Indy ORP: GM Racing preview

INDIANAPOLIS, August 28, 2007 - After 17 regular-season races, NHRA's Countdown to Eight has been completed and the next phase of crowning the 2007 POWERade champions begins with this weekend's 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly ...

INDIANAPOLIS, August 28, 2007 - After 17 regular-season races, NHRA's Countdown to Eight has been completed and the next phase of crowning the 2007 POWERade champions begins with this weekend's 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park. The points have been re-set for this four-race segment of the Countdown to the Championship, and in Pro Stock three-time NHRA POWERade champion Greg Anderson leads the pack in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO with 2,070 points. Chevy drivers Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin are second and third, respectively, with 2,060 and 2,050 points, defending Pro Stock champion Jason Line is fifth in a Pontiac with 2,030 points, Kurt Johnson is sixth in the ACDelco Chevy with 2,020 points and his father Warren Johnson is right behind in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO in seventh with 2,010 points.

The 46-year-old Anderson enters Indy with a class-leading seven victories this season including his historic 50th career Pro Stock win at Sonoma last month. But O'Reilly Raceway Park has become his personal quarter-mile playground with four consecutive wins (2003-06), five for his career (including a win in 2001) and a runner-up finish to Warren Johnson in 1999. Anderson trails only Johnson (6 wins) and the legendary Bob Glidden (a record 9 wins) for career Pro Stock titles at the prestigious U.S. Nationals, and this year he will try to become the first to win five consecutive. The Duluth, Minn., native who currently resides in the Charlotte, N.C., area, answers a few questions leading up to this year's Labor Day Quarter-Mile Classic.

You're going for five U.S. Nationals wins in a row, six for your career. What is it about Indy? "It's pretty amazing. I don't have one specific reason. It is our biggest race of the year, our Super Bowl, and we treat it like that. Maybe that's why we perform well there. We always go there thinking that it's something special and we've got to do something special. We go try and give that extra effort and obviously we've been able to do that the last four years. And now is the perfect time for the fifth in a row, no question about that. At the same time, what are the odds of a guy winning five times in a row? Pretty slim, so the odds are probably stacked against me, but I do like the racetrack, I do like the conditions and I do like the extra pressure. I think this team performs well under pressure, so I think it's a good place to start the championship. If we can make that final four, I also look forward to Las Vegas and Pomona. Those tracks have been good to us too. At least we've got that mental part of it anyway. You're not just going to show up and they're going to g ive you the win, but I think we've got that mental edge where we know we can perform well at these racetracks we're going to."

The rainout at Reading prevented you from testing last week at Indy. "Yea, we stayed and tested after Reading. I guess we didn't get enough of Reading having to stay until Wednesday, so we had to stay and test for a couple of days. We were going to Indy (to test), but it ended up getting so late it became hopeless. We might have gotten one day at Indy, and I saw it was 95 degrees over there, so we decided to stay. It was me, John Force and Del Worsham that stayed and it actually worked out pretty good. The track was decent and the weather stayed okay. It got up to about 75 degrees on Thursday and stayed kind of cloudy, so it was perfect."

Are you concerned about not being able to test at Indy or were you able to get some done at Maple Grove Raceway? "We've done (testing at Indy) every year, and whether we thought we really learned things at the test or performed well at the test, we've been able to go on and win the race. We figured it was part of the winning formula. I've said it before, I'll test there every year before the race because somehow it's played into me getting wins there. As it turned out this year, we weren't able to get there. It was definitely a disappointment, but second best was being able to test at Reading. The No. 1 plan would've been to test at Indy, but we didn't get it done. The only thing I can look back on and hold a little bit of solace in it is that hardly anybody else got to run there either - I think one or two cars were all that made it over there. Other guys are going to have to use other tracks to test at too, so it wasn't like the whole class gained an advantage on me because they all tested there and I didn't get to. But I would've loved to be one of the few that did make it there for the test. Now that I look back on it, maybe I shouldn't have been so greedy there on Monday at Reading trying to win that race. But we all go to the race to win it. That's why I go, to get that Wally, no matter how big a points lead I have, and that's why we stayed there for three extra days."

You've made the cut for the top eight drivers. Your thoughts as we head into the next segment of the Countdown to the Championship. "The best way that I came up with was to come into the playoffs, so to speak, in the No. 1 position. At least that gets you 10 points (advantage). I know it's nothing like you would like to have, but at least you get 10, and that means that even if I do the same as everybody, I still win. They've got to do better than I do, they can't just do the same. They all have to do better to gain those 10 points back. I know it's not a big advantage, but I'd rather have that 10 points than not. Job 1 was to get that No. 1 spot and we got that. But that's not going to win us a championship. We've got to do at least as good if not better than all those other eight cars out there. Without a doubt these guys are going to be jacked up, they're going to be gunning for me and they're going to be gunning for that championship. And if I had to pick out the cars that are going to make the last four, I know the four that I think would have the best shot, but I bet I'll be wrong. I bet there will be some others that are unexpected because the field is that deep. The eight cars that are in it, any one of them can definitely win a race, they can run low e.t., they can put a string together and they can be champion. It's going to be a battle. I almost dread it because it's going to be the most pressure we've ever had as drivers, as crew members. There's not going to be room for one mistake. It's going to have to be mistake-free play from here on out. Otherwise you're not going to win the championship. I know drag racing is always kind of sudden death, but (the Countdown) is just so much to that extreme there's not going to be any chance to make up for any goofs you make. You're just going to have to make it happen right from the get-go, right from the first round out at Indy, and not have a hiccup because you're not going to have time to make anything up."

You won five of the season's first eight races. Did getting off to the fast start change your team's strategy at all? "I say we definitely changed our mind-set, at least as far as my car goes. We did get off to a big lead. It's almost a shame, but I think I had about 180-point lead, or whatever, and with six races to go, 180 points is certainly not going to hand the trophy to you, but it's a pretty doggone good lead. Those other teams have got to do a whole lot better, but we knew that lead would be nothing anymore. It wouldn't have mattered if we had a five-point lead coming into Indy or 5,000, it still was going to end up being 10 points. It really didn't make a lot of sense to have any bigger lead than that, so we had the luxury of being able to experiment with some things. But just because we get to experiment doesn't mean we've got all kinds of things up our sleeves. We've got some things that we've tried that we think are going to make us better, but we won't know until we execute them and start using them at a race. You just can't go into the Countdown or a playoff and start experimen ting, so that was a luxury we had. Whether or not it's going to pay dividends, I guess we'll see in the upcoming weeks. At least we lived up to the game plan that we scheduled out at the start of the year, to get off to a lead and be able to try some things before we get to the Countdown. That's the best shot we thought we had, that's the best scenario we could come up with. So far we've lived up to that. We'll just see how it plays out."

You started off this season with the next generation of GM's drag racing engine, the DRCE3 (Drag Racing Competition Engine). Has that development gone as planned? "Absolutely. We probably started off ahead of where we thought we could with it. We thought it would take a lot more growing pains, and it started off real good. It almost spoiled us right away. At the same time, as good as it started out, I still thought we'd have a great chance of improving it as we go along because it is still a new piece. So that's what we've been doing the last few weeks, a lot of engine experimentation along with some car experimentation, and there's definitely room to grow with that thing. Hopefully we get it all put in place in time for the crucial run here, the playoff stretch."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Greg Anderson , Bob Glidden , Jason Line , Dave Connolly