One year ago, as four-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson recovered from heart surgery, he had two questions in his mind: Would he ever race again and, if he did, would he ever celebrate his 75th career victory?
Both questions have now been answered for the 54-year-old Mooresville resident, who snapped a 60-race winless streak March 15 in the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
“This means the world to me,” an excited Anderson said. “It was a long drought before I came down with the heart ailment. Then I went through that and, obviously, I wondered if I would ever get back to driving a race car again. I wasn’t even able to attend this race last year, let alone drive a race car in it.”
Before this year’s Gatornationals, Anderson’s most recent victory had come in the 2012 Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J. That year he produced four victories, including one in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. He also placed fifth in the point standings that season.
The following year, he made only one final round appearance. Then, his hopes for the 2014 season came ended about a week before it was to begin, when doctors told him he needed heart surgery. They had been monitoring him for three years and told him that a defective aortic valve had created a 5-centimeter aneurysm.
Dr. Liam Ryan replaced Anderson’s defective valve with a valve from a cow, so he wouldn’t have to take a blood thinner, as required by an artificial valve, and he could race. He also placed about an inch-wide titanium plate on each side of his sternum to strengthen it and replaced the tube behind the valve.
“I have spent a lot of time in the gym working on cardio,” Anderson said. “I had no idea when you go through something like that you lose so much strength. It takes a long time to get your strength back, and I’m still probably not 100 percent. I’m probably 80, 90 percent, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the last nine months working out and trying to build my body back into shape.”
Anderson missed the first five races last year, then rebounded with three runner-up finishes and two semifinal appearances. When he returned to victory lane this season it ironically came against his Summit Racing teammate Jason Line, also of Mooresville.
At the Gatornationals, Line “had been outrunning me all day … and he had been the quicker car all weekend long,” Anderson said. “He had the better car. For whatever the reason, it seemed like it was going to be another close-but-no-cigar. Finally, everything happened right. I got a break, and he made a mistake. I was absolutely shocked when my win light came on. I about stuck my fist through the windshield.”
Anderson defeated Line in the final round with a 6.538-second pass at 213.43 mph to Line’s 6.554, 212.96. Afterward, he noted his reaction time seemed better since his heart surgery.
Anderson’s next race is the Charlotte Four-Wide event, and the veteran noted it’s one of his favorite races because it’s at his home track.
“There are two race tracks on our circuit that we put a little extra pressure on ourselves; the Charlotte race being one of them and the Las Vegas race being the other one because my team owner Ken Black is in Las Vegas,” Anderson said.
“When we first started this race team back in 2001, Ken Black told us he didn’t care how we did all across the country, as long as we did well in Las Vegas. We proceeded to go to that first race in Las Vegas and didn’t qualify.
“Since then we have devoted extra time to Las Vegas to make sure we get that track mastered and we have done the same thing to Charlotte. We don’t want to fall on our face in front of all our family, friends and the shop guys. Thank the Lord we’ve had a lot of success at those tracks since we’ve done that.”
Ken Schrader racing using 4 drivers this season
Concord-based Ken Schrader Racing will use four drivers during the 2015 season, with all being sponsored by Federated Auto Parts. Former NASCAR driver and team owner Ken Schrader will compete in dirt modified and seven ARCA races, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway president Clay Campbell will drive in the May 1 Talladega race, UNC Charlotte student Matt Tifft is handling the driving duties in eight events and Ross Kenseth will compete in two races. Kenseth is the son of NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth.
Campbell finished 35th in the ARCA season opener at Daytona, while Tifft placed sixth in this year’s second event at Mobile, Ala.
Enfinger claims 2nd ARCA victory this season
Huntersville’s Grant Enfinger has claimed the ARCA Mobile 200 in Mobile, Ala., for the third consecutive year. His 10th career victory was also his second straight win this season. The next ARCA race is scheduled for April 11 in Nashville, Tenn.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Deb? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.