Las Vegas II: Greg Anderson preview

Letting the Chips Fly: Greg Anderson Las Vegas Q&A Mooresville, N.C., October 25, 2010 -- At this weekend's Las Vegas NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, NV, Greg Anderson and his Summit Racing Pro Stock team will arrive at a national event as the ...

Letting the Chips Fly: Greg Anderson Las Vegas Q&A

Mooresville, N.C., October 25, 2010 -- At this weekend's Las Vegas NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, NV, Greg Anderson and his Summit Racing Pro Stock team will arrive at a national event as the leader in the Full Throttle Championship standings for the first time in 51 races. It is the culmination of an eventful year for the perennial championship contenders, which started with team owner Ken Black's debilitating stroke and Anderson's devastating house fire, followed by an uncharacteristically slow start to their season.

However, as drag racing's premier series makes its way back to the Nevada desert, things seem to be returning to form for the Mooresville, NC-based KB Racing crew. Ken Black will make his long-awaited return to the track which promises to be a tremendous boost to the team's morale. In addition, Anderson has moved into a new house while the team has roared back into title contention with two wins and three consecutive final round appearances. As he put the finishing touches on his pre-race preparations, the three-time champion took time to talk about his season, the upcoming two races and the 2010 Pro Stock championship fight.

Q: It's been two years since you've led the points -- how does it feel to be back on top?

GA: "I didn't realize it had been that long. Really? Wow. Obviously, it's cool, but we still have a long way to go, and we're only ahead by a few points. Still, at this point I would rather be in the lead than coming from behind. If you're trying to catch up, you have to hope someone else has a misstep, which I wouldn't want to wish on anybody. If you're in the lead, however, you control your own destiny, knowing that if you do your job and run the table, you'll be the champion.

"It's the spot I like to be in. Having the fastest car or points lead builds my confidence, and I've shown time after time just how important that confidence can be to me. The bottom line is that this Summit Racing team is in a better position than it has been in some time, so now we have to see what we can do with it."

Q: With everything that has gone on this year, did you ever expect to be in the points lead with two races remaining?

GA: "I definitely did not. We've had so many distractions, and I don't want to make excuses, because, after all, we're professionals and those things shouldn't matter, because we should be able to block everything else out. However, there is no denying that we've operated a little differently this year because of things that happened away from the track.

"You try to keep it business as usual, but when your team owner, the guy that did everything, forming this team and being its very heart and soul, goes down, it knocks the wind out of your sails and you don't even know what to do. There were a couple months where we didn't know if we should be racing or at the hospital doing whatever we could to help him.

"That's why we put so much pressure on ourselves throughout the year. We wanted to win because we knew it would help with Ken's recovery. We've probably worked harder than ever this year for several reasons. Of course, there were the distractions, but we also had to watch our budget and make sure we didn't over spend ourselves, which forced us to be a little creative. We're a smaller staff than in years past, which meant a lot more work, so being able to bounce back and be in this position says a lot about the dedication and perseverance of every person on this Summit Racing team."

Q: You were over 100 points out after the first race of the Countdown in Indy -- three races later, you're on top by 36 -- what happened?

GA: "First of all, it took a lot of hard work and perseverance by every one on this Summit Racing team to find a happy set-up with the race car, which translates into confidence for the driver, making him perform better as well. They also never gave up through all the times that I whined about not having a fast race car or not being able to win races -- they just kept pumping me up and cheering me on, which is a huge part of this game.

"They not only had to get the cars right, but they also had to get the knucklehead driver's mind right and they did. I have a lot of people to thank, and it all starts with Ken, Judy and Kenny Black and goes through the entire engine shop and the car shop. There are a ton of things that have changed, but the biggest part is that we now have perfect team chemistry.

"(Co-crew chiefs) Rob Downing and Tommy Utt have hit it off like two brothers, creating a great mix. The entire KB Racing crew is just functioning very smoothly, generating a positive atmosphere, which allows everyone to do a better job, including me. We now have the total package, with the driver, crew, engine and car all doing their jobs pretty flawlessly. Without those key ingredients working in harmony, you just can't win in this class, and right now, it's all coming together."

