Greg Anderson Drives Pontiac GTO To First NHRA Pro Stock Victory For Legendary Nameplate Two-Time NHRA Champion Moves Back Into Points Lead SONOMA, Calif., July 31, 2005 - Greg Anderson captured his fourth win of the season today at the Fram ...
Greg Anderson Drives Pontiac GTO To First NHRA Pro Stock Victory For
Two-Time NHRA Champion Moves Back Into Points Lead
SONOMA, Calif., July 31, 2005 - Greg Anderson captured his fourth win of the season today at the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, and added the celebrated name of GTO to the legacy of great Pontiacs that have won an NHRA Pro Stock national event. Anderson defeated the red-hot Kurt Johnson in an all-GM final to give the GTO its first, of what promises to be many victories for the legendary nameplate in NHRA Pro Stock competition. It was also the 154th all-time win for Pontiac in the category, the most by any manufacturer in the history of the sport.
"I think this Pontiac GTO is going to be the best car I've ever raced," said Anderson. "There's no question that we're still new with it yet, it's a little bit different from our old car, but it's positively going to best the doggone racecar I've ever had. My hat goes off to Fred Simmonds, Dan Engel, and all the engineers at GM Racing for creating such a monster. It's the car of the future, it's going to be the best ride we've ever had and it will be the best ride for a lot of the guys in the class."
Anderson came into today's race with his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO qualified in the No. 7 position after setting the track top speed record at 206.95 mph. The two-time POWERade champion defeated Jeg Coughlin in round one, Jim Yates in round two and Greg Stanfield in round three before facing the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt of Kurt Johnson in the finals. Anderson's GTO saved its best and most consistent performance for raceday running 6.721 seconds in the first heat, 6.712 seconds in the second session and 6.719 seconds in the semifinals. In the title match, Johnson's Cobalt launched first and appeared to be headed for its second straight victory in as many races, but at the 330-foot mark, the car wobbled slightly toward the centerline, and that was all Anderson's GTO needed to overtake the Chevrolet. At the stripe, the Pontiac GTO recorded a 6.732 e.t. at 205.63 mph while the Chevy Cobalt trailed slightly with a 6.760 second run at 204.23 mph. Anderson's margin of victory was .011 of a second.
"We showed what this team was made of today," said Anderson. "We've been a little off the last couple of races with the new car and we've battled through some curves. The Pontiac GTO has proved that it's going to be fast but we haven't even found its sweet spot quite yet. We came out a little down today so we had a team meeting. Jeff (Perley) and Rob (Downing) told me that there was no reason we couldn't win today. They told me if we could get by the first round they could get the car right by the time we got to the second and third round, and that's exactly what happened. They cheered up both Jason (Line) and myself and made me feel better about the day. It's their win today - Jeff and Rob, and the rest of the crew, they're gaining on this GTO and it's only going to get better. I'm looking forward to my future in this car."
It was Anderson's second straight victory at Infineon Raceway, and moved the Summit Racing GTO driver back into first place in the NHRA Pro Stock standings in what is turning out to be one of the most exciting championship races in years. With Anderson again at the top of the points chart, the lead in NHRA Pro Stock has now changed hands 11 times, the most ever in the history of the factory hot rod category. It was also the 44-year-old Anderson's 35th career win, and he ties the great Don Garlits for 10th on the NHRA's all-time list for wins by a professional driver.
"The Pro Stock class is a dogfight right now," said Anderson. "We have five guys that can absolutely win this POWERade championship without any one of them being an upset or anybody wondering how it happened, and that's the state of Pro Stock racing right now. Kurt (Johnson) and I are like brothers, we have a lot of history together and there could be no more motivator than running against him or Warren (Johnson). It's fun when you race either one of them, but you have to dig down and find something extra. Kurt wanted this race badly - he was .016 on the light in the finals, but I also came up with my best light of the day - it was enough to get the job done and give that Pontiac GTO its first win."
"We're back in first place and that's obviously a great place to be after the Western Swing. We didn't have a good series of races out here and this one right here made us healthy. Now we can go home, regroup and have this car smokin at Brainerd."
