INDIANAPOLIS (August 26, 1998) -- Randy Anderson is 15 races into the 1998 race season and his second year behind the wheel of the Parts America Pontiac Firebird Funny Car. The team is currently trying to find a combination that will put them...
INDIANAPOLIS (August 26, 1998) -- Randy Anderson is 15 races into the 1998 race season and his second year behind the wheel of the Parts America Pontiac Firebird Funny Car. The team is currently trying to find a combination that will put them into a position to make a late season charge and a respectable finish in the Winston top-10.
Anderson's racing career began in 1992 when he replaced his father, Brad Anderson, behind the wheel of their family-owned Alcohol Funny Car. In 1992, Anderson won his first race at the 1992 U.S. Nationals in a Pontiac Firebird, and went on to win 13 more national events and two Winston championships (1993-94).
In his rookie season last year, Anderson won two national events at Atlanta and Dallas and finished sixth in the Winston points battle. This year, the team has struggled but Anderson's confidence is high heading into the 44th Annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park on September 2-7.
After 15 races, how would you evaluate your season on the eve of the U.S. Nationals?
Even though we're 15 races into the season, I have to look at it as though the year began at Brainerd. We have a new crew chief, a new crew, and we actually talked about going to Brainerd and acting like that was the Winternationals. Everything there was new and changed. Even though Indy is the 16th race, we don't look at it that way. The U.S. Nationals is the most prestigious race on the tour, but we have to look at it as though it's just another race and try not to become too impatient. We're going in there with high expectations, and hopefully we can get the Parts America Pontiac Firebird rolling in the right direction there.
What are some of the problems the team has struggled with this year?
We started this year off the same way we ended it last year. We started last season very strong, were No. 2 in the standings at one point and were running very well. But we ran out of the clutch disks that we were familiar with switching to some new disks that we struggled with. Starting this season off, we continued to battle with that, and as we were starting to get a handle on the clutch, we had to change blowers and that threw us a curve. We've also struggled with the fuel system. We just haven't had any breaks go our way, and in this sport you need a little luck. It's amazing some of the things that have gone wrong. I feel like we're getting a lot closer to where we need to be. I'm very comfortable with the crew, and the new crew chief and I'm certain that some good ETs are just around the corner.
What are some of the bright spots you can point to?
When we brought the car back to California a couple of weeks ago for probably the first time this year, we literally stripped it down and started over. We found a lot of little things that weren't right and that have been a problem for us. Finding that and knowing that the changes we're making are moving us in the right direction makes me very optimistic.
Are you more comfortable now driving the Nitro Funny Car?
I'm not going to put myself at the level of John Force when it comes to being able to pedal a car because I'm not at that point yet. But he didn't get there overnight. As far as feeling the car, being able to drive it hard, and keeping it in the groove, I'm very comfortable with my ability. I feel like I can race a car well enough to win, and from a driver's standpoint, given the right race car, I'm confident I can beat anybody.
What kind of finish can we expect from the team?
We came into this season after finishing sixth last year wanting to finish in the top-four. Anytime you enter your second season, you should be able to improve. That's what we intended and expected to do. But we struggled with the clutch disks, and the new blowers, and the fuel systems and now a top-four finish is not realistic. We would like to end up in the top nine, maybe eighth, but we're going to have our work cut out for us. It's something we can expect realistically and it's something we intend to do.
Has the competition level in Funny Car stepped up this year?
Yes it has, but how much it's stepped up from the year before, I don't know. In other words, every year it steps up. This year the cars are running quicker, and there seems to be more cars that have a legitimate shot at the Winston championship. Last year it was Force out front by quite a lot and there were maybe one or two cars with an outside chance. This season, no matter where you qualify or who you are, there is no easy race. There were several times this year where we were qualified in the bottom half and were still able to take out Ron Capps a couple of times when he qualified two or three. We took out John Force at Phoenix when he was qualified two or three, and at the Winternationals last year, Chuck Etchells when he was qualified No. 1. We're a very strong team, and just because in qualifying our performance isn't where it should be, doesn't mean we can't step up in the first round. We've done that quite a bit this year.
How are you feeling now?
I'm feeling better now than I've felt since the season began. That's another reason why my confidence and driving is coming back to where it should be.
You won at Indy in Federal Mogul Funny Car in 1992. Is this the one race that makes a driver's career?
I don't think there's any doubt about that. We haven't had the season that we expected, but a win at Indianapolis would heal a lot of wounds. You win that race and your whole season can change. I think it's that critical of a race. I try not to look at it that way to avoid putting any more pressure on myself than there already is. The first race I ever won was at Indianapolis in my rookie year. Looking back on how I approached it, I didn't get too wrapped up in the fact that it was the U.S. Nationals. I think it took a week before it finally settled in that I had actually won there. I think that's why I was successful there and drove so well. I didn't get too caught up in what it was all about and just tried to run my race. That's the way I'm going to approach it this year. There's already enough pressure. I'll focus on what I have to do as a driver and leave the rest to my crew.
Does it help that your dad has won at Indianapolis three times?
With him winning there before has helped me. I've stood in the winner's circle and experienced it before so that maybe I'm not so in awe of Indy. There's no question if you've just raced there once or twice before, it can be a little intimidating and it only makes it that much more difficult. I've experienced it from both sides as a pit crew man to a driver, and that takes some of the intimidation out of it.
Will there be any testing before the U.S. Nationals?
We talked about it but realized it wasn't feasible with the changes we wanted to make. We don't feel like we're that far off, and with five qualifying runs, we should be able to figure it out. After Brainerd we had to go back and change some things that was more important than going to test. It was kind of a trade-off. Not making the adjustments we felt were necessary, or go back, regroup and make the changes.
How has the addition of Jim Dunn affected the team?
I think you have to have confidence in your crew chief and your crew. I had that confidence when Jim came on board. We got home after qualifying No. 5 at Seattle, went over the car and found some things that weren't right. I know that we're going to make the car that much better. I realize that if we qualified No. 5 with some of the problems that we were having, that it's just a matter of time before it all comes together and we're consistently running quick.
Do you feel pretty good coming into IRP next week?
I'm excited to get there. I've always liked Indianapolis. The surroundings and the spectators are very friendly. It has a great atmosphere and I love racing there. It all goes hand in hand. I'm looking forward to getting there and getting on with the race.