Anderson Powers His Pontiac to Fourth Consecutive U.S. Nationals Title Betters Connolly's Chevy in All-GM Final INDIANAPOLIS, September 4, 2006 - Three-time defending NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson thought if he was going to win a ...
Anderson Powers His Pontiac to Fourth Consecutive U.S. Nationals Title Betters Connolly's Chevy in All-GM Final
INDIANAPOLIS, September 4, 2006 - Three-time defending NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson thought if he was going to win a fourth consecutive Pro Stock title this year, he would probably have to start by winning a fourth consecutive U.S. Nationals title - and that's exactly what he did. Anderson won today's 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis by driving his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO past Dave Connolly's SKULL GEAR Chevy Cobalt for his second win of the season, but first since his season-opening win at Pomona (Calif.). Anderson had a winning elapsed time of 6.687 seconds at 206.83 mph to Connolly's foul start. He joins Bob Glidden and Warren Johnson as the only Pro Stockers to win at Indy four consecutive years.
"I knew if I was going to get back in the championship chase, it was going to have to start here this weekend," said Anderson. "I can't thank the guys enough, the guys that work on this team. Really about the last three, four, five races we've had the horse and we've either had a problem with me or some mechanical problem, whatever it might be, but I knew we were so close to breaking through. We proved we could do it this weekend.
"We won our fourth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in a row and it's a special feeling to me. This has been the toughest one of all four. When you come in and haven't won in so long, it seems like a long way to that winner's circle. When you come in on a win streak, it almost seems easy some times. This was the toughest, hardest fought one, without a doubt. It feels great to get back on that horse and win. Hopefully this will get us momentum which we haven't had all year, and we'll be able to win again and get back in that points championship chase. This is neat. Dave Connolly's charging hard, and he's proven what a fantastic driver he is every race we go to, so somehow we've got to hold him off whether it's (teammate) Jason (Line) or me. Right now, it's great for me to be back in the points chase, but it's also special because he's knocking on our door and he's trying to beat the both of us, and man, he's close."
Anderson ran the table for performance with a No. 1 qualifier, low e.t and top speed of the weekend, low e.t. in each of the four rounds of eliminations, and of course, his fourth consecutive and fifth overall U.S. Nationals title.
"I wish I could answer what it is about this place - it's just magic to me. It's not like I've just been lucky every time I come here and they've just handed me the trophy when we've come in the gate. We've earned every one of them. It's just one of those racetracks we really like and it really takes our combination. It's a great racetrack and you can use all of the horsepower you've got. I can't thank my engine guys and the car guys enough. I had a horse under me this weekend that was just second to none. I was starting to wonder if we could still do it, and I guess this proves that we still can. This gets my blood flowing again. It seems like it's been awhile since I had the heart pumping, and it sure feels good to be back here [in the winner's circle]."
This was the 23-year-old Connolly's first career final-round appearance at the U.S. Nationals, and the young Ohio native was looking to add to his class-leading four wins for the season. Connolly scored an important hole-shot win over points leader Jason Line in the second round to tighten the Pro Stock points chase. Line now leads teammate Anderson by 59 points and third-place Connolly by 135 with five races remaining. "It really wasn't a bad day because we got to the finals at Indy," said Connolly. "Greg had a performance advantage on us and we needed him to screw up . . . and he gave us plenty of room, but I didn't take advantage of it. I let the clutch pedal up a little (at the starting line in the finals) and it almost came up all the way. It was almost a rolling red light. We probably would have been in good shape if I'd kept it all the way in. I thought we did a good job getting to the finals. The crew worked hard and at times they were (forced) to hurry up to get ready. They did a great job giving us a shot at it."
Even more good news for the GM Racing family was the report on Valvoline Chevy Cobalt Pro Stock racer Ron Krisher. He was alert and conscious after a scary crash during the second round of today's eliminations when his Chevy lost control from the right lane and rolled several times at the top end of the track before making impact with the left guardwall. He was transported to Indianapolis's Methodist Hospital for observation, but he was later released with an apparent fractured rib and a few minor burns and amazingly was back at the team's transporter at the track by early evening.
