Brainerd: Greg Anderson preview

Mooresville, N.C., August 10, 2010 -- After a brief hiatus, the NHRA's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to action this weekend with the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN. As the last race before the start of the Countdown to One ...

Mooresville, N.C., August 10, 2010 -- After a brief hiatus, the NHRA's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to action this weekend with the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN. As the last race before the start of the Countdown to One championship playoffs, there is a tremendous amount at stake in all four professional categories.

However, for Summit Racing Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson, the event carries added significance as it represents an opportunity to race in front of a hometown crowd. Although his 62 career national event wins include some of the biggest in the sport, it can be argued that the Duluth native's twin successes at Brainerd International Raceway rank among his favorites, a total he looks to add to this weekend. As he prepared to head to the North Star State, Anderson took time to answer a few questions about racing in his home state, as well as his take on his 2010 season to date.

Q: You seem to take particular pride in doing well in Minnesota -- why?

GA: "We have a handful of races every year where we have some extra pressure to perform -- the Summit-sponsored races, those held in Las Vegas, which is Ken's (team owner Black) home town, and this weekend in Brainerd. In the case of going back to the motherland, I guess we want to do well because we don't want to embarrass ourselves in front of our family and friends (laughs).

"Seriously, we enjoy going back to Minnesota and seeing the people we grew up with because it not only gives us a chance to catch up on things, but also to show them what we've been able to accomplish. Like all the rest, racing in Brainerd is a part of our routine, so we'll face it head-on and try to do as best as we can."

Q: Since it is somewhat of a homecoming, does your family have anything special planned for when you're in town?

GA: "The shame of our annual visits to Brainerd is that we don't have a lot of time to get reacquainted with the family away from the track, so you have to spend as much quality time as you can at the race. Fortunately, my parents love the racing environment and enjoy coming out to see us, and this year we will be going up to Duluth a day and a half early to do a media tour and an ALS fundraiser on Wednesday, so we will get to see them then. We can't wait to get there."

Q: What's the biggest benefit of racing in your home state?

GA: "I would have to say the biggest benefit is having your friends and family come out to watch you. Since it's the only time we'll get to see some of them during the year, it gives us a chance to visit with people we care about. Besides, knowing there are all those people in the stands pulling for you can be a tremendous morale booster, somewhat similar to what the stick and ball teams call a home field advantage. It's an intangible that goes in Jason's (teammate Line) and my corners every time we compete in Brainerd."

Q: What, if anything, is the biggest downside?

GA: "Although I could say getting lost in "The Zoo" and not getting back in time to race (laughs), there really is no downside. Certainly having those extra people at the track and it our pit area can be a distraction, because you want to make sure they're enjoying themselves, which can make it a little difficult to focus on racing.

"But somehow every year we seem to find a way to deal with it, and have managed to be fairly successful on the track. It's an extra challenge, but they call us professional racers, so we should be able to act like it and tune out any distractions when necessary. Besides, we certainly enjoy their company and extra support, which is why we love going back home and racing in Minnesota."

Q: In your previous two wins, you awarded the Wally to someone special- the first one in 2003, you gave to John Hagan's family while last year you presented it to your father -- any plans should you win #3?

GA: "I don't have a plan yet. Someday, if I'm fortunate enough to win a few more of these, I'd like to keep one for myself from Brainerd because the place means so much to me, and I have so much history there. However, there are so many important people in my life that helped me get to where I am that it will be further down the road before I consider keeping one. But as of right now, I haven't decided who would be in line for the next one."

Q: You will be racing with your father on hand -- what's it like to race in front of the man who introduced you to drag racing?

GA: "It is an ongoing process for me to make my father proud. Yes, he did get me started -- he's the reason I'm racing and where I am right now. There have been a lot of people that have been influential in my career, helping me rise to this level, but my father is the one who introduced me to it and gave me the love of the sport. He taught me to work on all sorts of cars and engines, so it definitely means a lot to race in front of him.

"Unfortunately, it's getting tougher for him to follow us around the country, so he's only been to a few races this year. Fortunately, he will be there this weekend, and given that Brainerd was one of the first tracks he ever took me to makes it even more special. Years ago I was able to watch him race there and now in a bit of a role reversal, he can come and help me. It's a really neat deal."

Q: With everything that has gone on away from the track this year, from Ken's health issues to your house fire, has your approach to racing changed? If so, how? How important is it for you to win and lift the spirits of Ken and your family?

