Lake Norman & Mooresville

Competition strong for hot rod racing championship

Racing is a sport of constant change, and for KB Racing teammates, Greg Anderson and Jason Line, this year’s NHRA Countdown to the Championship is providing the Mooresville residents with a different perspective from a year ago.

In 2014, Line entered the Pro Stock playoffs seeded No. 1 and carried the championship battle down to the final race in the elimination round before losing the title to Erica Enders. This year, the two-time Pro Stock champion finds himself seeded fourth headed into the Sept. 18-20 NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Anderson wasn’t involved in the playoffs last year due to off-season heart surgery that resulted in him missing the season’s first five events. This year, the four-time Pro Stock champion describes his situation as a “new lease on life.”

He enters the playoffs seeded second due to a loss to Enders in the U.S. Nationals’ semifinal round on Labor Day at Indianapolis.

“I really wanted to take that title away from her, go into the playoffs with the No. 1 seed, but I didn’t get the job done,” Anderson said. “I had the best car on the property and I didn’t get the job done as a driver. It’s all on me. I’ve got to fix my game. I expect some serious, serious confrontations with her (in the final six races).”

Anderson, 54, said Enders, 31, got the jump on him at the Christmas tree in the U.S. Nationals to gain the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

“My car ran faster than hers and she was faster on the light so she won on a holeshot,” Anderson said. “That’s about as bad as it can get for a driver. That’s the worst way to lose. … But I’ve got to get over it. … I wanted those extra 30 bonus points you get for being the No. 1 seed. That’s a round and a half of racing, but it means I have no room for error in the playoffs.”

This year, Anderson, Line and Enders have compiled 12 victories in 18 events. Enders has produced six in seven final round appearances. Anderson has recorded four and Line two. In the season’s first five events, each driver took home a victory, and throughout the season Anderson and Enders traded the point lead.

Together, the three drivers total seven Pro Stock championships and 133 victories. Anderson leads with 78 career victories, Line with 37 and Enders, who drove for Mooresville-based Cagnazzi Racing before it merged with Denver, N.C.’s Gray Motorsports, 18. Statistics make it tempting to point to Enders as the person Anderson and Line must defeat if they want this year’s championship. Anderson, however, says that would be an incorrect assumption.

“Chris McGaha’s car is great,” Anderson said about the Odessa, Texas, native who’s seeded third. “The Gray Motorsports cars are great. There’s a whole bunch of them that are going to cause issues and be tough to get around. Erica and I are having a real tug-of-war right now, but there are other people that could certainly steal our thunder.”

Mooresville’s Shane Gray is seeded seventh, while his younger brother Jonathan Gray is seeded 10th.

Line said there’s more pressure on him this year being the fourth seed, 50 points behind Enders, than he faced last year as the top seed.

“We certainly haven’t performed at the level we need to,” the 46-year-old Line said. “That’s what got us into this position in the first place. We have to reevaluate what we have and make sure we show up with the best stuff and put our best foot forward because there is no second chance. If you don’t start off good, it’s going to be really, really tough to make up ground.”

Anderson and Line agree, however, that they have home-track advantage for the playoffs’ opening round. They have tested once at zMAX Dragway and another test was planned at the Concord track the week before the NHRA Carolina Nationals.

“Our cars are great at that race track,” Anderson said. “I’m super glad that’s where we start our playoffs. You know you can’t win the championship in the first race of the playoffs, but you can put yourself in a bad position where you almost take yourself out of it if you have a bad race.”

Furr, Freer Battle for Super Gas Title

Harrisburg’s Steven Furr and Mooresville’s Lauren Freer bring their NHRA Lucas Oil Racing Series Division 2 Super Gas title battle to zMAX Dragway Sept. 18-20. Furr, the 2014 Super Gas champion, led Freer by 19 points a week before the event.

In the Top Dragster standings, Furr trailed Lindsey Barker of Kathleen, Ga., by one point. Freer was 12th in those standings. Mount Ulla’s Sandy Wilkins was second in the Top Sportsman points, 172 points behind leader Jeffrey Barker of Kathleen, Ga.

East Lincoln hosts late models

East Lincoln Speedway will host the late models for the final time this season on Sept. 26.

Track officials said the non-points event was added due to the demand for the cars return. The winner will receive $1,000 with extra being paid to everyone starting the main event, officials said.

Enfinger victory roll continues

Huntersville’s Grant Enfinger earned his fifth ARCA victory this season on Labor Day at the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds.

It was the second straight victory for the GMS Racing driver at the one-mile dirt track. Enfinger won the pole for the scheduled 100-lap event that was extended to 103 with a green-white-checker finish. He led 16 laps during the race – the first 13 and the final three. With three races remaining in the season, Enfinger leads the standings by 150 points over Josh Williams, a Port Charlotte, Fla., native.

Rules meetings underway

East Lincoln Speedway officials are conducting rule meetings with competitors regarding the 2016 season.

The meetings began Sept. 12 with limited sportsman competitors. The Renegades Division is scheduled for Sept. 19, Late Models Sept. 25, Four-Cylinder Oct. 3 and FWD Oct. 10. All meetings begin 4 p.m.

Johnson in top 10

Mooresville’s Jarit Johnson, brother of six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, recorded a ninth-place finish in this year’s The Off-Road Championship PRO 2WD standings.

Cornelius resident Jessie Johnson, the youngest of the Johnson brothers, placed 11th in TORC’s PRO Light Division. The TORC season concluded Sept. 5-6 in Crandon, Wis. The Johnsons competed in 10 of the circuit’s 16 events this season. They reduced their races due to funding and the desire to develop their trucks for 2016.

Deb Williams is a freelance writer: