Anderson doing his homework

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Three-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Champion and 2004 Driver of the Year Greg Anderson was among those Pro Stock cars testing at Gainesville Raceway this weekend.

That's not so unusual. These drivers are trying to get a line on the track where the third event of the season will be contested March 15-18.

Anderson, you will recall, had his string of three-straight Pro Stock championships snapped in 2006 by his prodigy and teammate Jason Line. That had to sting. No. 2 after those glory years.

So, the question was obvious. Where's Jason? Just Anderson and his brand new, unlettered, generic white Pontiac GTO on the strip.

What did you do, sneak out of the shop without him knowing it?

Trying to steal an early march on him?

"Well, the truth there is that most of the time we don't go test with both cars," Anderson said, grinning at the thought.

"We run the dyno (at the Charlotte shop) all the time and Jason does all the dyno work. I work in the engine shop and if we both go, it pretty well shuts down our engine development. We're trying to build and design debut the new DR3 engine in our car.

"The only ones who have run it so far are Warren and Kurt (Johnson). We hope to debut our's at the opening race in Pomona.

"The bottom line is we're trying to do the best of both worlds. I'll go do the car testing and he'll stay there and do the dyno and we'll keep both programs running."

Anderson said the team has brain-stormed for the last two months since they left the final event at Pomona.

"We think we've got a lot of ideas, a lot of neat things we want to test before we go racing again.

"The problem is, it's snowing in Charlotte and we really can't test there. We've got an eighth-mile track two blocks from the shop where we do all our testing in the summertime. Because of Mother Nature, we had to go south, and even if we went to Valdosta, it would probably be another 10 degrees colder."

And Anderson points out that as a two-car team, he and Line can share information, not only from testing, but once the season is underway.

"What we learn with one car, we apply to the other and the same with the engines. That's one of the benefits of having a two-car team. When we go to a national event, we have twice the amount of runs a one-car team has and twice the amount of data, and when we go test somewhere we don't have to shut down the shop."

Anderson and Line also have a major change in their Ken Black/Summit team.

" Jeff Perley (former co-crew chief along with Rob Downing ) is not with us any more. He retired at the end of last season and started his own Goodyear tire store and is back in Charlotte where he also hopes to spend more time with the family.

"We had a great run with him, but it's a new chapter for us. We have a new guy by the name of Derek Jones, as our lead engineer and Rob will be the lone crew chief right now. That's another reason we're down here. Derek is new to drag racing — he comes from the round track world — and he and one other guy are new on my team."

So back to Gainesville, besides the weather. This was the track where he started a five-straight win rampage in his second title year — when he also won Driver of the Year.

"Gainesville has always been a favorite of mine. First of all, I can remember when I was a little kid, coming down here with my parents and I thought this was the biggest race in the world and the neatest thing. You know we had family down here and we'd always come to the Gatornationals, just as fans.

"Then when I started racing it, well it's what Pro Stock racers like. We like smooth race tracks and this is good and smooth track and obviously has real good air. You've got a good barometer here because you're close to sea-level and it's a fast race track.

"We love coming to fast race tracks."

So what about NHRA's latest deal, the Countdown to the Championship, if you will? That's the formula whereby all competitors strive to be in the final eight — others being eliminated from championship consideration — and then to the final four and eventually one.

"As a personal deal for me, I'm not a big fan of it. Don't get me wrong. We've had a lot of success over the last four or five years and I think we've earned our success. I just am scared that possibly — and I'm not saying it's going to be myself or Jason — someone comes out and has a fantastic year, winning 15 races leading up to the Countdown, but they stumble at one of those last two races and end up fourth in the championship. That doesn't seem right to me.

"I just want to make sure that whoever has the best season through the year, I think they deserve to be champion. I think you need to earn it all year long, not just in a one-race shootout. I don't quite understand that. If NHRA is looking for more drama, more final race of the year drama, you're not going to beat what you

had last year anyway. You can throw out the Chase (Countdown), forget it. We didn't need it last year, may not need it this year, but it's going to happen one way or another.

"I'll have to find a way to win, no matter what the rules are, no matter how the game is played, but absolutely, I'm not a proponent of it."

Norm Froscher is a contributing writer to The Sun.

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