SHELLY ANDERSON Parts America/Texaco/Pontiac Top Fuel Dragster
INDIANAPOLIS (August 27, 1998) -- After struggling through a disappointing first half of the 1998 race season, Shelly Anderson's year hit a low point with a devastating crash at the Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway on July 24. Because of the burns and injuries suffered in the accident, Anderson was sidelined from the sport for the next two events. After her medical release from the doctors, she is expected to make her comeback at the 44th Annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park during the first professional qualifying session on Friday, September 4.
Anderson has been a professional racer since 1992. She broke into the Winston top-10 for the first time in 1994 when she finished tenth, winning the Winternationals at Pomona, and the Big Bud Classic (the first rookie to win the event). She followed up in '95 with a ninth-place finish and climbed to eighth in '96. Last season she set a national record of 316.90 mph at the Winternationals and ended the season 10th. She has four career wins in five final rounds with her last win coming at the 1996 Northwest Nationals in Seattle.
Anderson was a featured guest on the NHRA teleconference on Wednesday, August 26, in conjunction with the 44th Annual U.S. Nationals on September 2-7.
How is your confidence coming into the U.S. Nationals after the crash at Sonoma?
The one thing I always said was that I didn't want to do a blowover because most people get burned when they do a blowover. I did my blowover at Brainerd in 1997, and didn't get burned so the only thing that ever bothered me was having a fire because they are painful. I had it, it's over, and we'll be back at Indianapolis to race.
Have you had a chance to think about the accident and your comeback now that you've been off?
I just got released yesterday from the doctor to drive at Indy. I'm only allowed to walk two hours a day for the next three weeks, but I'm out of the wheel chair and the walker. It was part of racing. Thank God it wasn't last year when they didn't have the retaining walls or it would have been a lot worse. I'm lucky. I got a few burns, I had two sets of graphs done to both ankles, my hand and my left arm. They're healing, but it's been a lot slower than I thought.
So you haven't had a chance to get in the race car yet?
No, not at all. I just got released from the walker yesterday and it's been pretty slow. I'm just waiting for Indy.
Are you going to test to get ready for the U.S. Nationals?
I can't. I can't get on a fire suit at this point right now with the cuffs around the ankles. I just can't rub my graphs loose. Friday will be the first time I have my fire suit on at Indy and we'll goqualify that night.
Have you given any thought to climbing back into the race car?
Safety has been my dad's and my crew's No. 1 concern. The fire was bad, and I did get burned but it could have been a lot worse. My dad bought Kenny Bernstein's new McKinney car as a backup, put that together, and put an on board fire extinguisher in the driver's compartment to set off. It's not mandatory in Top Fuel but it is in Funny Car. Also, they've made a different type of seat. The fire had melted the carbon fiber seat and it trapped me in the car so that I couldn't get out. They've actually put a different seat in between the roll bar and the carbon fiber seat so the seat won't be exposed to flames if there is a fire. They enclosed the sides of the seat and the bottom of the seat so no fuel can come in the driver's compartment if there is another fire. They've really put a lot of extra work into it, but it's all for safety and I really appreciate it.
Has the fire and the injuries changed Shelly Anderson's perspective?
No! I want to win! My dad said if I wanted to sit out that my sponsors, Parts America and Texaco both said I could wait until I was ready. I've been pushing the doctor. I think Indy will be a little uncomfortable with the burns, but I don't want to quit on an off season and I definitely am looking forward to getting back.
Do you anticipate any changes to the fire suit or anything else that you'll do differently because of this accident?
In fact that's where I'm coming home from right now is from Simpson. I've always wore the Simpson safety equipment but I had a shoe that ends at the ankle. I went to the fuel Funny Car boots which they're are especially making for me right now so that they're not too tight and restrictive on my burns. That's what we're waiting on right now.
Does this test your faith and ability to get back in the car?
I'm just hoping that we come back and have a real good outing at Indy. Like I said before, I've never done real well there and it's been disappointing for me to go to Indy. It's the biggest race of the year and I don't want to come back and run as bad as we've been running. I'd like to come back, and run good and I'm hoping we do. The team's had a lot time to regroup and focus. My crew has been working real hard getting this new car together and getting me fitted properly. Hopefully things will change and we'll do a lot better.
Is this a year that you would just as soon forget about?
Definitely performance-wise I'd like to. But there are seven races left and I'd definitely like to make a strong ending. Maybe it's made our team better as far as sticking together. The crew members have never given up and it's made our Parts America/Pontiac team probably closer than ever. I guess it's character building and maybe you need this to appreciate the good times. But I just hope the good times make up for it and that they arrive soon.
Do you like the format for the Winston showdown going against the Funny Cars?
Not really. I like dragsters against dragsters and Funny Cars against Funny Cars. I remember the Pro Comp days when my dad ran the alcohol car and the dragsters ran against the Funny Cars. There definitely seemed to be a disadvantage. No, I don't care for it. We're going to bgiving people head starts and I don't like that. Let's race!
Were there any qualms at all about getting in the car?
No not at all. I think when you race that's a chance you take. I wanted to get back in the car sooner rather than later. I would have loved to have been in the car at Brainerd but it was impossible. I'm looking forward to Indy and never thought of quitting. I think the first thing my dad thought about was making the car safer and I think he has. I like to look at the positives. The accident happened this year and not last year and we had retaining walls down there.
How does it feel having the whole family involved with your team?
I like it. The down parts aren't as bad, and the good parts are better because they're with you all the time. The saying that blood's thicker than water is true. I'm very lucky to have my whole family involved. In fact, Sears Point was the first race that my mom missed that I crashed at so I don't think she'll be missing many more.
What is your sponsorship situation? Is Parts America signed on for another year?
No, in fact Parts America was bought out two weeks ago by Advanced Auto. Right now everything is up in the air. We're just going to concentrate on the last seven races of the season and hopefully we can do something and Advanced Auto will come on board.