TOPEKA, Kan. (September 22, 1998) -- Four final-round appearances during the last four races at Topeka's Heartland Park. It's a streak that any rational thinking drag racer would love to have. It's one even more difficult to maintain when you...
TOPEKA, Kan. (September 22, 1998) -- Four final-round appearances during the last four races at Topeka's Heartland Park. It's a streak that any rational thinking drag racer would love to have. It's one even more difficult to maintain when you consider the cut-throat competitive nature of NHRA Winston Drag Racing. But that will be Parts America Pontiac Firebird driver Randy Anderson's mission when he returns to the Sunflower state's premier motorsports facility.
"This season, it doesn't matter where you qualify or who you are, there is no easy race," explained Anderson. "There were several times this year when we were qualified in the bottom half of the field and were still able to take out some pretty good teams.
"This Parts America Pontiac team is very strong. Just because our qualifying performance hasn't been where it should be doesn't mean our Firebird can't make things happen on race day. We proved at Indy that we were more than capable of stepping it up during final eliminations, and we're hoping in Topeka that we can take advantage of some of the things we've learned there in the past."
Since 1996, when he still competed in the Alcohol Funny Car division, Anderson has made four consecutive visits to the final round during a national event at Heartland Park. Unfortunately for Anderson, those visits have been without a victory, something the 33-year-old California native would like to improve upon during his next stop at the Parts America Nationals. But his career record at Topeka has been magnificent nevertheless. In the last six years at Topeka, Anderson has qualified No. 1 four times and recorded three wins in eight final-round appearances.
Last season during his rookie year in the professional ranks, Anderson won two national events and advanced to four final rounds which carried him to a sixth-place finish in the Winston standings. He continued his mastery of the Topeka quarter-mile advancing to the finals in June before losing to Whit Bazemore, and in September before losing to John Force.
This year, Anderson's sophomore season on the nitro circuit has been a struggle, but may have finally turned the corner with the recent acquisition of veteran crew chief Jim Dunn. At the U.S. Nationals, Anderson manufactured an effective, consistent performance taking his nitro- powered Firebird all the way to the final round. It was his best effort of the year.
"We started 1998 off the same way we ended it last year," said Anderson. "We started last season very strong, were No. 2 in the standings at one point, and were running very well. But we ran out of clutch discs that we were familiar with, switching to some new discs that we struggled with.
"Starting off this season, we continued to battle with that, and as we began to get a handle on the clutch, we had to change blowers. That threw us a curve. Until Indy, we just didn't have any breaks go our way, and in this sport you need a little luck. It's amazing some of the things that have gone wrong. I feel like we're getting a lot closer to where we need to be. I'm comfortable with the crew, I have a lot of confidence in Jim Dunn and I'm certain that our first win is just around the corner."
The Parts America Nationals on October 1-4 at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan., is the 18th race on the 22-event NHRA Winston championship circuit. Same-day television coverage of final eliminations can be seen on TNN on Sunday, October 4, beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern.
"The Parts America Nationals is a big race for us," said Anderson. "It's our sponsor's title event, so we have a lot to look forward to. We would like nothing more than to be in that winner's circle on Sunday night. I can't think of a better way to show our appreciation to everyone who has stuck by us this year."