Pomona: GM Racing final report

Greg Anderson's Pontiac GXP Debuts With a Victory at NHRA Winternationals POMONA, Calif., Feb. 10, 2008 - The 2008 NHRA POWERade season opened this weekend at the 48th annual Car Quest NHRA Winternationals with rousing performances by GM ...

Greg Anderson's Pontiac GXP Debuts With a Victory at NHRA Winternationals

POMONA, Calif., Feb. 10, 2008 - The 2008 NHRA POWERade season opened this weekend at the 48th annual Car Quest NHRA Winternationals with rousing performances by GM competitors in all three professional categories, and included a win in Pro Stock for Greg Anderson in the new Pontiac GXP, a Funny Car final-round appearance by Cruz Pedregon in a Chevy Impala SS, and a final-round appearance for Team GMC driver Cory McClenathan in Top Fuel.

Three-time POWERade champion (2003-2005) Greg Anderson gave the Pontiac GXP an appropriate introduction into the competitive Pro Stock category. Anderson captured his 52nd national-event victory tonight by defeating defending series champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the all-GM final round at Auto Club Raceway. Anderson drove the Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP to the raceday pole and never relinquished a performance advantage on race day, earning his fourth win at the season-opening Winternationals and his third straight at this event.

"It's beyond what you hope for when you come out here," Anderson said. "You want to be competitive at the first race of the season and not look like fools. We had a new hot rod this weekend with the GXP and you never know for sure what's going to happen. It just goes to show you, every time Pontiac introduces a new hot rod they do a great job. Every time we debut a new Pontiac, it's a step ahead of where we were the previous time and it goes right to the front. Maybe we need to race a new model every year."

Anderson entered raceday with his Summit Racing Pontiac qualified in the No. 1 position after running 6.629 seconds at 209.39 mph. It was his 63rd career pole. In round one, the 46-year-old Charlotte, N.C. resident defeated Johnny Gray with a 6.627 e.t. at 208.94 mph, in the quarterfinals he defeated Greg Stanfield with a 6.637 second run at 208.36 mph, and in the semifinals, he knocked off Allen Johnson with a 6.643 e.t. at 208.62 mph.

In the championship round against Coughlin, the Jegs Mail Order Chevrolet launched first and took a slight .002 of a second advantage, but by halftrack, the Pontiac GXP had overtaken the yellow-and-black Chevrolet and went on to cross the finish line first with a track-record e.t. of 6.616 seconds at 209.23 mph. Coughlin's Cobalt followed with a 6.638 second run at 208.42 mph. Anderson's margin of victory was .02 of a second.

"I was scared to death to look over and see where Jeggie was," Anderson said. "I went a little right in low gear, and usually when that happens it opens the door for your opponent. You can't make any kind of mistake. I knew it wasn't a perfect run, and I certainly didn't want to look over. But that new GXP motored on down through there, the engine came in strong, she went 209 mph and we got the win light.

"We needed all of that run to beat the defending champion. Jeg showed you there tonight just why he is the World champion. It's a great race team over there and if you're going to beat them you're going to need your best effort. I did my job on the starting line and the team gave us a setup that ran low e.t. of the meet. That's what it took to win the 2008 Winternationals. Otherwise, we would have been on the trailer."

In addition to Anderson's fourth win at the Winternationals, it was his seventh victory overall at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Anderson also tied Joe Amato for fifth place on the all-time list for professional victories by an NHRA competitor, and he is third among active drivers behind John Force (125) and Warren Johnson (96).

"We had three great qualifying laps and one clunker and that's the one that stays on your mind," Anderson said. "It's a heck of a job, though, to take a new car and put it in the winner's circle at the first race. My hat goes off to Rob (Downing) and all the guys at KB Racing who worked hard to get us here tonight, the motor guys back at the shop who give us great horsepower, and all the sponsors who support our program. Now we can look forward to the future and head into Phoenix with a win under our belt."

Although he came up just a blink of an eye shy of his second straight victory at Auto Club Raceway, Jeg Coughlin Jr. proved this weekend that he's ready to battle for the 2008 POWERade championship. Coughlin qualified the Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet in the No. 2 position with a 6.644 e.t. at 208.23 mph. He defeated Ron Krisher in round one, Justin Humphreys in round two and Kurt Johnson in round three before falling short to Anderson in the finals. His 6.638 e.t against Anderson was his best run of the day.

