Greg Anderson is quite accustomed to being first.
The four-time Pro Stock world champion had a staggering 78 career wins heading into the 2016 NHRA season, but career win #79 at last weekend’s season-opening NHRA Winternationals will stand out as one of the most memorable and impressive of his career. It wasn’t a record-breaking performance or milestone win, but Anderson did make history, becoming the first NHRA Pro Stock driver to win in an EFI (electronic fuel injection) car.
“I’m honored,” Anderson said, following the race. “I feel honored to be the recipient of the first trophy in the new fuel injected era.”
This “first” was particularly satisfying for the Summit Racing-sponsored/KB Racing driver.
The win followed an off-season like no other for Anderson, Team Summit, and the entire Pro Stock class. A class-altering set of new NHRA rules required that all teams move from the traditional carbureted Pro Stock setup to an NHRA-specified throttle body fuel injection system with a 10,500 rpm rev limiter. Many observers felt the change would be especially challenging to Anderson and the KB Racing team because of the team’s tendency to run its engines at higher speeds.
The team answered the challenge in big way.
Anderson and teammate, Jason Line, qualified #1 and #2 respectively and met in an all-Summit Racing/KB Racing final round. Anderson beat Line on a holeshot to secure the historic win and get a leg up on the rest of the Pro Stock competition as it dials in the new EFI setup.
“We got the jump on everybody, but I guarantee everyone leaving the pit area — these other competitors in our class — are not happy,” Anderson said. “They’re going home and they’re going to work hard, and it’ll be a completely different ballgame in Phoenix. We’re going to have to do the same thing.”
Following the historic win, he shared these thoughts on the victory, the competition, and the challenge ahead:
On the win:
Anderson: “A fantastic team effort, obviously! Things just went so well all weekend and today. I felt so confident all day long until the final round. I honestly felt like the underdog there in the final. (Teammate Jason Line) came up with a great light in the semi-final and his car ran every bit as good as mine had all day. I knew I was probably in trouble. I knew it was going to take something special. Obviously, somebody removed my foot from the clutch pedal that time. I don’t know who, but I don’t think I did. The good Lord above apparently did it. Apparently it was my day, not Jason’s. He still had a great day. The entire KB Racing team had a great day. The sun is shining on me more than him right now, but I just cannot tell you how proud I am of the job this KB Racing team has done for the last two months. It’s incredible.”
On getting used to the new EFI setup:
Anderson: “It’s absolutely getting better every run. And that’s the joy and beauty of going four rounds on Sunday. It’s to get more track time and to get some more experience, and that’s going to pay off down the road. Everyone’s just in a real steep learning curve right now — there’s no question about that. We got the jump on everybody, but I guarantee everyone leaving the pit area — these other competitors in our class — are not happy. They’re going home and they’re going to work hard, and it’ll be a completely different ballgame in Phoenix. We’re going to have to do the same thing. We’re going to enjoy this tonight. I’m very proud of the effort we put in over the winter, but we’re not crazy enough to think that’s the way this is going to go week after week. We’re going to have to buckle down and find something better again. And that’s just the beauty of a new challenge like this. There is room to grow with it, and we know we’re just scratching the surface with (the EFI). We’re learning. We’re novices at it. Everybody in this class had no experience with it and it’s neat to see everyone trying to conquer it on their own. That’s the beauty of all these engineers in this class and all the ingenuity in this class. It’s a neat class to be a part of. As this thing grows and as the fuel injection becomes more popular and obviously faster on the race track, it’s going to be a fun ride.”
On the final round match-up with teammate Jason Line:
Anderson: “For the first time all day long, I didn’t feel like I had a better hot rod than the guy in the other lane. Just because of the way my race car had been all weekend, I felt like I had a superior car against everyone I lined up against today — until I met my teammate in the final. (The equipment) is every bit as good as what I’m driving, so I know it can run every bit as fast as or faster than mine. All of a sudden it’s a different mindset, and it falls back in the driver’s lap.”
On the biggest challenges of the new EFI setup:
Anderson: “The drivability of the car is the biggest challenge. Doing the burnout, getting the car staged smoothly — that’s the biggest challenge right now. Once you get into wide open throttle, everything is great and you’d never notice anything is different. But you’ve got to be able to do the same then every time — you’ve got to be able to do a perfect burnout, you’ve got to be able to stage the car perfect or it doesn’t matter what happens during the shifting process. It’s very important — every bit as important as what happens at wide open throttle.”
On the competition in Pro Stock:
Anderson: “I wouldn’t know who to put my money on. I feel great with the effort we put in so far, but it could be a completely different ballgame by the time we come to Phoenix. There’s just so much more room to learn about it. We’re absolutely just scratching the surface on what this stuff can do. None of us had really been able to tune anything with a laptop, so it’s new to all of us — especially my guy, Jason. Between rounds, he’s trying to run a laptop, and he’s a ‘hunt-and-pecker’ guy. He’s got to learn to type, first of all. That’s the first school he’s going to have to go to, because we’re waiting on him before we go up and make every run. But it’s a whole new opportunity — a whole new challenge. But we love challenges.”
On the look of the Pro Stock cars without the hood scoop:
Anderson: “Visibility is great. Obviously, I’m all for that. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but we drag racers — I think we drag race because we don’t have that great of an attention span. That’s why we can only make it four, five, six seconds down there! So the distractions will come into play. We’ll probably be looking at the grandstands and notice things we didn’t notice before because we’ve got a clear windshield. We’re going to have to guard against that, too.”