GA: "I guess I would be a liar if I said it hadn't changed at all, because it has changed some. Without Ken being at the race track, we've had a hard time on occasion staying positive, making sure we're enjoying what we're doing. We miss the heck out of the guy, and feel bad when we have an off day at the track because we didn't put a smile on his face.

"It's been a tough deal, but it's all getting better by the day. Ken continues to recover, and our house fire is quickly becoming a memory as we prepare to move into a new home. We're looking to close the book on what has been a horrendous start to the year, putting all of that in our rear view mirror and looking forward to better things ahead.

"Still, at every event we as a race team feel that the best thing we can do to put a smile on Ken's face and help him with his rehab is win. We haven't done that enough, and we take it personally even though he has told us he's proud of us. He's the one going through everything, and yet he's telling us what a great job we're doing, which is the kind of guy he is. That's why we want to do everything we possibly can to help him get back to the race track."

Q: Last year you came into Brainerd looking for your first win of 2009 -- this year you've already won in Norwalk and Seattle -- how would you rate your program at the moment?

GA: "Even though our Summit Racing team has already won a couple races, I still feel similar to what I did last year at this time. We're not 100% happy with our performance to this point in the season and feel we need to get better. The good news is that if you go over the last half-dozen races I think you'll see a steady upward trend. That's why we look forward to going to the track every week, because we feel we will have a better product each time out. For example, we're confident we'll be better in Brainerd than we were in Denver.

"We're certainly not thrilled with how we started the year, but are happy with the way things have progressed. As tough as the competition is in Pro Stock, there aren't going to be any huge gains made overnight. However, if you keep chipping away at it, you'll get there, which is our game plan. It's all positive."

Q: Does the fact that this is the last race before the Countdown to One playoff begins in Indy change your approach to this race?

GA: "As the last race before the start of the playoffs, it is more important than ever to do well in Brainerd, simply to prove that you can win going in to the Countdown to One. I've seen too many times in other sports and other forms of racing where teams slack off once they qualify for the postseason, and as a result, don't go in to the playoffs ready to win.

"Winning is not a switch you can turn on or off. You have to go in operating at full speed, which is the Summit Racing team's goal. We're looking to go to Brainerd and win the race, giving us some positive momentum as we move forward into that first race of the Countdown."

Q: How would you describe the level of competition in Pro Stock in 2010?

GA: "It's pretty weak, with no one really all that strong. (laughing) It's almost a cliche, because at the start of each season I say that the competition is going to get stronger and it just keeps proving itself to be true. It is an absolute proven fact that this class gets tougher and tougher every year, making it harder to win. It's not like we're getting blind sided by these developments -- we've actually come to expect it. We just know that we have to move our program forward or get left behind."

Q: Talk about the racing surface at Brainerd International Raceway.

GA: "It's a good-to-average surface depending on the amount of heat it gets. If we don't get a ton of heat, it's a really good track, but if we get those high mid-summer temperatures, then it becomes a tuner's race, with everyone looking to adapt and make the most of the traction available. You just never know what you're going to get up there. It could be 55 to 60 degrees or it could be 90. We won't know exactly what we're going to have until we get up there, but we've raced under enough different scenarios to have data to work from, so whatever challenge BIR throws at us, I'm confident our Summit crew will be ready."

Q: The obvious goal of any two-car team is to meet in the final. Being that you are both from Minnesota, how big was it to do it in Brainerd last year?

GA: "Obviously, it was huge. In fact, I don't know how we could have scripted it out any better, although I'm guessing Jason would have written a different ending. (laughs) Still, it was great to race my teammate for the win in front of our families and friends. It's now been a year since we had both Summit cars in the final, and I can't think of a better place to repeat that performance, because it is our goal at every race we go to. We're way overdue and I think we have two race cars that can absolutely get the job done. We just need to execute it properly."

Q: Finally, what is your outlook for this weekend?

GA: "In my crystal ball, I see two Summit Racing Pontiacs in the final round just like we had last year. We certainly have a lot of tough competitors to get around to make that happen, but that's the confidence I have right now in this race team. I believe that if we go there and execute like we've shown we can in the last few weeks we've got a great chance of doing that. That's my prediction, and I'm sure there's a lot of other racers predicting the same thing for their team, but I'm sticking to mine. If they had odds on this race in Las Vegas, I'd be betting on us to make the final."

-source: kb racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Greg Anderson