Greg Anderson Puts Pontiac GTO In Winner's Circle At NHRA Season Opener Three-Time Pro Stock Champion Turns In Record-Setting Performance POMONA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2006 - Determined not to fall behind like he did after last year's poor ...
Greg Anderson Puts Pontiac GTO In Winner's Circle At NHRA Season Opener Three-Time Pro Stock Champion Turns In Record-Setting Performance POMONA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2006 - Determined not to fall behind like he did after last year's poor Winternationals showing, Greg Anderson kicked off this weekend's season opener at Auto Club Raceway with a dominating performance that left very little on the table. The three-time POWERade Pro Stock champion and driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac captured his 40th career victory today at the 46th annual CAR QUEST Auto Parts Winternationals with a with win over Mike Edwards in an all-GTO final round.
"About this time last year we were really struggling," said Anderson. "It was a tough start and then it didn't end here. It snowballed for three or four races and we didn't think we would ever get the ship righted. It was tough, it was painful, and don't think we didn't think about it everyday during the winter. We did not want to start the new season that way, and we came out this weekend and showed what kind of team we have. It was a very impressive effort by these guys and I'm the lucky one who gets to ride inside that Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. This crew is absolutely fantastic."
Anderson entered today's eliminator qualified in the No. 1 spot, the 41st career pole start for the 44-year-old North Carolina resident. During Sunday's race Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO continued on its torrid run down the Pomona quarter-mile posting the quickest elapsed time in each of the four rounds of the eliminator including both ends of the track record in the final round win over Edwards.
Anderson charged to his first victory of the year by defeating Bob Panella in round one, Rickie Smith in round two and Larry Morgan in round three before squaring up with the Young Life Pontiac of Mike Edwards. Anderson's Pontiac ran in the 6.60s all afternoon including 6.670 seconds at 206.73 mph against Panella, 6.695 seconds at 207.05 mph against Smith, and 6.684 seconds at 206.80 mph against Morgan. The defending POWERade champ saved his best for last driving his Pontiac GTO to both ends of the track record with a 6.665 second run at 207.75 mph. Anderson's effort also gave Pontiac its 159th win in NHRA Pro Stock competition, the most by any manufacturer in the history of the sport.
"I wish I could stand here and honestly say this is what we expected, but that just isn't the case," said Anderson. "I'm always a little cautious, and never know what to expect or how good we're going to be. I know we work hard, I know we have a great team, but I don't want to say we're going to do something and then have it come back to haunt us."
It was Anderson's second victory at the Winternationals (his first in 2004), his fourth career win at Auto Club Raceway and his 36th victory in the last 70 races. He also leaves California in first place in the Pro Stock standings with 22 events still remaining on the docket.
"To be honest, we ran better than I thought we would and that's a pleasant surprise," said Anderson. "You're at the shop, and you work and you work, and you dream about days like this, but you never really think in the back of your mind that they can happen. It's a bonus to come to Pomona, and run as well as we did and win this race. It's a complete turnaround from the way we ran here in 2005, and hopefully we can keep it going. We don't know what's going to happen for the rest of the year, but when you get off to a good start like this, it gives you confidence and it gives the whole team confidence. I'm a happy man right now."
Mike Edwards drove one of his best races in a long time, advancing to his first final-round appearance since a runner-up performance to Kurt Johnson at Brainerd (Minn.) in 2003. The Oklahoma native qualified the Young Life Pontiac GTO in the No. 6 spot and then used a combination of finesse and horsepower to reach his 24th career final round.
"We had a great weekend, we're tickled to death," said Edwards. "We would have liked to have made a better showing in the finals, but hey, carburetor problems hurt us and we certainly weren't going to beat the numbers that Greg laid down. We didn't know what to expect coming into the first race of the season. We were crossing our fingers but the Young Life Pontiac GTO ran way beyond what we thought it could do. I take my hat off to everybody including Al Lindsey, Josh Robinson, Lisa (Edwards), Roger and Ann Stull, but mostly I want to give God all the glory because this program is all about Him."
Edwards defeated Kurt Johnson in round one posting a 6.733 e.t. at 205.85 mph, Warren Johnson in round two with a 6.723 second run at 206.45 mph and Mark Pawuk in the semifinal heat running 6.729 seconds at 205.76 mph. In the finals against Anderson, Edwards' Pontiac GTO crossed the finish line with 6.726 e.t. at 206.48 mph. Anderson's margin of victory was .097 of a second.
"Going rounds is what it takes," said Edwards. "It's been almost three years since we went to a final round. We ran good, qualified good, we're just happy about everything. Hopefully we can build on our performance and move forward from here."
A strong showing this weekend by a trio of Pontiac GTO drivers that included Mark Pawuk successfully advanced to the final four of the 16-car eliminator. Pawuk qualified in the No. 10 position and defeated Richie Stevens in round one and Erica Enders in round two before losing in round three to race finalist Mike Edwards.
"It was a great effort this weekend by all of the guys on this race team," said Pawuk. "Our Pontiac GTO has made the whole difference in our performance, even going back to last year's U.S. Nationals when we got back into competition. We struggled a little bit with the setup on the car today, but hey, we went to the semifinals, the car made consistent runs, we have great power from Ron Krisher, and his program has made a tremendous effort to get us the power we need to be competitive. To come to Pomona after struggling for so long at the Winternationals, and leaving here fourth in the points is pretty awesome. That's the best in points I've left here since 1988 when I was runner-up to Butch Leal. I hope we can carry that momentum forward for the rest of the year. The competition is going to be tough out here though, there are a lot of fast cars and it's going to be our job to stay on top of the combination. If we make good consistent runs, and go a few rounds on Sunday, you never know what may happen.
"I'm real happy with our effort this weekend. I need to drive better, but that's okay. I'm satisfied with the way I've started the season but I need to work on my driving. We tested at Valdosta (Ga.) and ran good, we struggled the first couple of days in Las Vegas, and then the team stayed over and ran on Sunday and Monday, and turned this thing around. I'm feeling really good. I had second thoughts about coming back this year, but after getting that carrot at Indy and going to the semifinals, that rejuvenated me. Starting out this year with a semifinal finish is just awesome. In the past I dreaded going to the next race. Now I can't wait to get to Phoenix."
In Funny Car, Phil Burkart advanced to the semifinal round in a Chevy Monte Carlo defeating Gary Densham in round one and John Force in round two before losing to Robert Hight. Burkart entered eliminations with the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet qualified in the No. 9 position, and his strong effort today puts him tied for third in the points race after one completed event.