Former NHRA Pro-Stock champ Greg Anderson proves heart surgery hasn’t slowed him down

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If there was any doubt about former NHRA Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson’s health and whether he could still pilot a race car, it was erased during Monday’s final round of the Summit Racing Equipment Spring Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Anderson underwent heart surgery less than two weeks prior to the start of the season-opening NHRA WinterNationals to repair a defective valve.

As a result, Anderson missed the first five races of the 2014 season recuperating. Had he not undergone the surgery – which the veteran of the quartermile wars originally balked at – Anderson’s doctor said the valve would likely have disintegrated and Anderson could have died, possibly in his race car due to the G-forces and high speeds.

But with his freshly repaired heart and at Atlanta in Monday’s finals, which had been postponed due to rain on Sunday, it was vintage Anderson behind the wheel.

Of course, he had extra incentive to perform well, given that the race was presented by his primary sponsor, Summit Racing.

And while Anderson finished runner-up to five-time and reigning Mello Yello Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin, who earned his first win of the 2014 season, just doing what he did was as close as a win as you can get without actually doing it.

“I had a good day behind the wheel of my Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro,” Anderson said in an NHRA media release. “I’m disappointed because I wanted that win, needed that win, but I’m happy because my health is fine and I can still drive these things. That’s good news.”

Coughlin powered his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart to his 57th career Pro Stock win with a 6.558 at 211.63, bettering Anderson’s effort of 6.588 at 212.13 in the final round.

“It’s great to have Greg back and racing with us,” Coughlin said. “We stayed in touch as he was going through his recovery. Sure, we have different sponsors on the sides of our cars, but we’re a close family out here.”

Reaching the final round at Atlanta proved something very significant to Anderson.

“I know that I can win again, it’s just a matter of time,” Anderson said. “We’re close, but we’re not there yet with our Camaros.

“But now I’ve answered the question: ‘Can I still do this?’ Yes. I can start my racing career over. It’s a new chapter for me. A new lease on life.”

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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.