Greg Anderson had been close so many times before. Since May, Anderson had pursued a historic 97th Pro Stock victory only for something to stand in the way: failing to get the job done, mistakes, car issues, or an opponent simply did a better job.
Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway, “it was our day” as Anderson in his HendrickCars.com Camaro beat fellow four-time champion Erica Enders in the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals finals. The victory ties Anderson with Warren Johnson for the most wins in class history.
“A monkey off the back and a relief,” Anderson said afterward. “I had such a strong run going through Atlanta. Things were going so well and we were just racing flawlessly, and then a mistake here and a mistake there, and (someone) hitting that perfect run in the other lane against you.
“It can get you down, but I never did. I kept my head up and I kept saying, ‘I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, and the wins will come. We’re too good a race team; I’ve got too good a race car, and I know I can still drive the race car, so the wins will come, so don’t press too hard.’ It fell into our lap today.”
Anderson beat John Gaydosh, Matt Hartford, and Troy Coughlin Jr. on his way into the finals. His winning run over Enders came in just 6.578 seconds (208.30 mph).
“I was shocked; I was absolutely shocked when that light came on,” Anderson said. “So many races in a row it just would not come on, and you think you got everything going for you and everything is going great, swimmingly, and the light just doesn’t come on in the final round. Great, great feeling. There is nothing better than when that light comes on in that final round of an NHRA national event.”
Sunday was Anderson’s third win of the season in his sixth final round appearance. Anderson missed out on tying the record in the three straight finals he made before Maple Grove. At 60 years old, Anderson said he’s having more fun than ever before in a race car.
“I think this is the best race car I’ve had in probably 10 years, to be honest with you,” Anderson said. “To be able to drive a race car like this and have a chance to win at every race, I haven’t had that for a few years. You get one here or there that drove good that you might have had a chance to win, and then you’ve had other races that you didn’t have the horse to win with or weren’t driving good enough to win. I know I’ve had it at every single race this year, so that’s a great feeling, and I’m fortunate. I’m a very lucky guy to be in this spot right now.”
Watch @GregAnderson_ps race to his 97th win and tie The Professor Warren Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history! @OfficialMopar Express Lane #ReadingNats presented by @Pennzoil • @CampingWorld pic.twitter.com/8gsnXEUwAs
— #NHRA (@NHRA) September 13, 2021
Anderson is a protégé of Johnson’s and learned a lot in the 10 plus years spent working with him. Anderson was both a crew member and crew chief for Johnson, who won six Pro Stock championships (Anderson was involved in three of them). Anderson began his driving career in the late 1990s.
“Huge day to finally tie Warren Johnson for the wins record, that’s saying a lot,” Anderson said. “Obviously, I’ve got a lot of history with him, and I’ve kind of got two lives going here. That was my first life, and it was a pretty darn full life, and I won a lot of races with him and learned a ton. Then I moved on and started all over from scratch on my second life, and here we are, and we’re dead even. We’re deadlocked, tied. I guess it’s only fitting.
“It’s kind of a cool story, I think, and now I get to chance to break it, and I’m not saying I can or I will, but I’m sure going to try. I’m going to my home track of Charlotte, where I live, and we’re going to have a ton of fans out here, and all the Hendrick Automotive Group will be there. I can’t think of a pretty place to break the record. So, I’m looking forward to that, and at least a chance at it anyways. You can’t break the record until you tie it, and I just couldn’t get that tie, couldn’t seem to get it done, and finally got it done today. Huge day. Fantastic the way everything worked out. Obviously, you start the playoffs on a high note.”
With the win, Anderson extended his point lead to 41 over Enders.