As a racer, one place Greg Anderson truly enjoys being is behind the wheel of his race-winning Summit Racing Pro Stock Pontiac. However, for the first time the team’s approach to this year’s off-season preparations has precluded the normal test sessions, with the four-time champion last piloting his car almost three months ago during the final race of the 2011 season.
Therefore, as the straight-line set prepares to kick off the 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing season with this weekend’s NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA, it is understandable that the KB Racing pilot would be anxiously looking forward to returning to the cockpit of his 1,400-horsepower hot rod.
“I am so ready to get back in my Summit Racing Pontiac,” said Anderson. “This is the first time that I can remember that I didn’t go somewhere testing during the off-season, so when we rolled into Las Vegas this past weekend for a quick two-day test, it was the first time I had gotten behind the wheel since the Finals in Pomona last November, making it the longest layoff I’ve ever had.
“Still, I have a ton of confidence in my guys so we should be fresh with everything ready to go when qualifying starts on Thursday. It’s taken a lot of hard work by everyone on this KB Racing team, but I think we will be in great shape this weekend in Pomona. That’s why I’m itching to get behind the wheel and back in the groove – so I can see what everything we did this winter will get us, and how we stack up against our competition.”
Located about an hour’s drive from downtown Los Angeles (depending on traffic), the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona is part of the massive Pomona Fairplex, which hosts various fairs and expositions throughout the year. However, for two weekends this facility becomes the center of the drag racing universe, with the NHRA season opening and closing on the unique downward-sloping track. Even though his four wins at the season-opening event trail only Hall of Famers Bob Glidden and Warren Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history, the Minnesota native admits he still approaches the first race of the year with a little trepidation.
“Every year in Pomona, it’s the same thing,” explained Anderson. “You show up scared to death about what the other teams have done, knowing everybody has worked hard and tested extensively during the off-season to get ready. This year, for the first time, we were not a part of any of those tests to see where everyone stacks up, so it adds an extra question mark that won’t be answered until qualifying is over.
“Certainly it’s an anxious time, but it’s one we look forward to every year, because we have a lot of confidence in the work we’ve done and the progress we believe we have made. As a result, we think we should be in good standing when compared to the other racers. But until we get there and make a few qualifying runs, we’re a little nervous.”
Despite Anderson’s concerns, the Pomona track has proven quite favorable to the KB Racing team, with the four-time champion combining with teammate Jason Line to win six of the last eight Winternationals, and eleven races overall, a record they look to add to this weekend.
“Even though we might be nervous heading into Pomona, we usually leave there with a smile on our faces,” said Anderson. “However, I’d be lying if I told you I knew why we ran well there. I think it comes down to having a good racing surface 9 out of 10 times, without extreme heat, making a track that’s friendly to the adjustments you make, which works out well for us. We usually find a happy set-up by the time qualifying is done, which translates to success on race day.
“I have 100% confidence in the job everyone on this Summit Racing team has done over the last three months, and believe we will have great hot rods when we get to Pomona, and hope we’ll be able to continue our love affair with that track. To be honest, I can’t wait to get there and mix it up with those guys.
“I think it’s important to get off to a good start and establish some momentum, setting the tone for the next few months. Besides, as you have heard both Jason and I say, this team’s goal heading into a season is to win every race, and you can’t do that without winning the first one, so we have our work cut out for us in Pomona, but any way you look at it, I’m excited to get the year started.”
Greg Anderson & the Summit Racing Pontiac crew
By the Numbers - The Auto Club Raceway at Pomona edition:
4 - Wins scored by Anderson at the Winternationals heading into this weekend in five final round appearances, including 3 in a row from 2006 – 2008.
8 - a) Finishes of the semifinals or better in Anderson’s 12 previous starts at the NHRA season-opener.
b) No. 1 qualifying performances by Anderson in Pomona in 22 career starts, with only three starts outside the top half of the field (none since 2003).
9 – Overall wins by Greg at The Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in 22 career starts, which is tied with Warren Johnson for the second most by a Pro Stock competitor (Bob Glidden has 12).
14 – Finishes of the semifinals or better by Anderson in his previous 22 Pomona starts
27 – Elimination round wins scored by Greg in his previous 12 Winternationals starts versus 8 losses for a 77.1 round win percentage.
Thursday & Friday, February 9 & 10: A single qualifying session at 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 11: Two qualifying sessions at 11:00 a.m. & 1:45 p.m.
Sunday, February 12: Final eliminations starting with Top Fuel at 11:00 a.m.
Television Coverage (all coverage on ESPN2):
Qualifying: Saturday, February 11 – 11:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.
Eliminations: Sunday, February 12 – 7:00 - 10:30 p.m.