second-guess himself anymore -- he can drive a 200-mph doorslammer. And drive it very well.
Anderson scored his first Pro Stock career victory in late April at Bristol, using a precision holeshot start to defeat two-time Winston champ Jim Yates in one of the closest final round finishes in NHRA history. Anderson's margin of victory could've been measured by an eyelash, but in racing terms, that's about .0057 of a second. The next week, Anderson posted a runner-up finish to Yates in a rematch.
Anderson, who is now a full-time crew chief for George Marnell, and moonlights as a driver in his Marnell and Troy Humphrey-owned Firebird on a limited schedule, hopes to keep his momentum going at the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions, May 17-20 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Anderson, who posted two runner-up efforts in 2000, lost in a close final here one year ago to eventual Winston champion Jeg Coughlin. The $2 million race is the eighth of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for 2001.
Anderson's first career victory came in his fourth career final. His Bristol victory was quite a surprise for someone who didn't even compete in the first two events of 2001 and had a DNQ in Las Vegas recently. To increase the odds against him, Anderson competes in a Firebird, the older body style compared with the new Pontiac Grand Am, Chevy Cavalier and Dodge R/T.
"When I got the win light I couldn't believe it," said Anderson, who finished a career-best 10th in Winston points in 1998. "I was in shock. But I won, it's my first victory, and there is nothing like it. When we get a second Grand Am, it will be a better deal for the team. That old Firebird isn't suppose to run with those guys, but it did."
Ironically, Anderson's first career final came in 1999, when he faced his longtime employer in drag racing's most prestigious event. Even though he lost to Johnson that day at the U.S. Nationals, Anderson learned a valuable lesson. Just as he did for so many years working along side the 'Professor' of Pro Stock.
"I worked for 12 years with Warren and we won a lot of races," said Anderson. "I'm not saying that it got to be old hat, but I had reached the pinnacle of my career. It was great, he was the best guy to work for and I owe everything to him for what I have learned. I got stagnate though, and decided it was time to try and drive one of these (Pro Stock cars)."