Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – GLENDORA, CA – A consistent NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season did not lead to Pro Stock Greg Anderson contending for a fifth world championship during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. But the longtime standout still has a chance to end his 2018 campaign on a good note at this weekend’s 54th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, where Anderson will look for his 13th win at the facility.
That would give Anderson the most wins in Pro Stock history at the historic facility, breaking the current tie with the legendary Bob Glidden. It is something that is definitely on Anderson’s mind heading to the season-finale, as is finishing his 2018 season on the best note possible in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro.
“It would mean a lot,” said Anderson, who has 91 career victories. “We’ve struggled in the Countdown, but as a team, with Jason (Line) and Bo (Butner), we’ve won the last two events and I would love to get a win myself. We’re not going to win a championship and that’s definitely a letdown, but it’s very important for the team to find a way to win three in a row to end the season. It’s a confidence-booster through the winter and it’s the only way to get some positive vibes.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. The race is the final event of the year and the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, but the playoffs have not gone as planned for Anderson, who was the points leader for almost half the regular season.
He entered the Countdown to the Championship in second, but Anderson hasn’t found the winning combination in the playoffs, advancing past the second round only once the past five events. That put a damper on any championship hopes, as Tanner Gray has opened up a big lead on the strength of two playoff wins. He’ll take a 140-point lead over Jeg Coughlin Jr. into Pomona as a heavy championship favorite, but Anderson knows the special feeling winning this race brings.
“Pomona has always been magical,” said Anderson, who has six Auto Club NHRA Finals wins. “The vibe and the feeling there, it’s just a beautiful atmosphere. It’s always great weather, a great weekend and a big crowd, and everything about it you want to make sure you do well. Everybody only remembers the last race, so you don’t want to flop or do bad heading into the off-season. You’ve got to set yourself up for a good winter and the next season.”
Line and Butner have won the past two events, setting up the possibility that KB Racing could close out the season on a hot streak, which would certainly pay dividends for 2019. Anderson, who has just one win this year despite nine No. 1 qualifiers, would like to round out the team effort with the victory in Pomona, but the competition has proven to be at an all-time high in 2018. That will make winning difficult this weekend, but it also continues to drive Anderson forward in the class.
“It’s still my belief that it’s the class with the best competition,” Anderson said. “This year was the best competition we’ve ever had. It was off the charts this year. You can’t make any mistakes if you want to win, and it’s harder than ever to win a race. But I love that. The taller the challenge, the better I like it. It’s why I race in the class. When people ask why I race Pro Stock, it’s for the competition. No matter what happens, the class is still going to have great competition.”
On the strength of five straight wins in the Countdown to the Championship, Steve Torrence claimed the Top Fuel world title in Vegas, and he’ll look to sweep the playoffs in Pomona.
With a win in Vegas, Funny Car’s J.R. Todd takes a 74-point lead into Pomona over defending world champ Robert Hight as Todd seeks his first career world title.
It’s a tight race in Pro Stock Motorcycle, with two-time world champ Matt Smith keeping a slim four-point advantage on defending world champ Eddie Krawiec. LE Tonglet is 61 points back.
The Auto Club NHRA Finals will also feature thrilling competition in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes. After Nitro qualifying, stick around to see the spectacular Cacklefests during the weekend.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Auto Club NHRA Finals include Kenny Bernstein, Greg Sharp and more.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11.