NHRA: Victory will be cure all for KB Racing team
Home is where the heart is and that's good news for Greg Anderson.
The driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro missed the season's first five events after heart surgery. Anderson was born with a bicuspid aortic heart valve and underwent a precautionary procedure to keep him in championship form.
First he needs to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship. He heads into Friday's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway sitting in the 10th spot, 71 points behind Chris McGaha and only 26 points ahead of Jonathan Gray.
Few teams are hotter than the KB Racing team of Anderson and fellow Minnesotan Jason Line. And to celebrate that fact they get to come home.
"I'm very happy to be coming home," Anderson said. "It's a home-cooked atmosphere here with all the family and friends. I need that. I love that atmosphere going into the race. I love the track and the whole weekend. I couldn't ask for a better place for me to race at right now as I try to get into the countdown.
Anderson was on the outside looking in until Seattle when he raced into the Pro Stock finals. There he lost to Line, who enters the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals sitting third, 37 points behind points leader Erica Enders-Stevens.
- Greg Anderson/Jason Line
- Hometowns: Anderson (Duluth), Line (Wright)
- Cars: Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro
- Crew chiefs: Rob Downing and Tim Freeman
- Current standings: Line (third), Anderson (10th)
"Truthfully, I don't think it matters if I get that No. 1 spot or not," said Line. "Maybe psychologically it does. If we can steal that one or two spots from Allen (Johnson) and Erica I think psychologically it leaves a mark. That would be big momentum on our side and hopefully we could capitalize on that. I think it would be real nice, but is it an end all? No. I would say it's reasonably important."
Line owns a 30-13 rounds record with one No. 1 qualifier and five finals appearances. He's 3-2 in the finals and is coming off two straight wins. He has never won three straight events and he's never won on his home track. One good weekend could accomplish both.
"Last year I gave up," said Line. "I told myself I didn't care. I told myself I was never going to win at BIR. This year I'm saying I want to win. But only for one reason. I've never won three in a row, which is kind of hard to believe. So now it seems like a really good time."
The momentum alone would give the racing team a lot of confidence, but Line appears to be enjoying the mind games it would provide.
"As big as it would be for us, it would be bigger for our competitors," said Line. "They notice things like that. I don't like winning that much. It's fun to win, don't get me wrong. I just hate it more watching someone else do it. That's not fun at all. I think they feel the same way.
"The Dodges have been tough this year. They've gotten the best of us, but we're on our way back and you can tell the other teams are noticing."
Anderson is back, too. The four-time national Pro Stock champ has been in three finals. He's lost all three, but his winning ways are starting to return. Anderson said in order to make this a complete comeback story he needs to win it all.
"It will be a great story if we can finish it by getting qualified and winning the playoffs," Anderson said. "Unless we do that it will be just another so-so season. I had to make up a (heck) of a lot of ground. We've been racing really hard scratching for every point. After Seattle, we slid up into the 10th spot. We have two more races to go - Brainerd and Indy - before the cut. I can't slip or fall back. That will be unacceptable. We need a good strong Brainerd.
"Our stuff is getting a lot better. It's a whole lot better than it was last year. If I can get into the countdown that will give us a lot of confidence and a great chance of winning the championship for Jason or I."
Anderson's first race back was at Houston. He qualified for the bracket in 11th position and lost in the first round to Jeg Coughlin. He was sitting in the 20th spot after that event. He's inched his way back into the top 10 and will look for career win No. 75 at a track he last won at in 2011. His streak of 12-straight seasons with at least one win was snapped last year. He'd like nothing more than to start a new streak on Sunday.
Line believes there is no one better to complete this true comeback story than his teammate.
"Greg - he works harder than two people put together," said Line. "When he was gone for those first three months it certainly added work for everyone because he's a working machine. I don't remember if it felt like there was added pressure on me. We were all just really concerned with him having the surgery and getting fixed up."
Anderson admitted his first race back was a mix of emotions. He was glad to be back behind the wheel. Delighted to be alive. Nervous, too, about pulling the parachute and the force on his chest. After that first qualifying race he couldn't remember any of those. He was back and as he said best "Still ticking so far."