Las Vegas: GM Racing final summary

Greg Anderson Captures Third NHRA Pro Stock Victory of the Season Pontiac GTO Runs Low E.T. of Meet - Sets Track-Record Speed at The Strip LAS VEGAS, April 15, 2007 - Greg Anderson put his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO in the Pro Stock...

Greg Anderson Captures Third NHRA Pro Stock Victory of the Season Pontiac GTO Runs Low E.T. of Meet - Sets Track-Record Speed at The Strip

LAS VEGAS, April 15, 2007 - Greg Anderson put his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO in the Pro Stock winner's circle for the third time this season at today's Summit Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Anderson defeated Chevy Cobalt driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the all-GM final to collect his fifth career victory at The Strip and his first win at this venue since the fall 2004 event. It was also the 175th all-time win for Pontiac in NHRA Pro Stock competition.

"It was a tough, tough day," said Anderson. "Trying to race against guys like Dave Connolly and Richie Stevens out of what we don't consider to be the better lane, that's a tough chore. All of these wins are great, and none of them seem easy, but today seemed liked one of our hardest. We dug down and found something special. We got her done and got that Wally."

Anderson entered today's eliminator with his Summit Racing Pontiac qualified in the No. 3 position. Even though the three-time NHRA POWERade champion struggled early in the afternoon to find a winning setup on his GM DRCE3-powered GTO, he defeated Kenny Koretsky in round one, Richie Stevens in round two and Dave Connolly in round three to advance to the finals against Coughlin. In rounds two and three, Anderson gave up lane choice, ran out the less-preferred right lane and was the only driver in the category today to win from that side of the strip.

"I didn't think it was going to happen at the beginning of the day," said Anderson. "We struggled through qualifying and couldn't quite get a handle on the racetrack and the tune up and we finally thought we got it figured out on the last run last night - we made a real good run. We came out today and the weather conditions changed a little bit and we lost the grip on it again. We lost lane choice first round, and I can't remember the last time we lost lane choice and won a round. That put us in uncharted territory. We had to really battle back from the right lane, and it's not that bad, just a half a hundredth at the starting line. You knew you wanted to be in that left lane.

"A big part of this deal is confidence, and it's tough when you stumble right away. You think you're in big trouble. We had to run Richie Stevens in round two, and he had lane choice after cutting a .009 light in the first round, so you're thinking you can run close to him out of that right lane - we just had to figure out how to get around him. It was going to take a miracle and somehow we got one. We came up with a .003 light and got the win."

The key moment of today's race was Anderson's semifinal round victory over Connolly when he defeated the Torco Race Fuels Chevy Cobalt driver by a razor-thin .004 of a second and regained lane choice for the finals. Connolly's Cobalt led the Summit Racing GTO by approximately a hundredth of a second at the eighth-mile, but Anderson charged hard over the last 660 feet to take the win light.

"I was a little bit surprised when I saw the win light come on but I never looked over," said Anderson. "I was so scared running out of that lane that I was going to lose that I didn't dare look over. I was very happy when I saw that win light. That just goes to show you what a great engine we got under the hood with the GM DRCE3, which we developed early this season, switched over to from last season and it's just been fantastic all year. It chased him down in high gear - that's horsepower baby! Both of our cars are great aero-wise, but that was all motor, it came around and did the job."

In the title heat, Coughlin and his Slammers Chevy Cobalt bolted out of the blocks first with a .018 reaction time and held the lead until halftrack when Anderson's Pontiac went by the two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion. The Summit Racing GTO crossed the finish line with 6.724 e.t. at 205.29 mph, the quickest and fastest (track record) lap pf the weekend. Coughlin's Chevrolet followed with a 6.758 e.t at 204.45 mph. The margin of victory was .022 of a second.

"Jeg Coughlin is a tough competitor," said Anderson. "There was a lot on the line and to get the win over him was huge. It was also another Pontiac versus Chevrolet battle. I think I have the best car out here in the Pontiac GTO. Even though the Chevrolets are good, there's nothing better than my GTO. I'm lucky in a lot of ways. I'm racing the right car, I've got the right guys working on my car and building my engines, and I have the right team owner. That's the whole pie right there."

It was Anderson's third win of the year, his 46th career victory and his 67th final-round appearance, moving the Minnesota native and current North Carolina resident into seventh place on the all-time wins list by an NHRA professional driver. It was also Anderson's 42nd national-event victory since the beginning of his first championship season in 2003, and the Pontiac driver has won 43.3 percent of the last 97 races he's entered during that time period.