Although Johnson came up just a blink of an eye shy of making his own trek to the winner's circle, the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt driver nailed down career round win number 400 with his semifinal victory over Greg Stanfield. He joins Bob Glidden and Warren Johnson as the only NHRA Pro Stock drivers to reach that milestone. Johnson's Chevy Cobalt also recorded an Infineon Raceway track record with his pole-position qualifying run of 6.767 seconds, and he managed to advance to his third final-round appearance in the last four events. Johnson's performance today was enough to leap frog the ACDelco Chevrolet driver over Jason Line and into third place in the POWERade standings.
"It was a good Western Swing for us," said Johnson. "A semifinal (Denver), a win (Seattle) and a runner-up - one notch at a time. I wish we could have won but lane choice made the difference in the semifinals so it wasn't meant to be. I left on him, should have won, but got over to the centerline. With the glare of the sun, I put it in third gear and thought, 'How in the heck did I get over here so fast?' It scrubbed off a few hundredths and the margin was .011 at the stripe, so we're not too disappointed. We're on the move. We've tallied more points than anybody over the last four races and we're right back in the hunt. There are seven races to go so it should be interesting all the way to the end."
"We had some clutch issues at the beginning of the year that kind of bit us. We just got everything going together, the car, the motors, the clutch program and a little better driving. The last four races everything has been good so we'll see if we can continue on."
Even though he's battled a performance disadvantage, veteran Jim Yates capitalized on his driving skills and experience to have his best Western Swing in three years. The Pontiac driver advanced to the semifinals at Denver, the second round of eliminations at Seattle and into today's second round before losing to current points leader Greg Anderson.
"I thought we had a really good kickoff to the second half of the year," said Yates. "That's how we're looking at it. This is the beginning of the second half of the year, we did really well on the Western Swing, we won a lot of rounds, beat a lot of good cars and tough competitors, and now we have to parlay that into something good. If we can get on our horse we can get up there toward the top five by the end of the season and that's what we're shooting for right now. We have the potential, the race team is doing a great job on this Pontiac, I'm driving well, we just have to get a little more steam under the hood and Steve Schmidt's working on getting that done every day. Hopefully by the time we get back to Brainerd (Minn.) we have a little more horsepower and we can win some more rounds."
"We have about a half-week, cross-country drive back to Virginia. We'll test in St. Louis on the way back to Brainerd. We have to get all of our equipment back together. We made three long, hard weeks out here between Denver, Seattle and Sonoma. We've put a lot of strain on a lot of equipment and we have to head back and freshen everything up - gets our gears fresh, get our transmissions done, get everything back together."
In Funny Car, Tony Bartone advanced to the semifinals in a Chevy Monte Carlo, defeating Jeff Arend in round one and No. 1 qualifier Tony Pedregon in round two before losing in round three to Gary Scelzi. Bartone entered today's race qualified in the No. 9 position and had his best Sunday outing since going to the final round at Las Vegas in April.
"It's coming around," said team owner and crew chief Jim Dunn. "We're about the only guys out here with a six-disc in Funny Car. We started the first of the year with it and it's consistent now. We had a 5.0 to a 4.95 car at the beginning of the year, and right now we're good 4.85 - 4.87 car. It was hot today but we can run 4.90s in the heat easier than the other guys can and that's why we went to the six-disc - you can slip them further before they weld up, grab and smoke the tires. We got beat but we're not ashamed of the 5.0. It blew the blower off at about 1100 feet and it probably broke a pushrod. We had to change motors because the front cover came loose on the other one, and with the oil downs we didn't want another one of those."
"We have a lot left in the clutch. We've just been playing with the top half and that's when we were running in the nineties. Once we got it consistent and knew what kind of weight it wanted on the secondaries to run nineties, then we got after the primaries. There's another tenth left in this car if we can make the power to do it. The clutch is ready. We'll run 4.82 - 4.85 at Brainerd."
A total of five Pontiacs (four different Pontiac brands) won today in the Sportsman and Pro categories. In addition to Anderson's victory in a GTO, Steve Gasparrelli won Top Alcohol Funny Car in a Firebird, Doug Lambeck won Comp Eliminator in a Sunfire, Jimmy DeFrank won Super Stock in a Grand Am and Bernie Cunningham won in Stock eliminator in a Firebird.
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the 24th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 11 -14.