NHRA: Greg Anderson looks to sweep Western Swing

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KENT, Washington – Greg Anderson made history in 2004 when he became the first and only driver in NHRA’s Pro Stock class to sweep the Western Swing, a feat he has the opportunity to replicate this afternoon.

Should the 58-year-old Minnesotan win today’s Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, he will become the only driver in NHRA history to sweep the swing twice in the same class, an achievement he has only recently realized the true significance of.

“Back when I first did it in 2004, I didn’t think much of it because we were winning a lot of races that year,” Anderson told NBC Sports. “But then when you go through a 15-year dry spell where nobody has been able to do it again, you begin to realize how difficult it really is.

“I probably never envisioned I’d be back having the chance to do it again because there’s so much parity in the class now and nobody really goes on a streak like that because there’s too much competition.”

Greg Anderson. Photo: NHRA

But sweeping the swing isn’t just a challenge for Pro Stock drivers. It remains an equally difficult challenge for drivers in NHRA’s other classes.

All-in-all, the swing has only been swept seven times in Mellow Yellow Drag Racing Series competition, and Anderson believes a major factor in the difficulty of accomplishing said feat lies in the unique climates all three racetracks lie in.

“You first go to Denver, which has a 5,000 foot altitude and the cars lose 25% of power, so they don’t want to do anything right,” Anderson said. “It’s just a son-of-a-gun to make the cars run fast in Denver, so that’s a challenge.

“Then you go right to sea level at Sonoma where the air is just wonderful, the cars make a lot of power and racetrack is great, and you can usually run record times. Then you come up here in Seattle the following week where it could be 60 degrees and raining or 85-90 degrees and as humid as could be and the cars can’t hook no matter what they do.

“They’re three completely different races, and that’s kinda why it’s been so difficult for anybody to win all three.”

Winning the Western Swing may be a challenging feat, but Anderson states that he personally enjoys the extra pressure the three-race stretch presents.

“It seems like for whatever reason, every time we’ve gotten into those situations where there’s extra pressure, we seem to do our best,” Anderson said. “I welcome the extra pressure. I like it that way.”


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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”