Four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson to miss first three months of season

1 Comment

In a surprise announcement, four-time NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson will sit out the first three months of the 2014 season due to health-related reasons, according to NHRA.com.

Anderson, 52, of Mooresville, N.C., will undergo heart surgery in the coming days to repair a heart condition that he’s had since birth. He is expected to miss the first six races of the season.

“It’s really not a big deal,” Anderson told NHRA.com. “I was born with a bicuspid aortic heart valve (two valve openings instead of three). It’s something we’ve kept track of over the years, and my doctor has decided it’s time to make some repairs so I stay in good shape.

“I will miss the first few races of the season, but once the doctor says I’m good to go, I’m gonna be right back at it looking for another Pro Stock championship.”

Although Anderson will be sidelined, his Summit Racing Equipment/KB Racing Camaro will not, as eight-time FIA European Drag Racing Pro Stock champ Jimmy Alund will campaign the car in Anderson’s absence.

The new season opens Feb. 6-9 with the annual 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

A native of Sweden, Alund is one of the most dominating drag racers in Europe, having won the Pro Stock championship eight times in the last 10 seasons (2004 through 2009, 2011 and 2013). En route to last year’s championship, he won five of the last six races and also set that continent’s Pro Stock elapsed time (6.534 seconds) and speed (213.31 mph) records in the quarter-mile.

Ironically enough, Alund’s championship winning car last season had a KB Racing motor under the hood, so he already has a familiarity about the type of horsepower he’ll be trying to reign in while driving Anderson’s car.

“I’m really honored to be a part of this organization,” Alund told NHRA.com. “I have some big shoes to fill — Greg is one of the best Pro Stock drivers in the world, bar none. I believe that I’m up to the challenge, though. I’m looking forward to helping KB Racing win another championship.”

This will mark Alund’s second stint on the U.S.-based NHRA national tour, having competed in several Pro Stock events during the 2010 season.

“In the U.S., you are running against the best of the best,” Alund said. “After all, this is the home of drag racing, so you expect that. We don’t race full-time in Europe like the Pro teams do here, but racing is racing — we are just as competitive as the racers in America. This is a great opportunity for me to show that to American race fans.”

Alund’s first two qualifying attempts to make the Winternationals field will take place Friday, Feb. 7.

Hamilton and Vettel already focused on 2018 F1 title battle

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are already looking forward to fighting each other for a fifth Formula One title next year.

With Hamilton wrapping up this year’s title two races ago, the pressure is off this week at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Both are projecting to 2018, where the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.

“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said on Thursday at a news conference. “Back then racing was different. The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”

Only Michael Schumacher with seven titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950-58.

“It was the most dangerous period of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great sporting icon,” Hamilton said of Fangio. “He should be celebrated more for his success. He’s not mentioned a huge amount. He’s kind of the godfather of the sport for the drivers.”

Some may come to revere Hamilton like that in time.

He has won 62 races – second only to Schumacher’s 91 – and holds the record for pole positions with 72. The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles – losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 – and was at the peak of his powers this season.

After trailing Vettel at the halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the German driver by 43 points.

Hamilton is arguably the fiercest competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn the tables.

“Whatever weakness Sebastian had, he’ll work on those over the winter. No one’s perfect, even I have things to work on,” Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. “He’s going to raise the bar next year and I’ll have to as well, otherwise things won’t be the same.

“Ferrari had a very, very good season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn’t down to luck,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the title) next year.”

Considering how poor Ferrari was in 2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning five races compared to none last year.

Vettel joked that winning the title in 2018 will be “a walk in the park” if Ferrari improves by the same amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.

“That final step is always the hardest. But the team is ready and fired up,” said Vettel, who won four titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. “We made the biggest step of all. We lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren’t good enough to take it to the last race, but there’s so much potential still.”

He accepted that he ultimately fell short because “Lewis made less mistakes” than he did.

Poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in September – turning the tide in Hamilton’s favor. Reliability issues plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.

In June, the rivals were embroiled in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.

Vettel drove alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of him. Tempers frayed and barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but subsequently apologized for dangerous driving.

That incident genuinely threatened to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.

Asked on Thursday what their highlight of the season was, both drivers – sitting next to each other – laughed easily when Baku was suggested.

Referring to the upcoming end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.

“I should get (overtaking) move of the year, personality of the year, and fair play … maybe not.”