Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations
NORWALK, Ohio – As surprising as it sounds, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series hits its official mid-point race this weekend – No. 12 of 24 – and Pro Stock superstar Greg Anderson is still looking for his first victory of the season.
Anderson’s 2009 campaign hasn’t started in the fashion that the three-time Pro Stock world champion has grown accustomed. By this point in most seasons, he’s usually won a handful of events, advanced to a bunch of final rounds, claimed several top qualifying efforts and is working on plans to extend his series points lead.
Not this year.
Anderson’s two No. 1 qualifying positions and runner-up finish at Bristol would make a career-year for some drivers in the ultra-competitive 200 mph class. But not Anderson. During the past six seasons he’s won 53 races, three NHRA world championship titles and one Driver of the Year award.
He’s come to expect a little more.
Anderson hopes he can find the magic and get back on the winning track at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 25-28 at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. Anderson is the defending Pro Stock winner of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, and shared the stage last year with fellow pro category winners Doug Herbert (Top Fuel), Tony Pedregon (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The race will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.
“The competition has certainly gained on us a little bit, so it has been a challenge,” Anderson said. “I have struggled a little bit with my driving this year too. It all adds up to a bit of frustration. We know what we have to do and hopefully we can get it done this weekend.”
Two drivers in the category have shown great gains. Series leader Jeg Coughlin has won five times in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt. Meanwhile, from out of the clear blue, Mike Edwards has put together a strong team with his own in-house engine program and raced to the front of the pack in his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP. Edwards has been very tough, claiming six No. 1 qualifying positions and winning twice in six final rounds.
In head-to-head meetings this season with his two primary points rivals – four time and defending champ Coughlin and the resurgent Edwards — Anderson is 1-6. He knows that must change if he’s going to have a shot at winning his fourth world championship.
“Mike Edwards and Jeg have really done a wonderful job with their programs and we applaud their efforts,” Anderson said. “Mike especially is doing a fantastic job and I’m very proud of him. He’s certainly shown what can be done. But we’re not going to lay down and watch him or anybody else. We’re going to keep trying to make more power and try to get around him and keep working on our program to make it better as we get closer to the Countdown.”
Despite his slow start, the driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GXP is within striking range in third place in the point standings, a little more than 200 points back of Coughlin and 106 back of second place Edwards.
“We’re still holding our own and we’re in good shape for the Countdown,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got to work harder and rectify some of the things that have been going on. ‘I’ll admit I’ve had trouble keeping a clear mind at the track here lately. Once you get something in your head it seems like it is hard to fix it. I’ll tell you it’s really hard to keep a big smile on your face when you are getting outrun at the racetrack.”
Anderson has had this event marked on his calendar since last year. He had great success here, as he beat Larry Morgan in the final round to win the race and nearly pulled off a double-victory, but came up just short in the final round of the K&N Horsepower Challenge to Allen Johnson. Anderson is a two-time winner of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, a special bonus race-within-a-race for the eight quickest Pro Stock cars from the last 24 races. This year Anderson will once again lead the elite field into the race as the top seed.
He hopes he can pull off the double this time around.
“This is the one weekend we always look forward to, and it’s a little frustrating this year because we always like to peak around this time,” Anderson said. “It’s obviously a very important race for us, not only because Summit is the event sponsor and track sponsor, but because there’s a lot of money on the line with the K&N Challenge. You like to go in there with your guns loaded and bring out something special to put on a great show for Summit and their employees. There’s a lot of pressure to perform, but that’s what makes it fun. We just need to find a little more power so we can make a good run at it this weekend.”
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown is the points leader in his Matco Tools dragster with two wins, while Tony Schumacher has posted three victories in his U.S. Army dragster. The most recent winner on the circuit – Larry Dixon – is charging to the front in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with three wins on the season. Rookies Spencer Massey and Shawn Langdon are working their way into the mix and will battle tough veterans Cory McClenathan, Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta and Morgan Lucas for the victory.
The competition in Funny Car is just as tough. Defending event winner Pedregon is riding a wave of success from back-to-back victories that put the two-time world champion into the points lead for the first time this season. Ashley Force Hood, who has advanced to the last three finals and won in Houston, has the best Ford Mustang of the four in the John Force Racing team pit area. Ron Capps, who led the points for much of the first half of the season with four wins in his NAPA Dodge Charger, hopes to return to the front of the pack. Other favorites in the 7,000 horsepower category include season winners Del Worsham, Bob Tasca and Jack Beckman.
Defending world champ Eddie Krawiec has advanced to the last four final rounds on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson and won two of those races to take a healthy lead in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings. However, crafty veteran Suzuki rider Craig Treble has won two times, including two weeks ago at Englishtown, N.J., to push toward the top of the points order. Past world champs Matt Smith and Andrew Hines are both still looking for their first wins of the season. However, veterans Arana, the defending race winner, and Matt Guidera have each earned a win so far. Rookie Doug Horne also will be one to watch over the weekend in the two-wheel category.
· SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 26, and noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 27. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 28.
· ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday June 27. On Sunday, June 28, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will feature NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at noon (ET), and three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
· LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals also will feature competition in six categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series earn their racing stripes. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on June 25. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on June 26.
· ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.