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon and Phil Burkart Jr. both advanced their Chevrolets with first-round wins before losing in Round 2 in the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history. Pedregon in the Advance Auto Parts Chevy defeated Ford driver Eric Medlen on a hole shot in Round 1 with an elapsed time of 4.800 seconds at 327.11 mph to Medlen's quicker but losing 4.748 e.t. at 323.19 mph. Pedregon's reaction time was .046 seconds to Medlen's .103 seconds. In the second round, Whit Bazemore defeated Pedregon with an elapsed time of 5.072 seconds at 275.96 mph to Pedregon's tire-hazing 5.814 e.t. at 174.17 mph.
Burkart defeated defending Funny Car champ Gary Scelzi's Dodge in Round 1, also on a hole shot, with a .054-second reaction time to Scelzi's .116 seconds. Burkart in the Murray's Discount Auto Chevy had an elapsed time of 4.789 seconds at 323.58 mph to Scelzi's quicker but losing 4.731 e.t. at 330.96 mph. Burkart lost in Round 2 to Medlen's teammate, Robert Hight, with an elapsed time of 4.843 seconds at 316.15 mph to Hight's winning 4.808 e.t. at 321.42 mph. Hight went on to defeat Whit Bazemore in the final.
"Well, first of all, this was the quickest Funny Car field in the history of drag racing, so there's no one on the ladder that you want to face," Burkart said. "Everyone is fast, and everyone is amped up to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, but getting Gary in Round 1 was one of those 'good news, bad news' things. The good news was that we were in the field, and running well, but the cold reality was that you earned the right to run the champ in Round 1. You never know how the ladder is going to look until you finish qualifying, and it doesn't necessarily matter where you end up because all 16 spots are up for grabs and great cars land all over the grid. We qualified well here, but the ladder threw Gary Scelzi and then Robert Hight at us. There's nothing you can do about it, so you just have to beat the guy they line you up against, and today we went 1-for-2 against two great cars and two great drivers. As badly as we all wanted to keep advancing, I think we all have plenty to be happy about."
In Top Fuel, GMC-sponsored Cory McClenathan made his third semifinal appearance of the weekend before losing to Brandon Bernstein by a mere two thousandths of a second. McClenathan defeated Doug Herbert in Round 1 and David Baca in Round 2 before meeting Bernstein in a repeat of their final-round battle at Columbus in May. Unfortunately for McClenathan the result was the same as he had an elapsed time of 4.588 seconds at 323.04 mph to Bernstein's 4.524 e.t. at 332.51 mph. Bernstein went on to lose to Tony Schumacher in the final.
"We had eight really good runs during the weekend and we went some rounds on race day," said McClenathan, "and I'm really happy with the good job (crew chief) Wes (Cerny) and (assistant crew chief) Tony (Shortall) have been doing. It's great to have a consistent car again and I think the other drivers know we have a car that can win a race. We're all tired because this race takes a lot out of you, but we are already looking forward to going to Reading (Pa., site of the Toyo Tire Nationals, Sept. 15-17)."
In the Sportsman classes, Frank Manzo won a U.S. Nationals title for the eighth time in his career by driving his Lucas Oil Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car to the Top Alcohol Funny Car title over Bob Tasca III. Other GM winners included Mark Faul in a '98 Grand Am in Super Stock, Dan Fletcher in his '69 Summit Racing Camaro in Stock Eliminator and Iggie Boiceaco in an '02 Corvette in Super Gas.
"Every time we get to the final we just capitalize here, said Manzo. "It's very hard. This is the U.S. Nationals, the best of the best, and you know, we just got the job done today."
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade circuit is the 22nd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., on Sept. 15-17.
-credit: gm racing