Pontiac's Greg Anderson takes aim at Thunder Valley. BRISTOL, Tenn., April 20, 2003 - Now that the NHRA POWERade tour is in full swing, the battle to become the next Pro Stock champion is beginning to unfold. Just five races into the season,...
Pontiac's Greg Anderson takes aim at Thunder Valley.
BRISTOL, Tenn., April 20, 2003 - Now that the NHRA POWERade tour is in full swing, the battle to become the next Pro Stock champion is beginning to unfold. Just five races into the season, Vegas General Construction Pontiac driver Greg Anderson is one of many who have positioned himself as a contender to challenge for this year's crown.
"I know we've made ton of progress in the off-season," said Anderson. "But you also know in the back of your mind you're never going to be able to distance yourself from Warren (Johnson) and Kurt (Johnson). To be able to run even with them is a pretty dog-gone good feeling. But Jeg's (Coughlin) going to be tough, and Scott (Geoffrion), Jim Yates will be strong before it's all over, Allen Johnson's team, and Bruce Allen, they're all running great. We just feel fortunate to be where we are right now. We'll make some gains in the next few months, but to realistic, nobody is going to run away with this class. There's too much talent and too much quality out there."
Anderson is a little surprised, but extremely pleased, by his team's ability to kick off the new year with such a strong showing. During the off-season, the 42-year-old North Carolina resident had a lot on his table to digest including moving into a new race and engine shop in Concord, N.C., the selection of new team members Rob Downing and Jeff Perley to staff his up-and-coming team, and a switch from the Chevy Cavalier body style over to the 2003 Pontiac SC/T Grand Am. Anderson is also planning to add a second Grand Am in late spring that will be driven by Jason Line. Line currently has the all-important task of handling the team's dyno work.
"Because of everything we were trying to accomplish over the winter, we didn't get a lot of testing time on engine parts," explained Anderson. "I knew at the Winternationals we would be a little behind the eight-ball. With the parts and pieces and people we've put in place, plus the new shop, I was confident that by midseason we could contend for the points lead. The surprise is that we've started out as good as we have. We're way ahead schedule so you can understand why I have high hopes.
"The SC/T Grand Am is every bit as good as the Chevrolet I raced last year. The Pontiac seems to have more downforce downtrack, it's real comfortable to drive and when we get into the hot, sticky months when we'll be racing on greasy tracks, we think that's where the advantages of the Grand Am will play out."
After a valuable tenure serving as crew chief on Warren Johnson's Pro Stock program, Anderson got an opportunity to race on the NHRA tour for the first time in 1998. Right away it became obvious that Anderson had the talent to drive a racecar, and in 1999 he scored his first final round with a runner-up at the U.S. Nationals. He competed in 21 national events in '99 and finished in 10th place.
For the next two years, lacking adequate funding, Anderson's race schedule was curtailed. But he made the most of his limited opportunities and captured his first national-event victory at the 2001 Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway (Tenn.). Four months later he won the series most prized event, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
"Winning the U.S. Nationals was incredible," said Anderson. "It probably shocked a lot of people, but if you look back on how did it we didn't really sneak up on anybody. We ran well all weekend, outran pretty much everybody on Monday, kept lane choice, and had a great car and Pontiac SC/T Grand Am Motorsports excellent power. It may have been a part-time ride but is was a top-shelf car with good equipment and a good engine. We ran strong as the day went on. Nothing compares to winning Indy. I may not win it again but I know I've got at least one."
Anderson's big break came in 2002 when Las Vegas business owner Ken Black hired him to drive and manage his new race team. Black saw the burgeoning potential in Anderson, and his trust and confidence was proven to be well founded.
"You couldn't ask for a better guy or a more positive, more supportive team owner than Ken Black," said Anderson. "He's the reason we have the parts and pieces in place to be a successful race team."
Anderson responded to Black's confidence by delivering two national-event wins at Englishtown (N.J.) and Columbus (Ohio) to go along with four runner-up performances. After contending for the POWERade championship for most the season, Anderson ended the year in third place, his best career finish as a Pro Stock competitor.
"Even though the engine project came together last year," explained Anderson, "we didn't really have the depth we needed - we only had one engine to work with most of the year. But we learned a lot, and over the off-season we hired a couple of more engine guys, built a new shop that would house all the equipment we needed and a real nice dyno of our own. Now we can do real quality testing of our engine parts."
To take advantage of the area's abundant motorsports resources, Anderson made a conscious effort to relocate his race shop to the Charlotte, N.C., metropolitan area, the center of NASCAR Winston Cup Racing.
"If you need anything that has something to do with a race engine or a racecar, you can get it that same day within a 30-mile radius," said Anderson. "As soon as I got here, a lot of the circle track people started stopping by just to get a look at our NHRA Pro Stock cars, or watch us run our motors on the dyno. That's how I got a couple of the key engine people that are working with me now.
"The appeal to them is that from a rules standpoint, drag racing is less restricted and more wide open than NASCAR. Therefore, they can do a lot more here than they can do in Winston Cup. They see this program as an avenue to exercise some of the knowledge gained over the years."
Next week, the NHRA tour returns to the lush mountains of eastern Tennessee and Bristol Dragway, the site of the Third Annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals. Anderson heads into the race second in the points standings after relinquishing the lead to Kurt Johnson at Houston. So far this season, Anderson has two victories including the series' second race at Phoenix, and an emotional and gratifying hometown win at Las Vegas for team-owner Ken Black. Anderson is confident that the inherent potential of his race team is yet to be realized and that the best is yet to come.
"I can look around and see some incredible talent with this program," said Anderson. "Rob Downing and Jeff Perley are as good as they get. They basically share information with each other and I stay out of the way. If they really have something they're hedging on, they'll ask my opinion. I trust them tremendously and we will do whatever they want. They're doing a fantastic job.
"We'll bring out the second Grand Am at either Englishtown or Columbus. We're not going to do that until we know it's going to be competitive. We want it the second car to be able to run as fast as the first car because that's the only way it's going to do us any good. The pieces are all in place, the people are here, the parts are here, the shop is here and we have the best team owner in the sport. We plan on making a serious run at this deal."