At this time last year, Greg Anderson was stuck on the sidelines, watching as his team raced – and won – on the NHRA’s Pro Stock division without him.
Anderson is back on the track this season and back up to speed, but the experience changed his approach to racing.
“It’s helped me become a better driver,” said Anderson, 54, who lives in Mooresville. “I look at things a little different now. I’m certainly more grateful for what I have, and the opportunities I’ve gotten.”
Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock champion, missed the first five races of the 2014 NHRA season – along with all the associated testing – after having heart surgery the week before the season opener at Pomona, Calif.
Anderson returned to the track, but only as an observer, at last year’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway – less than a half-hour’s drive from his KB Racing shops outside of Mooresville – and watched as substitute Jimmy Alund won the Pro Stock title.
Anderson was back in the car two weeks later at Houston and ran the final 19 races on the 2014 schedule, advancing to the semifinal round twice.
“You lose confidence when you sit on the sidelines,” Anderson said. “But that first run went so smooth that the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I knew at that point I could still do this.”
That confidence has carried over into this season. Anderson snapped a 64-race winless streak two weeks ago at Gainesville, Fla., beating KB Racing teammate Jason Line in the Pro Stock final.
Anderson’s 75th career win moved him to sixth in the Pro Stock standings entering Sunday’s elimination rounds at zMax Dragway, where he has three career titles, including Four-Wide Nationals wins in 2011 and 2012.
“I’m definitely the most positive I’ve felt in three years,” Anderson said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever find my way back (to the winner’s circle), but I did.”
Fast track: Courtney Force, J.R. Todd, Chris McGaha and Hector Arana Jr. led Saturday’s qualifying rounds at zMax Dragway.
Force vaulted from No. 16 to her second No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car this season, and the ninth of her career, with a 4.011-second run on her final chance. That bumped her father, 16-time series champ John Force (4.040 seconds), off the top spot by 0.029 seconds.
Todd won his seventh career No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel by edging out Pat Dakin by 0.002 seconds. Todd’s best run came in a track-record 3.713 seconds, and Dakin was second at 3.715 seconds.
McGaha won his second straight No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, and the fourth of his career, with a best run of 6.474 seconds. That edged Line, who lives in Mooresville, by 0.007 seconds (6.481 seconds).
Arana took his 17th career No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a track-record run of 6.794 seconds. That beat out defending race champ Andrew Hines by 0.032 seconds (6.826 seconds).