"The first year we came here with Ken as a team owner we didn't qualify," said Anderson. "Really, we thought it was the end of the world. He didn't care how well we did anywhere else as long as we did well in his hometown. From then on, we tested here, we dug down, kind of figured out the racetrack and it's been smooth sailing ever since at this track. We have so much fun when we come here to race. This is a great racetrack, and if it weren't for the low barometer we have when we come here, these Pro Stock cars would fly."

Coughlin entered raceday with his Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 1 spot, his second race starting from the pole position. He defeated Max Naylor in round one, Jim Yates in round two and Allen Johnson in round three before losing to Anderson in the finals. Coughlin ran an identical e.t. to Anderson in his round three win over Johnson (6.740 seconds), but lost lane choice on speed by a mere 0.65 mph.

"To come in here and qualify No. 1 and finish No. 2, that only leaves one guy happier," said Coughlin. "That's the first time in my career with Cagnazzi Racing that we've made a final round and that was very exciting for us. It's also the second race in a row that we've qualified No. 1 so we definitely have momentum going for us. We fought a little gremlin in the car today. In the second round, the car left the line, surged a little bit, then it took back off. We double-checked everything, did the best we could and then in the semifinals, it ran like a top. In the finals the car did the same little surge trick again. We thought we could run maybe a mid 6.73, which is what we thought we could do in that right lane. We'll never know. We slowed from a .999 to a high 1.01 60-foot. Looking at the racetrack data, it shows the surge plain as day - the g-meter, my head going forward - the whole bit. Just for a brief split second, but it doesn't take much."

It was Coughlin's 54th career final-round appearance, his first final-round appearance of 2007 and the fourth time he's advanced to the championship heat at this venue.

"We're very happy with the way our Chevy Cobalt ran this weekend and handled the crosswinds today," said Coughlin. "We had a racecar that was very consistent, we won the Full Throttle Award, we tried to run the table this weekend and just came up two-hundredths short. Greg got there first and they did a great job. He made a great poke in Q4 and showed us that he was here to play. We went toe-to-toe with him, he had lane choice on us on speed and it just wasn't meant to be today."

In addition to Coughlin and Anderson, three GM-branded cars advanced to the semifinal round including No. 2 qualifier Dave Connolly in the Torco Chevy Cobalt. Connolly eliminated Larry Morgan and Warren Johnson before losing to Anderson in round three.

"We had a heck of a good run this weekend in Las Vegas," said Connolly. "Unfortunately we ran the wrong guy at the wrong time. I have to hand it to Greg, he's doing a great job behind the wheel this year. Our Torco Racing Fuels Chevrolet was an awesome car, from the time we unloaded it on Friday up until that last round, albeit a round too early. We were made a good run down low, went .012 on the tree, and we had him outrun by a hundredth at the eighth mile. I guess they have too much of that GM DRCE3 power underneath the hood of that Pontiac because they made up some serious ground on that back half. That's an area we have to work on now, but overall, we've got this racecar figured. We still have a Slammers Chevrolet in the finals (Coughlin) and hopefully we can still celebrate in the winners circle. It's still been an excellent weekend."

Jim Yates picked up his 400th career round win by defeating Erica Enders in the opening session. The WileyX Pontiac driver qualified in the No. 8 spot and took the win light with a 6.776 e.t. at 203.43 mph. Among active Pro Stock drivers, Yates is third behind Warren Johnson (830) and Kurt Johnson (447).

"I think that's a big accomplishment," said Yates. "I don't think there are that many drivers in Pro Stock who have done that. That shows the success we've had over the years with our program, and with the right budget, we can run with anybody right now. We were the fourth fastest car first round when everybody was trying to show their best. This engine has only been in the car for three races. Bill (Jenkins) is making more power - period. That actually threw us off a little at Gainesville, it threw us off a little at Houston, and with four runs in Houston we may have figured it out more quickly. The more runs you get on the combination the better you're going to perform when the chips are on the table in eliminations.

"Every run we get with the engine in the car, it moves us one step closer to where we need to be. When you like at guys like Jason (Line) and Greg (Anderson) and some of the faster cars out here, the more runs you get, the better you're going to be. We had four good qualifying runs this race. The last qualifying run we were fifth for the session. We went out first round, we were fourth for the session. We really felt like we were closing in on it. We knew Jeggie (Coughlin) was going to be tough. We worked on the car hard and I just made a mistake up there on the starting line."

The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade circuit is the 27th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals on April 26 - 29 at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Kenny Koretsky , Allen Johnson , Dave Connolly