MADISON, Ill., June 26, 2003 - The NHRA drag racing season is now at the halfway point of its 23-race schedule and already the cream of the Pro Stock category is beginning to rise to the top. When the tour converges upon Gateway International ...
MADISON, Ill., June 26, 2003 - The NHRA drag racing season is now at the halfway point of its 23-race schedule and already the cream of the Pro Stock category is beginning to rise to the top. When the tour converges upon Gateway International Raceway this weekend for the Sears Craftsman Nationals, everyone will be chasing Pontiac's Greg Anderson, who has already battled his way to five victories in six final rounds.
"Our Pontiac Grand Am has been strong everywhere we've gone to," said Anderson. "Plus, the motors are making great power. We're just going to continue to chip away, continue to do what has worked for us so far, and try to make little gains in the engine department and with the car.
"This Grand Am the best car I've ever raced, and making the switch at the beginning of the year was the best thing I could have done."
In addition to his raceday success, Anderson has parked his Pontiac SC/T Grand Am in the No. 1 starting position six times this year, including the last fives races in a row. Anderson's national record elapsed time of 6.670 seconds last month at Englishtown, N.J., earned the Mooresville, N.C. driver an additional 20 points, which will come in handy as he tries to maintain his lead over second-place Kurt Johnson.
"We've made some incredible gains over the last few months and that just goes to show what kind of incredible team we have working on our Vegas General Construction Pontiac," said Anderson. "I can look around the shop at 10 o'clock at night and everyone's still here - no one wants to go home. They're all having fun, they're all enjoying it and we've been fortunate with the things we've been able to find and gain on.
"As the season moves ahead we have a lot of new things in the works and a lot of stuff we're going to try. I feel this Grand Am will continue to get stronger as the year goes forward. The ball's in our court now, and with the people we have on this team, and things we've been able to do, I honestly think we can make a vigorous drive for the POWERade championship."
Anderson has never won this event, but he has been runner-up twice (2000, '02). Historically speaking, racing on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River in the middle of the summer can pose some tricky tuning problems for the teams competing at Gateway International Raceway. This year though, the entire event, including all four rounds of qualifying and final eliminations, will be contested after 4:30 p.m. The change in the schedule means cooler temperatures for the racers, but it could pose some serious challenges for those teams not prepared to make the adjustments. Anderson is confident that his Grand Am crew is ready.
"We know going into each race, regardless of the conditions, that we have a shot to win it," said Anderson. "When you can approach each contest, whether it's in mile-high or below-sea-level altitude, and run good at any of them, you know you have a pretty well-rounded package. It's a pretty good feeling knowing that wherever you race, on whatever kind of track, you have a pretty good shot at winning, and this weekend is no exception.
"I look at the next few weeks as an opportunity to put a good string together. Our goal is to make a strong run and get the job done. If we can put together some wins or some semifinal finishes over the next few weeks, then maybe we can put some distance between ourselves and the guys behind us. It's a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to it. I think the best is yet to come."
Chasing Anderson this weekend will be six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson. The GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver is a two-time winner of the Sears Craftsman Nationals, posting final-round wins over fellow Grand Am competitor Jim Yates in 1997 and 2001.
"We have to improve on our ability to get down the race track consistently, including qualifying," said Johnson. "We made progress in that area in Columbus, where we qualified fourth and were among the quickest cars in eliminations. In addition, we are looking at ways to further increase our performance during the second half of the season.
"So far we've been cautious dealing with this new GM Performance Parts Grand Am, as we don't have a complete book on exactly what its characteristics are. We haven't gone for the throat yet, but even with a somewhat conservative approach, it appears to be a pretty fast car. We're certainly going in the right direction."
This year, Johnson has already scored a pair of victories, including the season-opening contest at Pomona, Calif., and last month's eliminator at Atlanta. The "Professor" has earned No. 1 qualifying spots at Houston, and Bristol, Tenn., and currently sits in fourth place in the Pro Stock standings. He'll be looking to add to his 90 career victory total this weekend at Gateway International Raceway.
"The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter when you race," said Johnson. "You always have to be ready, and I guarantee this GM Performance Parts Pontiac racing team will be on their game when they pull through the gates in Madison."