Q: Talk about this Summit Racing team and what they have done in 2010 -

GA: "The effort these guys have put forth in 2010 has been nothing short of tremendous. As I mentioned, our staff was smaller than in the previous three or four years, but everyone just rolled up their sleeves and worked harder, keeping their noses to the grindstone. We've certainly had our share of adversity, but this KB Racing crew has just kept plowing forward.

"They've gelled as a unit and done an incredible job. The way I see it, until you get knocked down to the mat and have to fight your way back to the top, I don't think you can consider yourself a championship caliber team. This Summit crew has done exactly that this year, which I believe bodes well for the future. I could not be prouder of what they have done."

Q: How important is it to this team to come back to Las Vegas, your team owner Ken Black's hometown, as the points leader?

GA: "This means the world to us, because this is not only Ken Black's home town, which is certainly very important, but also because this will be the first time in almost one year's time that he will be at the race track. He has not been able to come to a race since the Finals last November, so it will be absolutely huge to have him out there with us. I think it's going to give us an extra boost of confidence and keep a smile on our faces, because we will know that all is right with the world once again. With Ken back, it really doesn't matter what else goes on, because all will be right with the world.

"We've always enjoyed racing in Vegas, and want to do well because of Ken and his family, so it's perfect timing to come into this race with the points lead. Everything is on the line right now, and I couldn't hope to go to a better place with better circumstances than what we've got. I know I'll be smiling all weekend because we'll have Ken with us."

Q: Are there any areas you feel you need to improve upon for these last two races?

GA: "Absolutely. We still need to get better in qualifying, because we haven't done a great job of getting a top seed and lane choice for Sunday. As brutal as Pro Stock has gotten there are no good draws, but you still want to get as many points as you can. After all, you don't want the championship to come down to a couple points you missed in qualifying. We've been doing a fantastic job on race day lately, but we have to do better in qualifying.

"That's why we spent three days testing last week in Las Vegas, trying to make sure we were ready once we got to the racetrack, instead of using qualifying runs trying to find a happy set-up. Hopefully this weekend, we'll have a better qualifying effort as well as another strong performance on race day."

Q: In the past you haven't exactly been a fan of the Countdown format. How do you feel about it now?

GA: "It feels a little crazy for me to be leading the points right now. I haven't led all year, and quite frankly, haven't had a great season, but now during the playoffs, we're finally acting like a real race team and are coming on strong. Still, it almost feels like we shouldn't have had the opportunity to be on top.

"The way the Countdown format works, I guess this is my turn to steal one back, so to speak, which in a way is okay, as I've lost a couple under this system. Still, I'm not going to change my story. I guess I'm old school, because I like the points system we had before. If we do go on to win the championship, I'll feel bad for Mike Edwards, because he's led the points all year long, and would certainly be the champion under the old format.

"However, I don't want to keep harping on it, because this is the system we have to work with, and it's up to us to make the most of it. We've been searching for the right formula to win under the playoff system for the last few years, and although we haven't been able to do it so far, maybe this will be our year. I've had to come back from the furthest I have ever been, but so far, it seems to be working."

Q: Talk about your competition in the championship race.

GA: "This is the first time all year that Mike hasn't led the points chase, so I think you're going to see a different Mike Edwards in Las Vegas, one that's more hungry and determined than you've ever seen, which isn't good news for the competition. He's a hell of a racer, with a great team and car, and we'll have our hands full trying to hold him off.

"It is also not just a two-horse race by any stretch of the imagination, because we also have to worry about Greg Stanfield. If both Mike and I happened to lose first round and he wins the race, he could be in the lead. Greg has been in a final round about as far back as I can remember, and always finds a way to go rounds, so he's not about to go away easily. Somehow, I am going to have to find a way to be better than the two of them. I firmly believe that whoever is going to be this year's champion is going to have to win these two races."

