Author: Anderson, Greg
Date published: September 16, 2011
Well, it has taken us seven months, 16 races, and a lot of runs down the racetrack, but we are finally here: the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. This six-race championship shootout is what every driver in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series had his or her sights set on when they pulled into the gates in Pomona in February - being one of those 10 drivers whose points would be reset prior to the fall Charlotte race, giving them a fresh shot at this year's title.
Of course, the Countdown playoffs are something this Summit Racing team was able to take full advantage of a year ago, taking home our fourth title (and fifth for KB Racing counting my partner Jason Line's 2006 crown), and we certainly hope to deliver a repeat performance in 2011. However, before we start looking too far ahead in the future, let's take one last look at the road that got us here.
It goes without saying that it has been a tremendous year for the KB Racing team, winning nine out of 16 races (including four all-Summit finals). At every race, we have had tremendous Summit Racing Pontiacs to drive. More importantly, I believe we are getting a little better with every race. In my opinion, we have had a car capable of winning every time out, which is a testament to every member of this crew.
Jason and I are the lucky ones who get to drive these hot rods, but we couldn't do it without the hard work and dedication of the guys back at our shop in Mooresville, N.C., and the crew that goes on the road with us to the races. They want to win as badly as we do, spending extra time making sure we make our program the very best it can be. As I often say, I'd put my guys against any other crew in the pit area.
I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Ronnie Humphrey and the Summit/Genuine Hotrod Hardware team. They gave it a good run but just missed making the Countdown, which would have been a tremendous accomplishment. Even so, they've had a good season, and I think they could end up being one of the spoilers in the playoffs.
Some of my personal highlights for the season have come in the last few weeks, starting with defending my K&N Horsepower Challenge title in Norwalk. They do so much for Pro Stock, and I was proud to be able to stand with them in their winner's circle once again, especially because I was able to help a fan take home a new Ford, and the fact that the event was held at Summit Motorsports Park made it that much better.
After that, I had a great time in Brainerd, starting off by doing an appearance with Jason in Proctor, Minn., on behalf of the Minnesota and North Dakota chapters of the ALS Association. They held a car show with more than 300 cars coming out, and we brought our race cars for an incredible evening where I got to see a lot of friends I grew up with and raised a lot of money for a good cause. As if that wasn't enough, I was able to have my parents join me in the winner's circle on Sunday in Brainerd. Not a bad weekend at all.
Of course, when it comes to highlights, there's no way I could leave out winning my sixth U.S. Nationals. That place is so special to me and holds so many memories that every win is like my first back in 1999. Of course, it was just a great weekend for the Summit team. We were the quickest in all five qualifying sessions and four eliminations rounds on Sunday, and we were able to qualify No. 1 and No. 2 and put both cars in the final. In that situation, we knew we had won, and it was just down to which of us two knuckleheads would go home with the trophy. As much as I wanted Jason to win his first U.S. Nationals, I wasn't about to give it to him. Besides, he's had my number all year! Still, we had a good race, and I was fortunate to come out on top.
But before you think I'm going to break my arm patting myself on the back, I need to turn my focus on our competition because I know they're keeping an eye on us. We may have won nine races so far, but there were seven races we didn't win, and that's because the competition in Pro Stock is as good as it has ever been. That is why there is no way to predict who is going to come out on top when this dance is over. As good as these 10 teams are, any one of them could catch fire and take home the big trophy in November.
If you look at the racers who qualified for the Countdown, you'll see three former Pro Stock world champions who are eager to get another, an amazing rookie who has been driving the wheels off the rocket ship his team gives him at every race, a former U.S. Nationals champion who is killer off the line, a couple of cagey veterans with fast race cars and multiple wins to their credit, and three up-and-coming drivers who have either already won or are about to. I challenge anyone who thinks they can accurately handicap that field.
The one thing I do know about the Countdown is that we are going to do whatever we can to keep Jason and I in the thick of the mix. We're off to a good start going in as the top-two seeds, but that will mean little once we get to zMAX Dragway. Everyone will be bringing their A game, and we have to make sure to bring ours. As well as we have run lately, I like our chances, but we have absolutely no room for error, and we'll also need to have a little luck on our side. We certainly won't leave anything on the table, I can tell you that.
We do have one bit of news that I'm happy to report and that is that Ken Black continues to make tremendous progress, and I believe that both he and Judy will be back out at the track with us very soon, which, as every member of this team will tell you, can't come soon enough. We may be having a lot of fun right now, but without them here, it's just not the same, and having him with us could be just the spark we need to bring that beautiful trophy back to North Carolina.
Greg Anderson is the driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP Pro Stocker.