From peril to performance: NHRA’s Greg Anderson back better than ever

(Photos courtesy NHRA)
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A little over two years ago, four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson’s life – let alone his racing career – appeared in deep peril.

A heart condition that required corrective surgery forced him to miss the first five races of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

“When I came out of the surgery, (his doctor) told me I absolutely wouldn’t have made it through the first race,” Anderson told CompetitionPlus.com in May 2014. “The doctor said the artery was so weak when he touched it, it just fell apart. The lining had been stretched so far and so thin. It wouldn’t have lasted through one more blood pressure spike.”

Many wondered whether Anderson would be able to come back and be as strong and competitive as he had been in the past en route to his four prior championships.

While he admittedly had a rough season when he returned to racing in 2014 – no wins, three runner-up finishes and two other semifinal showings – Anderson has more than proven he’s back at the top of his game since.

“It’s a new chapter for me,” he said after returning to the circuit in 2014. “A new lease on life.”

2016_Greg_Anderson (1)
Greg Anderson has already won 6 races in 2016 and is second in the point standings

In 2015, Anderson proved he was more than fully recovered with his new lease on life, finishing second in the Pro Stock class to Erica Enders, earning four wins along the way.

But that’s nothing compared to the kind of performance Anderson has shown thus far in 2016. In the first 13 races, Anderson has won six races while teammate and series points leader Jason Line has won the other seven national events.

Put simply, KB Racing has absolutely dominated one of the most difficult classes in the sport. And Anderson continued that domination this past Sunday with his 84th career Pro Stock win in the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois.

“This is certainly our hardest fought victory of the year, without a doubt,” Anderson said. “When the chips are down, you have to find something extra. It’s all good and we’re looking forward to the upcoming battle in the coming months.

“Thirteen in a row is amazing, that’s something never believed could have happened. But we found a special way to make it happen.”

Yes, 13 wins in a row by the same team is amazing, but Anderson is no stranger to multi-win seasons by himself: in 2004, he won a record 15 races; the year before in 2003, he won 12 races.

But even though the Line-Anderson juggernaut keeps winning — they’re ranked 1-2 in the Pro Stock standings and are the only drivers in any pro class to have already clinched berths in the upcoming Countdown to the Championship — it’s not as easy now as it may have been earlier in the season.

“It’s a new ballgame right now,” Anderson said. “It’s start over. They’re even with us, if not ahead. It’s exciting, it’s cool and a new development period. Things are learned every day.”

And it’s only going to get harder, Anderson predicted, especially for his team to keep up its winning ways.

“The longer it’s gone on, you wonder if it can go on all year long,” he said. “But that’s ridiculous, and we know that. History tells us that’s not going to happen. Just to win 13 in a row is beyond anybody’s wildest dreams.

“People ask us if we can win the whole year, well no, we can’t win the whole year, we know better than that. But we’re going to try and win as many as we can. Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, it’s certainly been a great start. But we know deep down that if we don’t find more performance, we’re going to get smoked the rest of the year.

“We were dominant in the beginning of the year, but that’s certainly not the case right now. The class has tightened up, as I said all along.

“You’re going to have a new landscape as we get closer to the Countdown (to the Championship). It’s a great indicator of what’s coming up. You have a lot of teams that have made big gains in that weekend off between Norwalk (Ohio) and Joliet. Now we have another weekend before we go to Denver, so we’re really, really going to have to dig in.”

Anderson won three straight Pro Stock championships from 2003 through 2005, and his fourth and most recent one in 2010. Given how close he came last year, the 55-year-old native of Duluth, Minnesota, is ready to win his fifth championship, even though he knows just how difficult it will be to do so in the remaining 11 races, particularly the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

“I’m excited,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s been a lot of fun already, and it’s going to get a lot tougher, so when you win one of these buggers right now, it feels great.

“I always feel better obviously whenever I can win, no matter who I beat, whether it’s Jason or Bo (another teammate, Bo Butner) or the other cars in the class. As a driver, you always want to win. It’s always great when the team wins, and that’s the big picture.

“But we’re selfish as drivers, we have egos just like everybody else, and we want to win. When you get that far, to the final round, you want to seal the deal. Since it’s me that won this one (Joliet), I’m ecstatic as can be.”

As strong as he and Line have been this season, Anderson feels for two-time defending Pro Stock champ Erica Enders, who is having an extremely difficult season in what she hoped would be a third consecutive championship year.

Enders is currently in 11th place. If she does not get back into the top 10 by the conclusion of the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis, she will be watching the championship race from the sideline.

Anderson understands what Enders is going through. He’s been there himself before, as well.

“It’s tough on your mind and it’s hard to dig out of it,” he told NBCSports.com. “I’ve said it many times in the past when I came off winning championships and great seasons, and then you hit that rut, that hole, and you wonder if you can ever win again.

“That’s what I’ve always said determines what makes someone a great champion. If they can find their way out of the hole and act right when they’re in a depression, they can find their way back to the top. She will, she absolutely has what it takes, she’ll find her way back.”

Just like Anderson has found his way back to the top of his game.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series
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After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi