Gainesville: GM Racing Saturday summary

Anderson First Pro Stocker to Top 210 MPH With Record Run at Gainesville Pontiac No. 1 Qualifier in Pro Stock for Season's First Three Races GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2007 - Three-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson didn't just eclipse...

Anderson First Pro Stocker to Top 210 MPH With Record Run at Gainesville
Pontiac No. 1 Qualifier in Pro Stock for Season's First Three Races

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2007 - Three-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson didn't just eclipse the national speed record of 209.75 in qualifying for this weekend's 38th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, he obliterated it. Anderson and his Summit Racing Pontiac team took advantage of near-ideal cool temperatures and conditions to post an elapsed time of 6.566 seconds at 211.20 mph. Anderson took the national record for speed back from his teammate Jason Line who still holds the national elapsed-time record (6.558 seconds) set at Richmond last fall. Ironically, Line also ran in the 211s on his fourth and final qualifying run with a career-best speed of 211.03. Larry Morgan in a Dodge ran an identical 6.566 e.t. to Anderson's but lost the top spot when he ran a slower speed of 210.31 mph.

"This has always been a big speed track," said Anderson, "and cars can put all of the horsepower that they have down to it and run that big speed. We knew coming down here we had a great chance of running 210 after running 209 at Phoenix, a track not known for speed out there. And when the weather came up today and looked like it was going to get as cool as it was, we were like, 'You know, it could be even 211,' but still, you want to get to 210 before you get to 211, but we drove right by it. I guess I'm not in the "210 Club," but I guess I can live with that - I'm in the "211 Club" and Jason and I are the only two in it, so that's pretty cool too.

"It's exciting to drive these cars like this, but you're on pins and needles because you just don't know if you're going to make it down at all. When you have air like this and you have conditions like this, these cars become so finicky because they have so much more power than we're used to having with them. It's probably a 50 horsepower jump from what we would normally have in these engines just because of these atmospheric conditions. We really don't have experience running them like that, so some of us look kind of foolish out there at times. Either you hit it perfect and you run really fast and set records, or you don't make it down the racetrack. Tomorrow's going to be just as good weather-wise, so we'll get some more practice at it. We're all learning. It's really going to throw it back in the crew chiefs hands for tomorrow. Drivers obviously have to always do well in this class, but the crew chiefs are really going to be put to work tomorrow, first of all because of the difference in lanes, and second of all, just the tremendous atmospheric conditions out there and the way these cars are making power."

Anderson was also the No. 1 qualifier in the season-opener at Pomona, and Line drove his Summit Racing Pontiac to the top spot at Phoenix, so KB Racing and its two Pontiacs have claimed all three Pro Stock No. 1 qualifiers to start the 2007 season.

"We made the change to the DRCE3 (Drag Racing Competition Engine, third generation) over the winter and it is a serious horse," said Anderson. "It's been fantastic for us. We knew as the season went on we should be able to rub on it and make it a little bit better, and it's showing already here this weekend. I think throughout the season we should be able to get it better yet. My hat's off to the guys at GM. They've given us a great engine to work with just like the great GTO. We're in the right car and we've got the right engine."

Mike Edwards drove his Young Life Pontiac GTO to the No. 3 spot with a career-best time and speed of 6.575 seconds at 210.18 mph, and Warren Johnson drove his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO to the No. 4 qualifying spot, also posting career-best numbers of 6.587 seconds at 209.69 mph.

"Our GM Performance Parts GTO continues to come around nicely," said Johnson. "Our approach to racing this car remains the same as it has all season, namely using what we know works from the past, taking what the car will give us, while simultaneously injecting what we are doing to improve its performance. Based on the runs we made, and given the forecast for tomorrow is similar to today, I think we're in decent shape, but we have to keep working to get even better."

Line qualified fifth, but the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ was not qualified prior to his fourth and final qualifying attempt, jeopardizing his consecutive qualifying streak of 75 races. He drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to an elapsed time of 6.597 seconds at 211.03 mph.

"I was scared," said Line, "not just for me but for everybody that works hard on this team. It's a lot of wasted effort if you don't qualify. And the truth is, we've got a nice streak going and it would be cool to be able to never say that you have not qualified, so I was definitely thinking about that. I was kind of mentally prepared before the run and said, 'You know what, if I don't qualify, I don't qualify,' so I was trying not to be completely insane over it if it didn't happen. I think that helped me relax a little bit. Luckily enough, we made a decent run and got through, and we ran 211 to boot. It was really a team effort, and that's what it takes in this sport."

Teammates Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin had their Chevy Cobalts qualified seventh and eighth, respectively, and former NBA standout Tom Hammonds made an auspicious return to full-time Pro Stock competition by qualifying his Hammonds Racing Chevy Cobalt 15th.

"After both Dave (Connolly) and I were eliminated early in the race at Phoenix, with very simiIar circumstances," said Coughlin, "our team owner Victor Cagnazzi and our crew chiefs, Roy Simmons and Tommy Utt, they kind of pulled together and said we've got great horsepower, we've got great cars, and we know we can do it, so let's figure out just what we're going to do to try and be as efficient as they can be. They went out and ran close to 40 runs on the two cars in testing, and Dave drove both of them over the course of the three days.

"I think Dave and I are going to have a great, great run together, both as teammates and as friends. I think the more we get fired up, hopefully the more we can turn some win lights on on Sundays."

In Funny Car, Jeff Arend led Team Chevy in qualifying, driving the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo to the fourth qualifying position with an elapsed time of 4.774 seconds at 326.87 mph. Robert Hight drove his Ford to the No. 1 spot with a track-record elapsed time of 4.686 seconds at a track-record speed of 331.94 mph.

"By the time we ran in the final session, we knew we had been knocked back a bunch of spots," said Arend, "but we were safe for the race field. It was kind of hard to keep track of where we were on the grid, actually, because so many cars were bumping in, getting bumped out, and changing the order so much, but when I got to the other end and they said we were No. 1, at the time, that was cool. I knew all those other guys were back there still to run, though, so I really didn't think it would stick for the top spot. It didn't, but we're thrilled to be 4th. We have to race Ashley Force, who is going to win a lot of rounds and a lot of races in her career. With all due respect, we'd just like to make her wait at least one more race before either of those things happen."

In Top Fuel, Chevrolet-backed Larry Dixon drove his SkyTel dragster to the 27th No. 1 qualifier of his career. The two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ had an elapsed time of 4.510 seconds at 330.07 mph and will face Doug Foley in tomorrow's first round of eliminations.

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Ashley Force , Jason Line , Jeff Arend , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards