Pro Stock legend Greg Anderson entered the media center at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park full of smiles on Sunday evening after earning the No. 1 Qualifier position. His car had shown speed most of the weekend with the exception of one pass. He gave handshakes to reporters and opened a beverage as he began to settle into being the favourite to win the 'Big Go' the next day.
Anderson, a pilot known for his hands-on approach and teamwork effort in the pits holds a tenured legacy in the sport of pro NHRA drag racing. Prior to his career behind the wheel, he started his run of loyalty with General Motors and was in charge of many of the decisions that led to past champion Warren Johnson's success. For fans or readers who may not be familiar with Greg, his 'Driver' status is nothing new. He's been a mainstay on the national tour since 1998, making him one of the most experienced of all active drivers in pro classes.
You'd think that being the veteran in a group of pro racers Anderson may be at peace with his day-by-day operations. It has been a high topic in 2022 that he sits at 99 career wins. I'd be of the opinion that he could retire any day and would have nothing to prove. For the driver of the HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, it's not that simple. Coming off of a season championship in 2021, the speed in 2022 was not competitive enough week to week until lately. The month of August, though set the record straight. Including the weekend's US Nationals, his team has earned the top spot in qualifying three consecutive weeks.
"It proves we have a hot rod that can win again. Quite honestly we did not have a car that was up to par and we were getting out run." Anderson said. "We just gotta put it all together on [raceday]."
For Anderson, the job is never done. To say he's stressed wouldn't be an unfair label. In fact, it's one that he admits to, and one he embraces. He identified some errors in his driving ritual prior to addressing his mental approach to the weekend. "Hopefully the driver's got his wits about him, because there's no room for mistake in this class.'' Anderson said. "It's been a tough grind. We work everyday on this thing. For the last four or five years it's overall as a class it's been so tough we probably haven't gained 20hp."
Anderson continued to discuss his longtime rival Elite Motorsports, which has shown to be the championship favourite in the 2022 season, led by past champion Erica Enders. "We've been working and doing lots of things. We found a few things that work. We can truly say it's been a struggle to move forward...Elite came out this winter/spring and showed they had made BIG gains over the winter, so apparently there was more to be found." Heading into the countdown, Greg Anderson is now a championship contender, not only in the eyes of the media or his fans, but to himself. Only a few weeks ago he did not feel that he'd be there. On Monday, Anderson won the US Nationals for the seventh time in his career. (2001,03-06,2011,2022) The fanfare that is associated with such a big event allowed him to lower his self assigned mental focus, at least for a little while. He was able to savour the monumental victory, which was also his 100th career pro win.
"I don't know that I can explain how meaningful it is. It's incredible! I kept asking myself what it was going to take to win [in 2022] and it wasn't meant to be. It was meant to be at Indy obviously, so what a cool cool deal. It means everything to me, Indy means 10x more than me than any other race. Nothing compares to Indy. It's an out of body experience when you win here. I'm a lucky lucky man to not only say that I've won a hundred races, but that I won number 100 here." He continued. "I'm 61 years old, my time may be coming, but i'm not done. I'm gonna win some more. It's a pretty cool deal, I think it's wonderful that it has all of these young guns. I'm loving it!"
Nearly four decades ago Greg Anderson entered the sport a novice with only a dream of someday competing. Greg elaborated on his lengthy career and shared additional anecdotes of his love and respect for his mentors John Hagan, Warren Johnson, and Rick Hendrick. Emotionally driven, his answers varied from celebratory to reflective. "I never met anybody in life who failed while working hard. If you just work hard you're going to succeed,'' Anderson said. "It's a valuable lesson I learned because of them."
Greg Anderson continues to thrive despite the many obstacles he faced in recent years. His energy and focus is prime. With 100 career wins, he joins an elite group of drivers who can say they've earned triple digits. I'd say it's only a matter of time until he's won 101.