No matter the year that he is having, Greg Anderson feels he can always count on Bandimere Speedway.
A multi-time winner at the track coming into this weekend and the defending event winner, Anderson shook off a year-long losing streak with his first win since this race a year ago to collect his 92nd career Wally Sunday at the 40th annual Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
While he didn’t exactly think his winning ways were over, Anderson did begin to feel the pressure entering the race this weekend and felt it was now or never to get the proverbial monkey off of his back.
“It feels good. Obviously you have a doubt or two in a years time. It has been a year since I have been able to win a race and this class has just gotten tougher and tougher since then,” Anderson said. “We are probably our own worst enemies, supplying power to five or six of the tough competitors out here who are winning races when we are not. And that says a lot about the class and what it is all about.
“It just takes a He-Man job to win anymore. I’m certainly not getting any younger so it is tough to hang with these guys on the starting line. And when all of the cars run the same it is hard to win.”
Anderson collected the win and moved within five victories of Warren Johnson on the all-time Pro Stock win list in a thriller over Matt Hartford. Both drivers were welded together at the starting line with only two-thousandths separating the pair at the tree as Anderson got to the stripe first with a 6.950-second pass at 196.96 mph in the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. Hartford, in his third final round of the year – all losses – crossed the line with a 6.965 at 196.96 mph.
With the win, Anderson moved to 10-0 all-time in elimination rounds against Hartford.
“I had a good day just like I did a year ago out here. My Summit Chevy loves this race track. It is the best car I seem to have every year, so I consider it my best chance of the year to win,” Anderson said. “The car was flawless all day long and the driver didn’t screw it up.
“The final was a great race. I had a lot of great races today and this was just another one. People don’t realize how hard the starting line deal is and how easy it is for someone to gain a few hundredths at the tree and you not realize it. You do the best job you can each time up there and you cut a great light and sometimes it comes up 20 and sometimes it comes up 50 and you don’t know why.
“It is very easy to lose any race that is within one or two hundredths on the starting line. I just thank the Lord my foot came up at the right time and the car performed perfectly and I got the win light.”
Anderson added wins over Deric Kramer, Richard Freeman and Fernando Cuadra, proving the class of the field each and every time he pulled up to the line. He easily dispatched of Cuardra and Freeman in the first two rounds with solid passes of 6.960 and 6.939, setting the low elapsed time for the weekend in the second-round win over Freeman, before battling it out in the closest race of the afternoon against Kramer.
In a battle of teammates, Anderson collected the holeshot win with a 6.954 at 197.68 mph to Kramer’s 6.949 at 197.42 mph to punch his ticket to his third final round of the season.
Hartford had wins over Jeg Coughlin, Val Smeland and Alex Laughlin to reach his fourth career final on a track that has always proven tricky for the Pro Stock class.
“It is a neat challenge. People don’t realize what you have to do to these race cars to make them perform out here,” Anderson said. “They are not built for racing out here. We build these cars specially for 1,400 to 1,500 horsepower and you come out here and you only have 1,100 to 1,200 horsepower. Nothing is right about the car. You try to force the car to work when it is not wanting to and it is just a tough challenge.
“For the driver, because you lose 300 horsepower when you come out here, you have to jam all kinds of gear ratio into the car to make the car think it has more power. It makes for a tough challenge for the entire team and I am fortunate to have been able to win out here the last two years.”
But while the path seemed flawless for Anderson, it was far from it. After watching teammate Jason Line suffer a dramatic engine failure in qualifying and watching fellow racer Kenny Delco suffer a nasty crash on Saturday, Anderson had his own scary moment when his parachutes failed to deploy in his first round win over Cuadra, slowing just shy of the sand at the top end.
“It has happened before and you just have to be prepared for anything that can happen out there. You can’t panic and when it happens you have to be smooth, you have to know the amount of brake pedal you can use because if you get on the brakes too hard the car starts bouncing and you are in big trouble,” Anderson said. “The bottom line is if you run out of real estate and you have to go into the sand trap that is ok. That is going to be less damaging than jamming the brakes and hitting the wall.
“I guess that is where being the grizzled veteran comes into play. You have to be ready for anything. It doesn’t have to be something that goes wrong with your car, it could be someone in the other lane. It certainly is a dangerous game, but it is what we love to do and we accept part of that. You just have to go out there and do the best you can and hopefully the cards are in your favor.”
While Anderson started the season slowly, with only one round win in his first three races, the veteran has since found his groove, reaching the finals in three of the last five races, as his win on Sunday moves him up two spots to second in the Pro Stock championship standings.
“I’m excited. I told everybody that I got off to a slow start and then we got that break in the schedule where we sat out a couple of races and it seemed like, when we came back from that break, that our race team had made a gain,” Anderson said. “All of our cars are strong and all of our cars are capable of winning every race we go to and I am pretty happy with that.
“The past year has been tough. You definitely ask yourself will I ever win again. Father time is tough. It is not that you can’t cut a light with some of these guys out here, it just becomes more difficult over the years to do it every time. It is just part of the deal.
“I am just very blessed that I am still able to do this at 58 years old and to be able to race a car and beat the guys and gals that are racing in this class is pretty impressive.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019