Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – NORWALK, OH – Greg Anderson is happy to have the Pro Stock points lead in what has been an ultra-competitive year during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
To have it without recording a win through the first 11 events speaks to Anderson’s consistency, but having zero wins thus far also isn’t something that pleases the four-time world champion.
Anderson can change that in a fitting way at his sponsor’s race and his sponsor’s track during this weekend’s 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. It marks the halfway point of the 2018 NHRA season, which is long enough in Anderson’s eyes to not have a win. To earn a fourth at the track in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro would be an ideal way to break that string and keep his strong season going.
“The bright spot is we’re leading the points, so the season can’t be too bad, but it’s disappointing we haven’t won,” said Anderson, who has 90 career wins. “I felt like we’ve underachieved. There’s a lot of great cars and there may be 12-13 different winners this season, but we want to make sure we win one. If we win this weekend, it turns the season into a success instantly. It’s the biggest race of the year because of Summit and the fact it’s their 50th anniversary makes it even bigger.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including final eliminations coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 24. It is the 12th of 24 races in a 2018 season that has included two final round appearances, including last weekend in Bristol, three semifinal showings and only one first-round loss.
But that trip to the winner’s circle is missing, which remains a puzzling matter for Anderson and longtime teammate Jason Line, who is also seeking his first victory of 2018. Anderson has been outstanding during qualifying, posting seven No. 1 qualifiers in 11 races, but hasn’t been able to take that final step during eliminations. He knows he has a car capable of winning multiple times, but Anderson also realizes his team must start finishing the job when the opportunity arises.
“We just haven’t made the perfect calls on Sunday,” said Anderson, who last won at Norwalk in 2015. “We have to do a better job of managing the race track. We’ve been great this year in qualifying, but just a little off the mark on Sunday. That’s what we’ve got to fix. Qualifying has been great and I can’t complain about our power, but we have to change things on Sunday. Our theory here for success has been to win races. That’s how we judge ourselves.”
With eight winners through the first 11 races, the Pro Stock competition, which includes two-time season winners Jeg Coughlin, Tanner Gray and Vincent Nobile, has been impressive in 2018, but grabbing a victory at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park would mean a lot for Anderson.
He annually meets with Summit Racing employees at their headquarters in Tallmadge, Ohio during the week of this race, and that always gives the veteran a boost. In turn, Anderson hopes to repay them with a victory that would be the sixth overall at the race between Anderson and Line.
“There’s a lot on the line with this race, but we’re good with that,” Anderson said. “I like that extra pressure and often that’s when we’re able to up our game. I don’t know why, but it’s happened many, many times. For some reason, I remember past years coming into Norwalk into a little bit of a lull, and somehow, some way this race falls our way. It’s fixed a lot of seasons for us and it needs to do that again this year. I think it can.”
Steve Torrence has four wins and the Top Fuel points lead, and will look for a second straight Norwalk victory against Bristol winner Tony Schumacher, Brittany Force and Clay Millican.
Jack Beckman aims to try and track down Funny Car points leader Courtney Force, who has four wins in 2018. Other standouts are Bristol winner Ron Capps and defending champ Robert Hight.
LE Tonglet is after his second win of the Pro Stock Motorcycle season as he tries to track down the likes of points leader Andrew Hines, defending world champ Eddie Krawiec and Matt Smith.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its seventh of 12 stops in 2018. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Hanna Motorsports “First Strike” Jet Funny Car driven by Rich Hanna and “Queen of Diamonds” Jet dragster driven by Sarah Edwards. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will 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 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals include Shirley Muldowney and Mark Pawak.
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 5:15 and 8:15 p.m. on Friday, June 22 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 23, at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 24.