Q: You can't be too upset that the last two races of the season are held in Las Vegas and Pomona, where you've won almost a quarter of your races. What does that do for the team's confidence?

GA: "We definitely have a comfort level going to the next two tracks for a variety of reasons. Las Vegas and Pomona are two tracks we just love going to. They're great tracks with a tremendous atmosphere with the racing surface just seeming to suit our operation. So, yes, it's a good feeling to be going to tracks where we have performed well in the past, but that doesn't mean they're going to hand us the trophy. Anything we do there over the next two races, we will have to earn."

Q: Does the fact that you're the points leader change your approach to this race?

GA: "No, and you had better not let it. If you go in thinking that you can't lose points, you're in trouble. You have to go in as loose as you can be, and race the way that got you into this position, which in our case was racing as if we had nothing to lose, and that's the way I'm going to have to keep it going. You have to be aggressive every time you go up there, because if you don't you're probably going to lose. You can't back off thinking you have a cushion. You just have to function without making mistakes, being killer on the tree and with the race car."

Q: With two races to go, how important is it to have teammates like Jason Line and Ronnie Humphrey?

GA: "It is absolutely huge. Although Jason is unfortunately pretty much out of the running for this year's championship, he can certainly help determine who does, and the same goes for Ronnie, as well as a lot of other cars in this class. It's not like I'm going to have to find a way to beat Mike or Greg, because we may not even get the chance to race each other.

"There are so many guys capable of winning who are looking to knock us out and make the best of their position in the points, that we just have to focus on our program and doing the very best that we can. That's where the information we get from Jason's and Ronnie's cars could prove to be crucial, and why we race as one big team with three cars, with each one being treated equally. If we find a way to win this championship, it won't be because Greg Anderson did a better job -- it will be because the KB Racing team which includes Ronnie Humphrey and his gang did a better job than the other teams. This is a team game, and to be successful, you need help from your teammates."

Q: What would it mean to you and to this team to win this year's championship?

GA: "If we were to come back this year and win the championship, it would be without a doubt the most special one to me because of Ken Black, and everything he has been through, and what it would mean to him. He needs all the positives and morale boosters he can get right now to help with his recovery, and every person on this KB Racing team is ready to do whatever it takes to help him get all the way back.

"If we can somehow pull this off and put a smile on his face for the next three months, it would be more than any of us could ask for. We also want to win it for everyone at Summit, rewarding them for all their years of support. Win or lose, it certainly will be the one for which we had to fight the hardest. It's going to be a battle over these next two races, but if the cards fall our way, it would be the best championship we've ever won."

Q: Finally, what will it take for you to win your fourth championship?

GA: "As I said before, you're going to have to win the last two races and to do that, you will need to be flawless in every aspect of your program. Mike Edwards and Greg Stanfield are both very capable of doing it, just as I think this Summit Racing team is capable of winning out. That's what I think the formula will have to be.

"I love our chances, and think we're in a great position. I'm confident, but can't be overconfident because everyone is just as qualified. It will all come down to execution, a lot of luck and whoever the good Lord decides is going to win. You have to do your best job of preparing and perform to the best of your abilities, because the rest falls into the hands of someone else. I can't wait to see how it all turns out."

Notes for Greg Anderson & the Summit Racing Pontiac crew At The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Greg Anderson Las Vegas Appearance Information: On Wednesday, October 27, Greg will be participating in the Seventh Annual Cards for Kids Poker Tournament at the Cannery Hotel & Casino, which will run from 7:00 -- 10:00 p.m.. In addition, Greg will be signing autographs as part of the NHRA FanFest, which will be held from 6:00 -- 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 28 at the Fremont Street Experience.

Looking for a 4 x 4: Having advanced to the final round at the last three races in Charlotte, Dallas & Reading, Greg is looking to make four consecutive final round appearances for the sixth time in his career. The last time he accomplished the quad was in 2004, when he closed out the season by going to the final in Chicago, Reading, Las Vegas and Pomona.

-source: kb racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Greg Anderson , Greg Stanfield , Ronnie Humphrey , Ken Black , Mike Edwards