(Featured photo courtesy official KB Racing Twitter page; other photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson.

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2016_Greg_Anderson (1)

Driver: Greg Anderson

Age: 55

Hometown: Duluth, Minnesota

Team: KB Racing

Sponsor/car: Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro

Crew chief: Rob Downing/Tim Freeman

2016 season finish: Second in Pro Stock.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 8 wins, 6 runner-up, 5 semifinals, 4 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier seven times. Round-by-round record: 64 wins, 16 losses.

Career statistics: 404 races, 86 wins, 52 runner-up, 64 semifinals, 91 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 87 times. Round-by-round record: 716 wins, 295 losses. 23 DNQ.

What went right in 2016: Anderson and teammate (and eventual champion) Jason Line ruled Pro Stock in 2016, with each driver amassing eight wins apiece. It was a back-and-forth battle all season between the pair, but Line ultimately prevailed by a razor-thin margin of just three points. Ironically, Anderson defeated Line in the final round of the season-ending race, but Line had just enough of a margin to earn his third Pro Stock championship.

What went wrong in 2016: Two things stand out that contributed to Anderson losing such a close championship battle with Line. First, while Anderson claimed seven victories in the first 15 races, he had just one win in the six-race Countdown to the Championship (season-ending race at Pomona). Second, he reached the finals in two other Countdown races (Charlotte 2 and Reading), but finished second. Had he won one of those, or perhaps had gone one extra round in the other three races prior to his season-ending win, he likely would have overtaken Line to earn his fifth career Pro Stock championship.

What to look for in 2017: Anderson has now finished second the last two seasons. Don’t think that’s not lost on the veteran driver. While he has a great relationship with longtime teammate Line, don’t be surprised if 2017 is Anderson’s turn to become the more successful teammate at KB Racing. He’s been hunting for a fifth championship since his last title in 2010 (as well as 2003, 2004 and 2005). Will 2017 finally be the season he earns No. 5?

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.