Anderson Puts Pontiac In Familiar Position - No. 1 Erica Enders Continues to Impress in Her Cobalt PHOENIX, Feb. 25, 2006 - As the three-time defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ, Pontiac driver Greg Anderson has gotten used to life at ...
Anderson Puts Pontiac In Familiar Position - No. 1
Erica Enders Continues to Impress in Her Cobalt
PHOENIX, Feb. 25, 2006 - As the three-time defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ, Pontiac driver Greg Anderson has gotten used to life at the top, and the start of the 2006 season has proven no different. He made it two for two in No. 1 qualifiers this year by placing his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO in the top spot for this weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway. Coming off a win and No. 1 qualifier in the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Anderson made an impressive track-record elapsed time today of 6.671 seconds at 206.83 mph on his fourth and final pass during the hottest part of the day. His record run relegated Erica Enders to the No. 2 spot in her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt for the third consecutive NHRA contest as she continues to narrow the gap and become the first woman to qualify No. 1 in an NHRA Pro Stock event. Enders had an elapsed time of 6.679 seconds at 206.48 mph, placing her and Anderson as the only two drivers in the .67s.
"That certainly wasn't the plan, to wait until the weather got the worst and the track got the hottest to make our best run," said Anderson, "but we just struggled a little bit all weekend with the setup of the car. We just never made a clean run down the racetrack. That's our own fault. We missed on the setup and went a little overboard, but we finally got it close on that last lap. It's definitely a confidence-builder for tomorrow because I think you're going to see a lot of the same conditions as we've got right now tomorrow. It's supposed to be a little warmer tomorrow and the track's going to be hot, and that definitely makes me feel pretty good, at least for first round and maybe second round because you're going to see pretty close conditions to this. I know we're close on the setup now, and that doesn't mean you go right back out and do the same thing, but it certainly gives us a good target to shoot at. I'm proud of the guys. As long as you get it figured out by Sunday, you're in good shape. It's a problem when you don't figure it out by Sunday and you've got to make a bunch of changes before first round."
Coincidentally, this was the 41st career No. 1 qualifier for Anderson, and the Minnesota native will be looking for career win No. 41 against a competitive Pro Stock field. All 16 drivers broke the Firebird Raceway record of 6.733 seconds in qualifying for tomorrow's eliminations.
"I know I sound like a broken record, and I hate to keep saying it, but I have got the best assembled group of guys over there. I just can't say enough good things about them. They're just fantastic. It doesn't matter where we're at, what kind of conditions we have, whether it's one run, two runs, four runs, they usually figure it out by the time we get to race day. That's why we're so strong on race day all the time. You've got to get close to that target before you get to Sunday. You can't be making big changes when you come out Sunday morning hoping you hit it first round. Luckily they usually get it figured out before we get to Sunday, and that's the key right there. That's all my team. That's my crew chiefs, my crew guys, and our team owner Ken Black. It all starts at the top. He's a great team owner and the people in Top Fuel are going to see that. It's going to funnel down through them and he's going to have a great team over there too."
Enders' qualifying effort for tomorrow's eliminations was the third consecutive NHRA event that she's placed her Chevy Cobalt in the No. 2 spot. The 22-year-old second-year Pro Stocker qualified second at last season's NHRA Finals at Pomona and then turned around and kicked-off this year with a No. 2 qualifying effort at the season-opening Winternationals, also at Pomona. She leads a Cobalt contingent that includes Ron Krisher who qualified 10th, Dave Connolly (13th), Kurt Johnson (14th) and Rickie Smith (15th).
"Being comfortable in the seat makes all the difference in the world," said Enders. "Last year I was a new driver and the guys were awesome to give me the 70 or 80 test passes that I needed to get acquainted with the car and get in a routine. To look at how I felt last year at this race compared to how I feel this year, and I've said it a million times, to have everything come second nature as far as your routine in the car because you're not thinking of what you have to do next, that's really important. And just getting a feel for the car, because they're so loose. You have to learn that loose is fast in these cars, and that's not something that your body tells you is okay.
"Our goal is to have them chasing us," said Enders, "and they were for three of the qualifying runs, and that was cool. For Greg to run a .67 in the heat of the day, that's pretty stout. We knew we had to do our thing, and a .69 isn't bad. We're No. 2 and we're happy with it. Our No. 1 qualifying pass, that .67, was a pretty messy run on the graph and we definitely cleaned it up. There's progress to be made, and we will make it tomorrow. We're coming to play."
The rest of the Pro Stock class has definitely taken notice of the efforts of Enders and her Cagnazzi Racing team.
"It's inevitable," said Anderson about Enders. "It's just a matter of time of time before she gets a pole and before she gets a win. She's doing a great job and she's got a great team behind her. That's the key. If she didn't have a great team behind her, then I wouldn't say that. But she's got a good team behind her and she's doing a good job behind the wheel. It's just inevitable when it's going to happen. She's going to get a pole and she's going to get a win, but being a guy, like most the guys in the class, we're going to try and hold her off as long as we can, but we know it won't be forever."
Jason Line almost matched his teammate Anderson's qualifying effort, placing his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO third with an elapsed time of 6.684 seconds at 207.05 mph. Other Pontiac qualifiers included Greg Stanfield in fifth, Mike Edwards (7th), Jim Yates (8th) and Warren Johnson (11th).
"Not bad," said Line, "and not to make it sound bad, but I think there's still a little more left. We're still missing it in a couple of areas, but we're getting a handle on it. Everybody really did a good job. The team, we just sat down and kind of put our heads together and came up with a solution to a couple of the problems, so we're really excited. This was 100% a team effort. We're one team with two cars, and that's the way it's supposed to be."
In Funny Car, Chevrolet took three of the top four qualifying spots with Cruz Pedregon leading the way for Team Chevy. Pedregon had an elapsed time of 4.717 seconds at 325.45 mph to take second on the qualifying grid. Eric Medlen was No. 1 qualifier in a Ford with an elapsed time of 4.707 seconds at 321.96 mph. Del Worsham qualified No. 3 in his sponsor's race with a 4.722 e.t. at 328.70 mph and Tony Pedregon qualified his Chevy No. 4. Other Chevy qualifiers included Phil Burkart Jr. (9th), Tommy Johnson Jr. (12th), Gary Densham (13th), Mike Ashley (14th), Tim Wilkerson (15th) and Scott Kalitta (16th).
"The only bad part about this whole deal is having to run Mike (Ashley) and Mark Oswald, and the whole Skull Gear gang, in Round 1," Worsham said. "I hate it when we have to run teammates, but I'm very happy we held on to the No. 3 spot. We spun the tires a little, down at the top end, during the first run today. We wanted to bounce right back and put a good safe, but strong, run on the board and that's just what we did.
"Tomorrow, we're going to be running right at about 12 noon, so the track is probably going to be hotter than it has been during any of our qualifying runs. I get nervous enough before first round, but when you have to go up there and run in conditions that are different than what you qualified in, I get even more nervous. We want to do well here, for everyone at CSK, and you can't do well unless you win that first one. It's going to be very tough."