At the conclusion of 2020, NHRA Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson braced for change and new challenges. His longtime counterpart, fellow NHRA champion Jason Line, was holding true to his early season proclamation of transitioning from the driver’s seat to a full-time focus on the KB Racing engine program. Anderson was also aware that his familiar Summit Racing major sponsor he’d had since 2004 was shifting marketing strategies, moving from primary to associate partnership for 2021.
And all this uncertainty was evolving just as the veteran driver was on the cusp of the extraordinary. He came into the 2021 Camping World Drag Racing Series season with 94 NHRA wins—just three behind ‘The Professor of Pro Stock,’ Warren Johnson. Eclipsing his former boss’s 97 victories would move him into position as the most-winning driver in the history of the category.
Anderson tied “The Professor” at Maple Grove Raceway that fall and went on to secure his place in history with a win in Dallas just two races later. In all, he claimed 5 trophies in 9 final round appearances and was the No. 1 qualifier at 12 of the 17 Pro Stock races. Amazingly, by season’s end, the North Carolina driver won his fifth NHRA world championship.
“This HendrickCars.com Chevrolet is the meanest car I’ve ever had in all the years I’ve raced,” said Anderson, who earned four previous championships in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010. “Right off the trailer, this car was fantastic, and it never skipped a beat. I’m very proud of everybody on the KB Racing team and so grateful to our team owners, Ken and Judy Black. We definitely came prepared to race every time, and it paid off in the best possible way.”
En route to the championship, Anderson and the KB team earned new accomplishments, one of the biggest being his induction into the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame alongside such racing legends as Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt and Sox & Martin to name a few. “What a career it’s already been,” Anderson marveled, “The best part of the whole deal, though, is that I don’t feel like I’m done yet. I still can’t wait to get to the next one. It’s been a special year, getting to 99 wins and passing my old-time mentor, Warren Johnson, along the way.”
Another big “Line” item, was teammate Jason Line’s transition from the driver’s seat to solely focusing on his work at the race shop. This was not something Anderson encouraged at first, though ultimately, he supported it.
Anderson’s fellow Minnesota native joined KB Racing as lead dyno operator and made his debut in one of the team’s Pro Stock cars in 2003. Line competed in four races that first year, then stepped into the role of full-time driver alongside Anderson beginning in 2004. Along with spending countless hours in the dyno and engine rooms, Line claimed a total of 51 Pro Stock wins and three championships for Ken Black’s team.
At the racetrack, one of Line primary goals was overseeing the tune-up on each of the KB Racing-powered racecars and as you’d expect, Anderson and Line would consult on changes for the next session. After each pass down the racetrack in his own Pro Stocker, Line would return and go from pit to pit with his laptop to settle the tune-up for each of KB Racing’s electronic fuel injected engines. In his absence in 2021, Anderson took over that role at most events.
“This year, we had to do it without him for most races. It’s been a challenge at times, but we adapted and found a way to make it work. And anytime we had a 911, he was there to help out,” said Anderson. “I do believe it was a benefit to have him there at the shop, while we were gone this year. It used to be that going racing almost shut down the engine shop, and there could be no R&D, no continued development, so the dyno wouldn’t be going. It was definitely tougher at the races without him there, but overall, it turned out to pay dividends.”
Throughout his career, Anderson made a habit of channeling triumph from adversity. And despite all the changes, he blasted into 2021 with a win at the season opener, flying the colors of Race Star Wheels. Following another victory just two races later in Atlanta with DENSO Spark Plugs on the doors of his Chevrolet Camaro, Anderson had an early vise-like grip on the points lead and a hot rod that was proving to be best-in-class with a low qualifier award at each of the first four events.
The performance of his racecar and Anderson’s pursuit of history attracted the attention of Rick Hendrick and the Hendrick Automotive Group, who first signed on for a one-race deal in Charlotte, then extended the partnership after the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals for a full season.
Like the No. 5 Camaro driven to the NASCAR championship by Kyle Larson in 2021, the revered HendrickCars.com graphics on Anderson’s Chevrolet paid homage to Ricky Hendrick, with a blue and white design similar to what the gone-too-soon driver campaigned in NASCAR before losing his life in a plane crash on October 24, 2004, alongside seven friends and family members.
