Pontiac sweeps Pro Stock and Funny Car at the U.S. Nationals - Anderson, Wilkerson take home Indy victories INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 7, 2003 - Pontiac's Greg Anderson padded his Pro Stock points lead by capturing his second U.S. Nationals victory...
Pontiac sweeps Pro Stock and Funny Car at the U.S. Nationals - Anderson, Wilkerson take home Indy victories
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 7, 2003 - Pontiac's Greg Anderson padded his Pro Stock points lead by capturing his second U.S. Nationals victory today at Indianapolis Raceway Park. It was the eighth win of the season for the 42-year-old Anderson and the third career final-round appearance for the SC/T Grand Am driver at NHRA's premier event.
"We won the race this afternoon in wonderful fashion," said Anderson. "Our Pontiac Grand Am ran great all day and no one can say we didn't earn this one. I've said it before that if we're fortunate to go on and win the championship at the end of the year, then you want a victory at Indy on your scorecard. That's like cleaning the table. It's still going to be a dogfight, but today's victory was the next piece of the puzzle toward that goal.
"It's such a great place to race and a wonderful feeling to be back here again as a winner. I never get nervous when I race anywhere else, but I come to the U.S. Nationals and I'm a mess every time I get in the car. That's not normal, but that's the affect this race has on me."
On his return to Indianapolis after last weekend's rain delay, Anderson struggled in qualifying on Friday and during Saturday morning's session. In the last heat of time trials on Saturday, Anderson's Pontiac Grand Am broke out with the quickest run of the day at 6.798 seconds. Eventually, Anderson's silver and purple Pontiac started Sunday's eliminator from the No. 3 spot , only the fourth time in the last 17 races that he's qualified worse than the first or second position.
In round one, Anderson's Grand Am defeated George Marnell with a Sunday-best elapsed time of 6.789 seconds. Anderson then dispatched Ron Krisher in round two with a winning e.t. of 6.795 seconds, and then narrowly got by defending champion Jeg Coughlin in the semifinal heat with a 6.820-second run. The margin of victory over Coughlin's Cavalier was .0017 of a second.
Anderson faced-off against Chevrolet's Kurt Johnson in the championship match in all-GM final round. In the title heat, Johnson, the No. 1 qualifier for the meet, fouled with a red-light start, giving the win to Anderson's Grand Am, which crossed the finish line in 6.803 seconds at 203.80 mph.
"This is a racetrack that will take all the horsepower you can make," said Anderson. "We won rounds by thousandths of a second all day long, and that's how close I won over Jeg, by just inches. But that's how it is at the U.S. Nationals where everybody throws everything they have at you. The competition seems to step up here and that's why it is so special."
Today's victory was the 12th in Anderson's career as a Pro Stock competitor. Anderson's effort also provided Grand Am with its 29th victory in NHRA Pro Stock competition and Pontiac its 120th all-time NHRA Pro Stock win, the most by any manufacturer in the history of the sport. With just six races remaining on the schedule, Anderson has now accumulated 1,570 points and leads the POWERade Pro Stock title chase by 176 points over second-place Kurt Johnson.
"Kurt (Johnson) just missed an outstanding light by .01 of a second, or he may have been standing here instead of me," said Anderson. "He did a fantastic job, and really dug down, but just got too far over the edge. I kind of wish the race hadn't been decided that way, but with the competition as tough as it is, and as good as his team is, we'll take a win any way we can get it."
Tim Wilkerson defeated Johnny Gray in the first all-Pontiac Funny Car final round at the U.S. Nationals since 1999. Wilkerson came into today's race qualified in the No. 15 spot and marched through the field with an outstanding performance defeating Gary Scelzi in round one, Scotty Cannon in round two and Dean Skuza in round three before facing Gray in the finals.
In the first session, Wilkerson's Pontiac ran 4.829 seconds with a career-best speed of 321.27 mph, 4.994 seconds in round two and a 4.864 e.t. in the semifinals. Against Gray's Firebird, Wilkerson's Levi Ray & Shoup Pontiac crossed the stripe in 4.841 seconds at 321.19 mph. Gray's Firebird followed with a 4.903 second run at 314.24 mph.
"We made two really nice runs with the Pontiac during the middle of the day on Saturday," said Wilkerson. "We had some good data to fall back on and Fred (Mandolini) said that we would probably need more than 4.85 or 4.86 to win our first-round match against Scelzi. Against Scotty (Cannon) we put a hole out at the starting line so we were lucky to get by that round. They always say you need one lucky round and that was it. We fixed the problem, and for the rest of the race just tried to go as fast as we needed to go. I really thought Johnny (Gray) would go quicker than a 4.90, but that team did a good job and our guys responded with a great effort of our own."
It was the second career victory for Wilkerson and his second Professional Funny Car final-round appearance at the U.S. Nationals (his first since 1997). It was also Wilkerson's second final-round appearance this season coming off a runner-up finish just three weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn.
"Our Pontiac was smooth all weekend," said Wilkerson. "We had a lot of issues with the tune up earlier in the season, and after Englishtown (N.J.), we decided to go out, have some fun and things started to come around for us. We decided to be more aggressive and in the last few weeks we've been making smarter decisions on Sunday.
"We had a good day today, and tried not to give it away, but at the same time, tried to whip some other racers. I always said that racing out here is so tough, emotionally and physically on your crew and your families, that everyone deserves to win one every now and then. This one was really special and is something none of us will ever forget."
In Competition eliminator, Larry Pritchett won his second consecutive U.S. Nationals by defeating No. 1 qualifier Mike Trumble in all-Pontiac Sunfire final round. Pritchett's Pontiac took the win light with a 7.963 elapsed time at 168.14 mph. Trumble finished with a 8.662 elapsed time at 127.04 mph. Pritchett now joins Don Carlton in becoming just the second driver in NHRA history to win back-to-back U.S. Nationals in Competition eliminator. Carlton accomplished the feat in 1975-76.
The next stop on the tour is the Lucas Oil Nationals on Sept. 11 - 14, at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.