CLERMONT, Ind. -- It hardly seems like 10 years ago that a stunned Greg Anderson met with reporters at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis and asked, "How did this happen?"
He had been a mechanic for most of his NHRA involvement -- until boss Warren Johnson sent him, along with his own son and fellow crew member Kurt Johnson, to Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School to get the driving bug out of their systems. They came back jazzed to compete in their own cars. And ever since then, Warren Johnson has been among those to take a back seat to Anderson, the four-time champion and six-time winner here..Since that seemingly bewildered moment at Indianapolis, Anderson has gone on a tear at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and in the NHRA in general.
The reigning Pro Stock champion won this marquee event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for the sixth time Monday, tying mentor Warren Johnson, who failed to qualify.
Anderson claimed the $50,000 Pro Stock victory for the first time since 2006 and will head to his home track at Charlotte as the No. 1 ranked Countdown driver.
He squeaked by KB / Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP teammate Jason Line on a holeshot in the final round with a 6.552-second E.T. at 210.50 mph to Line's quicker and faster 6.538 / 210.83.
It was the 70th victory for Anderson, who broke a tie with retired driver Kenny Bernstein and took sole possession of fourth place on the NHRA's all-time victories list. It was Anderson's class-leading fifth triumph of the season.
He called his feat "so, so special" and said he and Line, who are 1-2 in the standings and
so far have combined for nine victories, "two very lucky guys."
Maybe "two incredibly skilled and focused guys" would be more correct.
This was the fourth time this season and 18th time overall that the dominating duo met in the final round. Line, aiming but failing to keep his perfect 2011 final-round record intact, said, "I wouldn't think too many folks are looking forward to racing us, but we can't afford to just sit back and expect it to stay that way, so we’re going to spend the time between now and Charlotte working hard to make our program even better. "
Anderson qualified second to Line and with his first-round victory over Mark Martino set Pro Stock's top speed of the meet, a 211.03 mph that also reset the track record.
Line gobbled up what honors Anderson didn't. He took the top qualifying position away from Anderson in the final session Sunday. Then Line registered the class' quickest elapsed time of the meet and the Lucas il Raceway record (6.538 seconds) in the final-round defeat.
But lest anyone think these two always are clones of one another, catch what Anderson said in the post-race: -- and what Line said, for that matter.
Anderson said, "I had told Jason last night that he shouldn't have snuck in and taken that No. 1 spot from me. But seriously, I couldn't have asked for a better result for the U.S. Nationals."
Well, of course he couldn't have. But Line said he pictured a better finish.
"I had a Summit Racing Pontiac capable of winning the race, but just wasn't able to seal the deal," Line said. "Fortunately, going into the final, we knew the team was going to win – it was just a matter of whether Greg or I was going to get the trophy, and today it happened to be him. He showed in the final why he’s the four-time champion and one of the all-time best, and why I consider it an accomplishment whenever I do beat him.
"Certainly, I’m disappointed, but it could have been worse," he said. "And I had my best day as a pro at the U.S. Nationals. I'm pretty sure everyone knew we were there.
"Today may not have ended up the way I wanted, but there are still a lot of positives we can take from the weekend, so I’m just going to hit the reset button and start working on getting ready for Charlotte," Line said.
Anderson said of Line and their power-packed punch on the class, "We qualified our Summit Racing Pontiacs 1 and 2 and put them both in the final, where it just came down to the two of us having fun. He's done such an incredible job all year, and I'm so proud of what he's done. I truly feel bad for depriving him of his first U.S. Nationals win, but he’d been getting the better of me all year, and it was about time I came out on top."
In all, Anderson said all that mattered was winning the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals: "Today I wasn't concerned about points or the Countdown – I just wanted to win this race. It's that special to me. It's the first real race that my father took me to as a little kid, and I was blown away by the size and grandeur of it all. Ever since that day, it’s been a special place to me.
"[This] win feels as good as my first one," he said. "I know it's not as good as [Pro Stock legend Bob] Glidden's nine, but It is pretty darn cool to realize that I've now won it six times."
And that extra confidence that is Anderson's and Line's heading into the Countdown opener on their home turf spells trouble for the rest of the Pro Stock class.
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