“The look of this car is meaningful to the Hendrick family, and we don’t take the honor lightly,” expressed Anderson. “I really, really wanted to do a good job, not just for KB Racing, but for Rick Hendrick and his family. Everything about this season felt special, and this car was what propelled us to each of those milestones. It’s almost like the HendrickCars.com design was the lucky charm for us, and it was one we were grateful to have all year long.”
One of the keys to success for Anderson in 2021 was his ability to stay focused despite the best efforts of his competitors who were relentless in their chase. Former Pro Stock champion Erica Enders and her team, which is populated by a slate of competitive drivers under the Elite Motorsports umbrella, weren’t shy in their attempts to qualify in such a way that one of their teammates could line up against Anderson for a first round matchup. It was a tactic Anderson employed in 2019 to set himself up to meet Enders in round one of the final race of the season in an effort to knock out the driver battling teammate Jason Line for the championship.
If the strategy didn’t work for the Elite team, there was little risk involved. Except for one thing: the bonus points. The top three quickest cars in qualifying are awarded additional points (three for the quickest, two for next best, and one for third), and at that late hour of the season, every single point is of significant value.
“I was good with their strategy and I was proud of my KB Racing team because we did our job,” said Anderson. “We claimed all the little points we could, and you never know when those little points will make a difference. It was the exact play they should have used, and honestly, I started this deal. I was fine with being on the other end of it.”
Their plan worked initially, as Anderson was defeated by Enders’ teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. in the first round in Las Vegas—his only early exit of the season. Coughlin later faced Enders in the semifinals and his car was ahead until downtrack when it mysteriously fell silent just before the finish-line stripe. Enders advanced to the final, where she was defeated by Anderson’s teammate and soon-to-be NHRA Rookie of the Year recipient Dallas Glenn.
A Quick Rebound
The setback at the penultimate race in Las Vegas took a chunk of his sizable lead, but after three rounds of qualifying at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Anderson made up enough ground to put two rounds between himself and Enders.
“Having the best car adds pressure,” admitted Anderson, who claimed maximum bonus points for having the quickest Pro Stocker every session. “Everybody knows my HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro has been the best out there race in and race out. I hated the thought of not capitalizing on what I had. My car was the best it’s ever been in Pomona, but so many things can go wrong, especially at the last race of the year.”
Anderson lived through the consequences of not capitalizing as he lost two consecutive championships by a handful of points at the final race of the year. In 2016, the championship fell through his grasp in the final round of the final race by 3 teeny tiny points and in 2017 it slipped away by just 7 points.
Heading into Sunday at this season’s Auto Club NHRA Finals, Anderson felt to his bones what was at stake. The ladder held the potential to place fate in his own hands as he and Enders were on the same side. And after winning their respective first- and second-round matches, they met in the semifinals, essentially with the season hanging in the balance.
Both drivers were set on “kill,” but it was Anderson with the win light as his opponent’s racecar broke loose ever so slightly from the racing surface and inadvertently scrubbed precious time. With Erica’s loss, Anderson was crowned the champion.
“Erica is bad-to-the-bone,” said Anderson, “she’s a mean driver, and she easily could have been the champion. But you don’t want to think about how big of a round it is until you pass those scoreboards down there,” he added.
One More For The Road
After a brief championship celebration, Anderson and his team raced back to the pits to prepare for the final round against teammate and second-year Pro Stock competitor Kyle Koretsky.
Anderson left the starting line first and that was the decider. His .027-second reaction time was, by far, his best light of the day and he paired it with a 6.574 at 208.23 mph to oust Koretsky’s .047 and 6.567/209.56 effort, winning on a holeshot and picking up his 99th national event win of his career.
With one of the most triumphant seasons behind him, Anderson told us he has two new goals to focus on for the new year: earning that 100th trophy and claiming a second consecutive, and sixth overall, NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Pro Stock championship.
“When you race as much as we do, you don’t very often stop and think about what you’ve accomplished,” admitted Anderson. “I don’t know if I’m in the prime of my career, but I’m still digging as hard as ever, and somehow, we’re still winning races and championships. All of these incredible things that have been happening are things I never planned on and this year has been beyond anything I ever dreamed of.”