If Greg Anderson’s 187-mph top speed on his first qualifying runs wasn’t enough to raise suspicion, his comments afterward certainly removed all doubt; Anderson is deliberately attempting to qualify in the bottom half of the Pomona Pro Stock field in a last-ditch attempt to force a round one meeting with points leader Erica Enders.
“What other choice do we have?” said Anderson. “I mean, I can’t win the championship. I’m out of it and I’ve got nothing to gain or lose but [teammates] Jason [Line] and Bo [Butner] are still in it. It’s a longshot, but we’ve got to try something. We’re not going to just sit around and let [the Elite team] win the championship without a fight.
In Friday’s opening round of qualifying, Anderson’s Summit Racing Camaro fell silent at the 1,000-foot mark and he tripped the timers with a 6.648 at just 187.73 to end up No. 12. The strategy actually worked perfectly because Enders finished the first session in the No. 5 spot which means they’d be paired in round one if the qualifying order did not change. Scanning the data from the run, Anderson believes he could have run 6.56 if he’d have held the throttle to the floor for the entire quarter-mile.
Anderson considered several alternatives, such as adding weight or changing the EFI map, but concluded that shutting off at the 1,000-foot cone was the most effective. He's also well aware that with most Pro Stock cars separated by thousandths of a second, what he's attempting is a low percentage play.
“The problem with moving weight around or changing the car is that you get no data and you’ll go into Sunday with a completely different set-up than you ran in qualifying. I think it’s better this way because we can tune the engine the same way we normally would. I make a lot of eighth-mile and 1,000 foot runs when we go testing so I have a pretty good idea of what the car is going to run. I think I’ll need to run about a 6.63 to make this work but who the heck knows? Like I said, this is a big guessing game. It’s about like pulling the goalie in hockey or the onsides kick in football.”
The Summit team first discussed this move shortly after the Las Vegas race and Anderson admits that some fans (and rival teams) might not approve of his tactics, but he also notes that there are no rules against it. Anderson is also aware that he might be helping JEGS driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. win the championship but that’s a risk he’s willing to take.
“We talked about this at length and one of the conversations I had was with Summit and they were totally on board with it,” said Anderson. “We even discussed how this might benefit Jeg and they still said to go for it. I wouldn’t be the least bit offended if the shoe was on the other foot and I was the points leader. I would expect whoever was chasing me to do everything possible within the rules to catch me. That’s always been my mentality. I also think it’s good for the class and adds some drama to a situation that quite frankly, might not have much drama left.”
The funny thing is that Anderson’s teammates, Line and Butner, as we’ll as crew members Dave Connolly, Tim Freeman, Dallas Glenn, and Rob Downing all have extensive experience as sportsman racers in either Stock Eliminator or E.T. bracket racing, where it’s critical to drive the finish line and predict elapsed times beforehand. Anderson, who has never raced anything other than a Pro Stock car, has no such experience, and the irony of the situation is not lost on him.
“That is funny,” Anderson chuckled. “I definitely think some of these guys would be better suited for this but here’s the situation we’re in. I’ll be the first one to admit, it will take a bloody miracle just to qualify opposite her and it will take a second bloody miracle to beat her. Everyone knows about here driving ability and I certainly won’t argue that point.”
Following the first run, when Anderson’s strategy became obvious, Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman offered his thoughts to the Pomona fans.
“We’re all good with that,” Freeman said. “Come on and get you some.”