(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

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.