"It's a long season and any time you can come out of the gate with a runner-up, you certainly can't be disappointed," Coughlin said. "Our Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet put up strong numbers all weekend, and who knows, a tweak here and there and maybe we could have been in the winner's circle tonight. But congratulations to that KB Racing crew. They did a great job this weekend. We'll try to come back at Phoenix and reverse the outcome."

Three drivers in GM-branded cars advanced to the semifinal round of today's race including Chevy Cobalt driver Kurt Johnson, Coughlin and Pontiac GXP driver Anderson. Johnson qualified in the ACDelco Chevrolet qualified in the No. 3 position and defeated Mike Edwards in round one and Jason Line in round two before losing to Coughlin in round three.

"I got by the second round on a hole shot, but came up .011 short on the other end of one in the semis," Johnson said. "The tubing inside this new ACDelco Cobalt is different from our last car, and I had to look around it to see the tree in the left lane. As a result, the angle I was using somehow allowed his (Coughlin's) car to creep into my peripheral vision. I could see him moving into stage, and that might have been a distraction. As close as the competition is in Pro Stock, you can't afford to have any slip-ups. Whether it's the tree or the run or the tires, one little mistake and you're on the trailer.

"The good news is that we are in better shape after this year's Winternationals than we have been in some time. We have some great motors, this new ACDelco Cobalt is working well, and we have the manpower to get the job done. It's just a matter of hitting all the bases. We'll take what we learned here, address any issues, fine-tune what we can, and head to the desert looking to make perfect runs. We know what it takes to win - we just need to execute."

In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon drove the Advanced Auto Parts Chevy Impala SS to his 56th career final around appearance and his second here at the NHRA Winternationals (Pedregon won this race in 1995). The 1992 NHRA champion qualified in the No. 7 position and defeated Mike Neff in round one, Jack Beckman in round two, and Ashley Force in round three before losing to Robert Hight in the finals by .014 of a second.

Cory McClenathan advanced to his 51st career Top Fuel final round today (his second at the Winternationals) before losing to Tony Schumacher in the finals. The Team GMC driver qualified the Fram Top Fuel dragster in the No. 8 spot and defeated Brandon Bernstein in round one, Antron Brown in round two and Morgan Lucas in round three before losing to Schumacher by .057 of a second.

Frank Manzo captured his 72nd career national-event victory in the Alcohol Funny Car category with an all Chevrolet final-round victory over Brian Hough. The 11-time Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champion earned his 96th career final-round appearance and prevailed in a championship race that saw the Lucas Oil Chevrolet run a winning 5.558 e.t. at 260.26 mph to Hough's 5.779 second run at 250.27 mph.

"We worked hard all winter," Manzo said following his victory at Pomona. "We've missed a total of maybe five days of working on the car since we raced in Atlanta last season. For Sportsman racers with full-time jobs, that's saying something. We've worked Saturdays and Sundays and it's starting to pay. The Lucas Oil Chevrolet probably made its most impressive run when it ran the 5.50 in that air in the first round. In fact, I was telling the guys, the last two runs we slowed down a little bit and I was a little disappointed. But we have a lot of different parts on we can use, we have a little different approach to how we race, and it's starting to pay. I'm lucky, I have a great team.

"A win is a win and these guys on the west coast are some bad dudes - just like the east coast competition. These guys out here, they put their heart and soul out on the line, every run, and I'll be honest, I was fortunate, this was my weekend. I could have red lighted, I could have shook, and if I'd did any one of those things, I would have been beaten. That didn't happen and now we're in the winner's circle."

Jim Cowan of Dewy, Ariz., won Competition Eliminator in a 2008 Chevy Cobalt. Dan Fletcher of Churchville, N.Y. won Super Stock in a '69 Camaro, and Toby Lang of Auburn, Wash., won Stock Eliminator in a '69 Chevelle.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Frank Manzo , Greg Stanfield , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Dan Fletcher , Robert Hight , Mike Edwards , Mike Neff