Greg Anderson Drives Pontiac Grand Am To Third U.S. Nationals Victory - No. 13 Ties Single-Season Record For Most Professional Wins INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 6, 2004 - A determined Greg Anderson used drag racing's most celebrated stage to engrave his...
Greg Anderson Drives Pontiac Grand Am To Third U.S. Nationals Victory - No. 13 Ties Single-Season Record For Most Professional Wins
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 6, 2004 - A determined Greg Anderson used drag racing's most celebrated stage to engrave his name into the NHRA record book, driving the Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am to his 13th win of the season at the 50th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Anderson tied John Force for the most victories in a season by a professional driver, moved within an eyelash of clinching his second straight POWERade championship and delivered Pontiac its 141st all-time win in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
"I just have to thank all of my team," said Anderson. "I can't say enough about everyone on this Summit Racing Pontiac program. I just kind of ride around. What an organization - just a fantastic group of guys, from the top on down. Ken Black, the best team owner in the business. And I've got a great crew. Ken allows me to hire these guys, and they're the ones making it happen out here. I'm just living a dream right now, absolutely living a dream."
Anderson started today's eliminator from the No. 1 position, the 13th time this season the Summit Racing Pontiac driver has earned low qualifying honors. His qualifying run of 6.794 seconds was low elapsed time of the weekend, the 15th time this season Anderson's Pontiac has turned in the quickest round of the event. The Concord, N.C., resident defeated Steve Schmidt in round one, Bruce Allen in round two and Jeg Coughlin Jr. in round three before meeting up with Kenny Koretsky in the finals.
As in his 12 previous victories of 2004, Anderson's Pontiac was consistently fast, and today it turned the quickest times in three of the four eliminator rounds running 6.840ET/202.06MPH in the first session, 6.832ET/201.91MPH in the quarterfinals, and 6.838ET/202.15MPH in the semifinals.
In the championship heat, Koretsky's Dodge launched first off the line with a .037 reaction time, but by the 330-foot marker Anderson's Grand Am had inched by Koretsky and pulled ahead all the way to the finish line, crossing the stripe in 6.839 seconds at 202.09 mph. Koretsky's shot at his first Pro Stock win fell short by .0175 of a second, or approximately five feet.
For Anderson, it was his third victory in four final-round appearances at the U.S. Nationals, and he is now third on the Pro Stock list for most wins at the "Big Go" behind Bob Glidden (9) and Warren Johnson (6). It was also the defending POWERade champion's ninth time this year he has won from the pole position. Anderson has also driven his Pontiac Grand Am to 62 round wins this season and is just two rounds shy of a career mark of 200 round wins.
"I'm so proud," said Anderson. "It's such a great feeling to win here. This place is just so special. It's just so much bigger than anywhere else we race. Everybody races better, and everybody throws their best shot at you. Everything about it is like going from 'B' league to 'A' league when you come here. It's hard to explain, but everybody runs better at Indianapolis. I'm whipped right now. It's like a marathon. It's longer than any other race. You've just got to dig down and find enough energy to get through Monday. You're just drained by the time you get up on Monday morning. To survive at the end of the day is a very special feeling. I didn't really have an advantage, but somehow between car and driver we edged them out at the finish line."
With a net gain at the next race of 56 points over second-place Jason Line, Anderson will mathematically clinch his second straight NHRA POWERade championship.
"It's never been easy, but they're harder now than they've ever been, and they're going to continue to get harder," said Anderson. "There are a million ways to lose, and somehow today we avoided all of them. There were times actually, and it's been awhile since we've been considered an underdog, but there were plenty of times today where I had to say, 'You know, we're kind of the underdog,' especially up against Jeg Coughlin the way he ran in qualifying, the way he ran in first round, and the way he drives. I considered myself an underdog then. Maybe I shouldn't, but I did. I was so happy when I beat him, it was like winning the race. You don't think every one of these guys wouldn't have wanted to win the U.S. Nationals? I know, because I've been there, how special of a feeling it is. You absolutely learn that it's the best in the world, and this is why we race, right here. This is what it's all about, and this is the best you will ever feel at the end of the day like this when you win the U.S. Nationals."
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon was looking to win his fourth U.S. Nationals title. The driver of the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo had one his best runs of the season, qualifying fourth and advancing to the finals before losing to Gary Densham.
"It's a little frustrating, but satisfying at the same time," said Pedregon, the 1992 POWERade Funny Car World Champion. "We still went to the final round of the biggest race. After the disappointment wears off, you can look back and see what a great day we had."
Pedregon's nitro-powered Chevrolet was strong all afternoon running 4.915 seconds in a round-one win over Del Worsham, 4.899 seconds in a round-two victory over defending U.S. Nationals champion Tim Wilkerson, before slightly slowing to a 5.378 e.t. in a round-three win over Gary Scelzi. In the finals, Pedregon hazed the tires at halftrack and crossed the stripe in 6.497 seconds at 147.15 mph. Densham took the win with a 4.890 e.t. at 317.64 mph. It was Pedregon's third runner-up of 2004 and his 47th career final-round appearance.
"The final was weird," Pedregon continued. "I'm sure (crew chief) Wes (Cerny) felt that a win was well within our grip, but we knew we could've run with Densham. We put a little extra heat in the clutch in the final. Unfortunately, the body was inadvertently lowered onto the throttle arm and it accelerated a bit before the run. The clutches in these cars are very temperature sensitive and it threw us off a little bit. It threw me a bit off as well, and I didn't get as good of a start as I had wanted. I don't know if it would have mattered because the car went into some heavy-duty shake - I got in and out of the throttle - but Gary was already gone at that point.
"We beat some good cars today. We beat Worsham, an outstanding car, and Wilkerson, guys who are up there in points. We also beat Scelzi in a pedaling (on and off the throttle) contest. We're getting close, and you would think we would just go ahead and win it. Along as we keep going to final rounds with this Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet we'll be in good shape. I said this on the West Coast swing when we went to a couple of finals, if we can keep going rounds, the wins will come. I've done this for so long, and this is the way you do things."
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the 20th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Sept. 16 - 19, at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.