Greg Anderson, Pontiac Grand Am Sweep Western Swing - Tim Wilkerson Delivers Another Funny Car Victory For Chevy Monte Carlo SONOMA, Calif., Aug. 1, 2004 - The brooms were out today at Infineon Raceway after Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am...
Greg Anderson, Pontiac Grand Am Sweep Western Swing - Tim Wilkerson Delivers Another Funny Car Victory For Chevy Monte Carlo
SONOMA, Calif., Aug. 1, 2004 - The brooms were out today at Infineon Raceway after Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am driver Greg Anderson became the first Pro Stock driver in NHRA history to sweep the three-event Western Swing. After two previous consecutive second-place finishes here in the Northern California wine country, the 43-year-old Anderson successfully claimed his first victory at this venue and tied his own single-season record with his 12th win of the year. Anderson's victory also gave Pontiac its 139th all-time Pro Stock win in NHRA competition.
"It's so hard to win back-to back races let alone three in a row on the Western Swing," said Anderson. "These races are all so different. You have Denver that's just so far off the radar screen on anything that we do all year, and then to win there and go to Seattle where it's hard to predict what will happen, and then to come here where it's cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon. For what this team has been able to do at these three events, under such different conditions, is pretty special. This is another nice feather in the cap of the Summit Racing Pontiac team. We win as a team and we lose as a team, and it takes a complete effort to create the kind of run we've been on lately. We can't wait to get back home so that we can start preparing for Brainerd."
Anderson entered Sunday eliminations with his Pontiac Grand Am at the top the qualifying ladder, the 11th time this season that he had captured the raceday pole position. The Summit Racing Pontiac driver then went on to defeat Jim Yates in round one, Kenny Koretsky in round two and Steve Johns in the semifinals.
Through Sunday's eliminator Anderson's Pontiac continued on its torrid pace running 6.699 seconds in the opening session, 6.711 seconds in the quarterfinals and a 6.728 e.t. in round three. That set up a another final-round showdown with Chevy Cavalier driver Dave Connolly, a rematch of last weekend's Seattle championship heat and the third time this season the two had faced each other in the final round. Anderson's Pontiac Grand Am then squeezed past the Cavalier in the finals with a 6.728 e.t. at 205.51 mph. Connolly's Chevrolet followed in 6.758 seconds at 204.98 mph. The margin of victory was .028 of a second.
"We always run great here but the last couple of years we've been snake bit in the finals," said Anderson. "I came up with my best light today in the final round, and hopefully made up for some of the previous mistakes made here at this race."
Anderson's 28th career victory was also his 24th win in the last 38 events dating back to the 2003 season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., and he raised his 2004 round win-loss record to 53-3 for a winning percentage of 94.3 percent. He has now won nine races this year from the pole position and has snared a national event victory on every racetrack on the 23-event POWERade tour with the exception Gainesville (Fla.), Joliet (Ill.) and Reading (Pa.). Anderson is now tied for fifth place with Kurt Johnson and Darrell Alderman for most career victories by a Pro Stock driver.
"The chemistry we have on this team is the reason we've been so successful lately," said Anderson. "There's no confusion, everybody knows in which direction we're trying to go, everybody's rowing the boat toward the same goals and that's why we're winning. We're winning because the team is doing so well, not because of me."
Dave Connolly was making his seventh career final-round appearance and the fourth of 2004. Although the 21-year-old Chevy Cavalier driver is still looking for his first career victory, his performance over the past two weekends has moved him solidly into fourth place in the NHRA Pro Stock standings.
For the third straight weekend, a Chevy Monte Carlo advanced to the final round of the Funny Car category, but this time Tim Wilkerson decided to carry the red bowtie all the way to the winner's circle. It was the second victory this season for the 43-year-old Springfield, Ill. resident, and the fifth time a Chevy Monte Carlo has captured a national-event title in 2004.
"We're a single-car team, so it's pretty cool when we can have a day like we did today," said Wilkerson. "I think everybody appreciates what it takes for a single-car team to be competitive against all of these multi-car programs. If you would have been in our pit area a half area before the finals, I was looking at the computer, and again five minutes before the run, I was staring at it again trying to figure out if we were making the right decisions. I think everybody appreciates a driver, and a team owner that works on his own racecar. With our budget, that's the way we have to do it. We have a great team, and we ran the same motor in our Monte Carlo all weekend long. My team did a flawless job and I'm very, very proud of them."
The Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevrolet entered raceday qualified in the No. 3 position and defeated Jerry Toliver in round one, Whit Bazemore in round two and Tony Pedregon in round three before meeting John Force in the finals. Wilkerson's Chevrolet ran strong numbers all afternoon posting a 5.024 in the opening round, a 4.946 in round two and 5.104 in the semifinals. In the finals against Force, the Fred Mandolini-tuned Chevy Monte Carlo took the win light with a 5.088 e.t. at 282.72 mph. Force red-lighted at the starting line and fouled out. Wilkerson is now seventh in the POWERade Funny Car standings.
"All we could hope for is to be consistent and get this Chevrolet down the racetrack," said Wilkerson. "With the 85-percent rule, the new tires and all the new rules we've had to adjust for in the past few weeks, we're very fortunate to find a tune-up that enabled our success this afternoon. We've kind of stumbled on how to run this car. We were only a couple of hundredths behind Force all weekend, and after he went 4.85 in the finals, I didn't think we would have anything for that. Our plan was to run as good as we could and hope for the best. They were on their game, but sometimes the breaks go your way.
"The last couple of races we've been the fastest loser out there. We were wondering when it was going to turn around for us and it looks like it did today. Everyone's worn out and we're looking forward to getting back home."
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the 23rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Aug. 12 - 15, at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn.