DEFENDING PRO STOCK CHAMP LOOKS TO DEFEND FOUR-YEAR WINNING STREAK AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS IN OHIO HEBRON, Ohio -- Greg Anderson has a stranglehold on the Buckeye State. There's no doubt that the three-time defending NHRA Pro...
DEFENDING PRO STOCK CHAMP LOOKS TO DEFEND FOUR-YEAR WINNING STREAK AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS IN OHIO
HEBRON, Ohio -- Greg Anderson has a stranglehold on the Buckeye State.
There's no doubt that the three-time defending NHRA Pro Stock world champion has dominated the historically competitive category in recent years. This year, he's led the POWERade Series point standings since the season-opener and has been the No. 1 or No. 2 qualifier at every event -- with one win in three final-round appearances.
But Anderson's record in Ohio is even more solid. He'll look to defend a four-year winning streak when the world's fastest motorsport comes to National Trail Raceway for the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals. The event is the eighth of 23 events in the $50 million POWERade Series.
Only two other active drivers have four career wins at the facility: Anderson's former employer Warren Johnson, and 13-time world champion John Force in Funny Car. And yet, Anderson won't roll into Ohio's historic facility expecting to dominate once again. The first seven races of 2006 have seen seven different winners, including Anderson and Line; Mike Edwards, Tom Martino and the Summit team's rivals, the father-son duo of Warren and Kurt Johnson; and Dave Connolly.
Line beat his teammate in Bristol, Tenn.
"Obviously Jason has a very good chance of winning in Columbus," Anderson said.
Balancing mounting pressure from teams who are hungry for their own trips to the top of the standings with the demands of being a world champion and the attention that comes with it makes staying focused vital to Anderson's bid to defend.
"That is all part of the game and can be difficult sometimes," Anderson said. "We, as a team, try to find the perfect balance that will work for everyone."
In addition to being a driver, Anderson puts in 14 to 16 hours every day working on the car with his team. Perhaps that's why he and Line are always near the forefront of the points chase, if not leading it. Line prefers it that way.
"(I would rather) be leading in the points," Line said. "Losing is one of my biggest fears."
Line has yet to win at the Columbus-area facility.
"Hopefully this year will be my best memory from there," he said.
Top contenders in Top Fuel include points leader Melanie Troxel, who made headlines by reaching the final round six of the first seven events of the season in her Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster. She advanced to five finals to open the season but her streak ended when she fouled in the second round to eventual runner-up Rod Fuller in Bristol, Tenn. Troxel's teammate, three time and defending world champion Tony Schumacher made National Trail Raceway one of the fastest tracks in the country when he set the national record for speed there in 2005 at a blistering 336.15 mph in his U.S, Army dragster. Expect strong efforts from title contenders Dave Grubnic (StriVectin-SD dragster) and Doug Kalitta (Mac Tools dragster), who pulled off a sweep of Bristol and Atlanta with back-to-back victories for the second year in a row.
Ron Capps is the one to watch in Funny Car. This season Capps came out strong after finishing second in the '05 POWERade Series standings, winning three of the first seven events of the year (Gainesville, Houston, Bristol) in five final-round appearances in his Brut Dodge Stratus R/T. He won at Columbus in 2002. Force, who stars in the A&E reality series "Driving Force," set to debut in July, is No. 2 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, while his teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight is No. 3 in the POWERade standings.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, teammates Antron Brown and Angelle Sampey, the winningest female in NHRA history, will attempt to ward off the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of Andrew Hines (the defending world champion) and GT Tonglet. Brown and Sampey are No. 1 and No. 2 in the standings, respectively, while Hines is third. Defending event winner Ryan Schnitz is in the seventh spot.
SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m. on May 19, and noon and 2:30 p.m. on May 20. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on May 21, followed by the first session of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.