Ten days after scoring his KB Racing team’s 100th NHRA national event win in Englishtown, N.J., Summit Racing Camaro pilot Greg Anderson will return to the site of another significant moment in his spectacular Pro Stock career, heading to Bristol Dragway for this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. In 2001, the championship-winning crew chief turned aspiring race car driver came to the Volunteer State driving the back-up car for a team owned by Las Vegas businessmen George Marnell (who was the team’s established driver) and Ken Black.
In only his 30th start he shocked both himself and his fellow competitors, starting from the ninth position and defeating established veterans Allen Johnson, V. Gaines and Mark Osborne in the early rounds before squaring off against two-time champion Jim Yates in the final. Gaining the advantage at the starting line, the Minnesota native never looked back, using a 6.993-second, 196.85 mph pass to gain the hole shot victory over his much-heralded opponent and score his first national event win.
“Although I’m a little cloudy on the specifics of that particular day, I do remember I was not expected to win,” said Anderson. “After all, I was driving an older Pontiac Firebird at a time when the top teams were running the smaller and more aerodynamic Chevrolet Cavaliers and Grand Ams and I was basically running to gather more data for George’s car.
“Still, we were somehow able to pull off the win and I suddenly found myself in the winner’s circle with Fred Simmonds, who was the head of the drag racing program for General Motors at the time and the folks from Mac Tools, who were then the event sponsors. I recall we were all looking at each other wondering exactly who everyone was, but it actually turned out to be the start of the program we have today with this Summit Racing team. Mac Tools became one of my first sponsors, I established a relationship with a General Motors and Ken Black decided to start his own team. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Eleven years later, Anderson returns to Thunder Valley as one of the top racers in the history of the “factory hot rods” with four championships and 74 national event wins to his credit, a total that includes two trips to the Bristol Dragway winner’s circle. However, with his last Tennessee quarter-mile victory coming in 2004, he is more than ready to make a return appearance, a confidence bolstered by recent performances under similar tuning conditions.
“I will always love Bristol Dragway because it’s where I won my first national event,” stated Anderson. “I am also extremely partial to Thunder Valley because of the facility and its tremendous history. It’s a Bruton Smith-owned track that is very well run and promoted, making it a fun weekend for the racers and the fans. However, for the last few years it has been the type of track that has been our Achilles’ heel, having a little bit of altitude where the cars don’t run that fast.
“The good news is that I believe we’re finally turning the corner in that area based on our performance in Topeka where the atmospheric conditions are fairly similar to what we’ll see this weekend. Based on that, I think our outlook for Bristol will be completely different this year. I expect our Summit Racing Camaro is going to be fast with a good chance of winning the race.”
Finally, Anderson and his KB Racing crew are looking to build on the successful debut of their new Chevrolet Camaro. Despite reaching the winner’s circle in its inaugural race, the current Pro Stock championship points leader is quick to point out that they are still familiarizing themselves with their new mount.
“Although we certainly gave our Summit Racing Camaro a tremendous debut in Englishtown, I think we can make it run even better,” said Anderson. “For example, we never set low elapsed time. It showed us that it wanted to run, and we kept working on it, making gains throughout the weekend, but never fully hit the nail on the head, so there’s still plenty of room left for improvement.
“It’s a very nice car that seems to want to do everything right, but we’re still early in the learning process and even though it’s gone very well so far, we are just scratching the surface of its full potential. Between ourselves, Chevrolet and (chassis builder) Rick Jones, I think we’ve built a good piece, and in Bristol we’ll have two with Jason bringing out his Camaro. Hopefully we can go there, get her closer to what she really wants and run even better than we did in our first race. That’s our goal heading into the weekend.”
Greg Anderson & the Summit Racing Camaro crew
By the Numbers – Bristol Dragway edition:
1 - No. 1 qualifying performances by Anderson at Bristol Dragway, which came in 2004.
2 – Bristol Dragway wins by Anderson coming into this weekend.
4 – Final round appearances by Anderson in Thunder Valley, most recently in 2009.
4.64 – Average starting position for Greg in his previous 11 Bristol starts.
6 – Times Anderson has qualified in the top 5 positions in his previous 11 Thunder Valley starts.
207.94 – Bristol Dragway Pro Stock Top Speed Record, set by Anderson in 2009