Anderson set to start aggressive title defense
MOORESVILLE, NC – One year ago, Greg Anderson and his Summit Racing team came into the fall race at zMAX Dragway in dire need of a strong performance. After all, following an uncharacteristically early exit in Indianapolis, the first race of the 2010 Countdown championship playoff, they found themselves 104 points behind leader Mike Edwards and in danger of falling out of title contention. Fortunately, they responded to the challenge, powering to the victory at the Concord quarter-mile to start a phenomenal run to their fourth Full Throttle championship.
This year, however, the circumstances have changed. The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals will once again kick off the six-race title chase, and Anderson will come in as the leader in the highly competitive Pro Stock category, having won three of the last four races, including his sixth U.S. Nationals crown just over one week ago. Even so, the Mooresville, NC resident is quick to point out that the same urgency to perform remains if he is to successfully defend his crown.
“Even though our situation is changed from a year ago, it is just as important for this Summit Racing team to do well this weekend at zMAX Dragway,” said Anderson. “After all, this is the first race of the Countdown and the slate has been wiped clean, with our lead cut down to just 30 points, which is nothing.
“At this point, every one of the ten racers has an equal chance of winning the championship over these next six races, so it is crucial that we reassert ourselves as the leader right from the start. You may not be able to win the championship in Charlotte, but you can certainly dig yourself a hole that could be hard to get out of.
“In the case of this KB racing team, it’s great to be coming in with momentum after our performance at the U.S. Nationals, but that can also stop at any minute. What we’ve done over the last month means nothing now. That’s why we have to keep the hammer down, racing aggressively and doing whatever is necessary to win rounds and races. That is how you win the championship.”
With six races to determine this year’s champion and the points reset to tighten the field, Anderson knows that every points-earning opportunity must be maximized, from the single-digit bonus points awarded in qualifying to the 20 markers awarded for every elimination-round win. After launching his successful title fight at the Concord quarter-mile in 2010, the Mooresville, NC resident looks for a repeat performance this weekend.
“The Countdown format is a unique deal, and one we really didn’t figure out until last year,” said Anderson. “The very nature of drag racing is that it’s a sudden-death format, and these playoffs just take it to another level. To be the champion, you have to do everything you can at every one of these six races. You can’t be looking down the road – you have to take it one race at a time, one round at a time. Fortunately, I think our experience last year in winning the title will help us be a little better prepared for whatever gets thrown at us this year.
“Starting the Countdown at zMAX Dragway is absolutely perfect. It’s our home track, and our win there last September got us back in the Countdown and started us on the way to the championship. In fact, our last few races in Charlotte have been very good for us, and we need it to be good to us again this weekend, so we can get our title defense off to a good start. It’s a tough, quirky race track, with a unique starting line that has taken some time to figure out, but I think we now have a decent idea of what it takes to run there, so we feel like we should have a decent package for this weekend.”
Finally, over the next six races Anderson expects to be challenged at every turn by a very hungry Pro Stock field, feeling his recent run of success may have done nothing more than give them added motivation to find added performance.
“As well as we’ve run lately, I think we might have poked the bear and gotten him mad,” said Anderson. “After all, between Jason (teammate Line) and myself, we’ve scored more than our share of wins, and stolen a lot of the thunder, to the point where I believe our competitors have had enough, so I know they are going to come back for the playoffs as tough as ever.
“All things considered, I believe this could be one of the most competitive Countdowns we have ever seen, and it’s going to be an incredibly tough challenge for whoever wins the championship. I think this Summit Racing team has as good a chance as anyone, but we’re going to have to keep racing aggressively, making good decisions and treating every run like it was for the championship. I can’t wait to get started.”