Greg Anderson knocked off the rust and cleared up any reservations he might have had upon returning to the driver’s seat in Houston following heart surgery in February. Now, the four-time Pro Stock world champion is ready to send his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro back to the winner’s circle.
After missing the first five races of the season while recovering from the surgery, Anderson made his 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series debut at the most recent event in Houston. Anderson fell in the first round to reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. and is ready to focus solely on racing heading into this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
“In Houston, I got reacquainted with the car; there were no complications, so now it’s back to hard-knuckle racing,” Anderson said. “It’s time to go win some races. We’re ready to lock horns and see what happens. We’ve had a lot of success in Atlanta, and I love that track.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. It marks the seventh of 24 events during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season, and it is also a facility where Anderson has had great success.
On an impressive résumé that includes 74 career victories, four wins in six final-round appearances have taken place at Atlanta Dragway, but one can sense urgency in Anderson’s voice when talking about returning to the winner’s circle. The talented Pro Stock driver hasn’t won since Englishtown of 2012, a span of nearly two years and 39 races. It’s also far too long than Anderson is comfortable with.
“We have to find out how to win and how to get this car going faster,” Anderson said. “We’re trying to find everything we can to improve the performance of the car, but both the driver and the car has to be better. As a driver, you have to be .020 or better on the Tree if you want to be successful, and the car has to be fast. It’s been almost two years since my last win, and we’re working really hard to find that total package.”
That work has included a massive number of test sessions in the past two weeks to get ready for Atlanta. Anderson qualified 11th in Houston and was satisfied with the steps the team made in his return, but the next step must be a massive leap in his eyes, and he hopes to see that at Atlanta Dragway.
The good news is Anderson has long had success in Atlanta with Summit Racing Equipment as the title sponsor. He has thrived on the added pressure racing at a sponsor’s event provides, and he’s hoping to dial up that same mind-set again this weekend.
“We’re back to big-time racing in front of our sponsors,” Anderson said. “It definitely adds some pressure and extra incentive. I always look forward to the Summit Racing-sponsored races, and we’ve had a lot of success at these events. We seem to embrace that extra pressure and somehow focus better. We welcome that challenge and extra pressure. We love that extra heat in the kitchen.”
There’s plenty of heat in a loaded Pro Stock field led by points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who won for the second time in three races by winning at her home track. Other marquee challengers include Anderson’s KB Racing teammate Jason Line, who won the season opener in Pomona, Allen Johnson, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray, and Vincent Nobile.
“Every year it gets tougher and tougher,” Anderson said. “You look at the top 10, and they’re all race-winning cars. Everybody in the top 10 is winning races, and if you want to get in the top 10, you’re going to have to win races. The bar has been raised again, and I have to go out there and start winning.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, May 16, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 17, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday, May 18, at 11 a.m. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, May 16, at 3:45 and 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 17, at 12:45 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Saturday at 2:45 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRATIX.com or call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger are free.