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Behind the Numbers: Anderson's going rounds to get back into championship hunt

Greg Anderson holds the Pro Stock points lead midway through the Countdown to the Championship thanks to a string of consistent performances.
12 Oct 2017
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Behind the Numbers
Greg Anderson

Greg Anderson earned his third victory of the season by beating teammate Jason Line in a final round for the second time this season at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. That win came in Anderson’s fourth straight final-round appearance, but it was the former champion’s first victory in that stretch. 

Those three losses came narrowly to Drew Skillman, Tanner Gray, and Bo Butner. Anderson started the Countdown to the Championship in third place and moved to second after his runner-up in Reading in the second race of the playoffs. The driver of the red Summit Camaro was driving in his 16th straight eliminations round before he finally earned that third Wally of 2017; it also gave him the points lead. 

While his win at Gateway Motorsports Park was on the back of his best performance of the four-race stretch (he ran in the 6.5s all day), it was in the same ballpark as his fellow Pro Stock competitors. In other words, yes, Anderson had one of the best cars on the property — just like he has for most of this season.

Line owned the best elapsed time of the day (6.515), but Anderson’s 6.521 in the first round wasn’t far off that mark. He wasn’t behind by much on the strip in the final, either. Anderson ran a 6.571 to Line’s 6.545 and beat his teammate on a holeshot. The margin of victory at the stripe was just .0031-second, the closest win of the season for Anderson.

The conditions provided for quicker-than-usual times for Anderson and the rest of the field, but the veteran got back in the winner’s circle by being just a little bit better (and getting just a little bit luckier) than he has in previous races. He said as much after taking home the win.

“I had a little issue with my engine, and it was a little bit off speed-wise,” said Anderson. “I was kind of getting passed by as I went down the racetrack by my two teammates. I knew I was in deep in the final, and I knew it was going to take a stroke of luck to be honest with you to win that race.”

His .030 reaction time in the final was a bit quicker than his .037 average for this season, and it was enough to get him past Line, whose .059 was a bit off his usual pace. It takes a little bit of everything to take home a victory in NHRA Drag Racing, particularly in Pro Stock, where the margins are so thin and malfunctions come so infrequently. Look at Anderson’s eliminations runs (quicker than 6.8 seconds) this season to see how little has changed (you’ll notice the St. Louis dip):

greggy.jpg

The biggest changes for Anderson on Sunday this season have been atmospheric. I don’t think I’m blowing anyone’s minds when I say Pro Stock cars like cool, dry weather better than hot, humid weather. The point in all this is that Anderson’s return to the winner’s circle didn’t come because of a big change in the driver or the tuner. The guys at Ken Black Racing are very good, always have been, and will continue to be.

Anderson remains one of the steadiest drivers in Pro Stock, crew chiefs Rob Downing and Tim Freeman are constantly picking away at the combination, and the shared information between the three KB drivers means the red Summit Camaro has a great shot at a championship. Line, who also has his hands all over the engine of Anderson’s Chevy, is going to have something to say about that, as will teammate Butner, but it’s tough to argue with Anderson’s consistency.

He leads Butner by just three points, which the Indianan could easily accrue on Friday in Dallas, but if Anderson’s “stroke of luck” in St. Louis is a sign of things to come, the rest of the doorslamming field is in trouble. The 2010 champ leads Line by 76 points, rookie Gray by 94, Skillman by a whopping 185, and perennial nemesis Erica Enders by 194. The math looks good for Anderson: He won his last championship with 13 round-wins — so far, he has 10.

There’s still a long way to go, but that’s a mighty fine start.