Pontiac Captures 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup - Eighth Title Since 1996 POMONA, Calif., Nov. 9, 2004 - The NHRA POWERade season comes to a close this weekend at the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona Raceway, and in the...
Pontiac Captures 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup - Eighth Title Since 1996
POMONA, Calif., Nov. 9, 2004 - The NHRA POWERade season comes to a close this weekend at the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona Raceway, and in the race for the 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup, it's all over except for the shouting. With 18 victories and 27 final rounds already posted in the Pro Stock category, Pontiac will win the NHRA Manufacturer's Cup for the second straight year and the eighth time since 1996. It is also the 37th time in the last 41 seasons (since 1964) that a GM brand (including Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac) has claimed this prestigious auto racing award.
"On behalf of everyone at Pontiac and GM, we're very proud of the drivers and teams who have made this 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup possible," said Fred Simmonds, GM Group Manager of Drag Racing. "General Motors is committed to the growth and success of the NHRA, and nothing illustrates that better than the number of Manufacturer's Cups won by GM brands over the last five decades because it demonstrates that GM has been engaged with a long-term vision of what it takes to be successful in drag racing. GM and our Pontiac-GMC Division will continue to work with the NHRA to provide the best show possible for our greatest asset - the drag racing fans who buy the tickets and purchase our products."
Pontiac's path to the 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup was spearheaded by the Ken Black Racing juggernaut of Greg Anderson and Jason Line. En route to a second straight POWERade Pro Stock championship, and with one race left to be contested, Anderson's Summit Racing Grand Am has already rolled to a number of single-season records including most victories (14), most final rounds (18), most rounds won (72), largest margin of championship (721 points), most points accumulated in a season (2,284) and the earliest in the season that any NHRA professional driver has clinched the championship. Anderson is currently tied with Warren Johnson for most single-season low qualifying awards (15), and he is the defending champion at the NHRA Finals.
"This is beyond anything I can comprehend," said Anderson. "I never set goals that high. To achieve things like we have this year, I feel awfully proud, but I almost don't feel like I'm worthy, I really don't. The bottom line is it's not me but the team I've assembled here. These guys are absolutely incredible. We're winning as a team, we're not winning because I'm driving better than anybody or anything like that. It's just a total team effort, and that's what it takes in this class. The day of one guy being able to beat other teams out there because he's smarter than everybody or he drives better, that's not going to happen anymore. It takes a complete team to win anymore, just like professional football, basketball, or any of them.
"I've never been overconfident thinking I've got these guys covered because the reality is that you never do. There are a million ways to lose and a million ways to get beat, but to win you have to do everything right. We had an advantage at the beginning of the year and that is now gone. It's doggone hard to win right now, so the records feel awfully special right now. I just can't imagine we'll have a chance to do anything like this again. Yes, records are made to be broken and somebody will come along and break them, but I think it's going to be awhile, I really do."
Jason Line's achievements in 2004 have made him one of the leading candidates for the Automobile Club of Southern California "Road To The Future" award. The Pontiac Grand Am driver has captured four national-event victories, advanced to seven final rounds, posted a season round-win record of 39 - 18 (.684 average), earned two raceday pole awards (Joliet, III., Las Vegas) and advanced from seventh place to second in the POWERade Pro Stock standings. He's also qualified second or better eight times, and in the top half of the field at every event with the exception of the CSK Nationals in Phoenix for an average raceday starting position of 3.73. At the team level, Line and Anderson have combined for 18 victories, seven runners-up and 111 round wins.
"It's been an incredible ride for this whole program, and I couldn't be more proud of what we've accomplished," said Line. "It's an exceptional team and a neat bunch of guys. We all enjoy what we do, we all get along well and we're all of the same mindset that we enjoy doing what it takes to be successful."
With a position currently staked out in the seventh spot in the POWERade Pro Stock standings, Pontiac Grand Am driver Bruce Allen is on his way to a 14th career top-10 finish. That is second only to Warren Johnson (with 25) among active Pro Stock competitors, and third behind Johnson and John Force (with 21) among all professional drivers. Although winless in '04, the 53-year-old Allen was runner-up in September at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Dallas, and is one of only four Pro Stock drivers to qualify for every event this season. Allen posted career-best numbers at Joliet (Ill.) when his Pontiac Grand Am ran 6.699 seconds at 206.29 mph. Allen won the NHRA Finals in 2001.
"The most important thing in Pro Stock is the consistency of your level of performance," explained Allen. "If you do better than what you anticipate at a race, if you can win a couple of rounds when you didn't expect to, you feel much better doing that than getting beat in the first round when you may have the best car. The key is to be realistic and do the best that you can.
"When you've been racing as long as we have you understand the importance of finding a little good in what otherwise would be a bad situation. When things are going good, enjoy it because it won't last forever. And when you're running bad, stay positive because getting back on track can be just around the corner."
Two additional Pontiac Grand Am drivers are in position and could possibly scratch out a spot in the final POWERade top-10 standings. Mike Edwards currently has the Young Life Pontiac in 11th place and Warren Johnson has the GM Performance Parts Grand Am in the 12th spot. Edwards is only 43 points behind 10th-place Rickie Smith while the six-time NHRA champion is running a 57-point deficit.
During the latter half of the season, Edwards' Young Life Pontiac has run strong, qualifying for every event and in the top half of the field in nine of the last 13 races contested. At Joliet in September, Edwards posted career-best numbers in his Grand Am with a run of 6.676 seconds at 206.86. The 1996 NHRA Rookie of The Year has finished in the top 10 in six of the last eight seasons (Edwards did not compete in 2000 and was 11th in 1997).
"How many wake up in the morning, go to work and love what they do?" asked Edwards. "I'm blessed. The program I'm involved with helping the kids at Young Life makes it even sweeter. I've said it before, I've got the greatest job. I get to race this car and tell these kids about Christ. You grow up in a world where you don't know what you want to do and then you end up doing something you really love. How great is that? I'm not afraid to admit it. A lot of these guys are. I absolutely enjoy getting in my Pontiac Grand Am and running 6.7 seconds, and I'm going to enjoy it until it's not here anymore."
Warren Johnson is hoping to nail down his first victory of the season at Pomona Raceway. Johnson has won a national event every year since 1982 and has finished in the top 10 every season since 1981 (Johnson only competed in four events that year). Johnson's Pontiac was runner-up at Pomona Raceway last February, and he's captured 11 national-event trophies at this storied facility. A strong effort at this year's season finale would go a long way toward extending two of the most impressive streaks in all of motorsports.
Qualifying highlights for the 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Nov. 13, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Nov. 14, starting at 6 p.m. Eastern.
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