2022 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS - PRO STOCK NOTEBOOK
FINAL NOTEBOOK - GREG ANDERSON CAPS FAIRYTALE INDY WEEKEND WITH 100TH CAREER PRO STOCK WIN
The march to the milestone is over for Pro Stock superstar Greg Anderson.
Anderson captured his coveted 100th career Pro Stock NHRA national event victory at his favorite race the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis
Anderson claimed his century mark win when his KB Racing teammate Dallas Glenn had a redlight start in the other lane.
“I don’t know if I could explain it,” said Anderson, who is NHRA’s all-time leader in Pro Stock national event wins. “It is incredible. I kept asking myself
what do I have to do to win. It wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be at Indy obviously. What a cool, cool deal. I have made no bones about telling
everybody all my career how special Indy is to me. It means everything. It means 10 times more than any other race. There is a lot of other special
racetracks on my schedule obviously Vegas, Charlotte, the Gatornationals and all those great race tracks I have had success at, but nothing compares
“It is an out of body experience when you win here (in Indy). To win No. 100 here I just can’t possibly ask for anything more than that. I’m a lucky man
not only to say I won 100 races, but to win 100 at Indy. It is incredible. It means everything to me.”
This was Anderson’s first victory of the season and his seventh at the U.S. Nationals. He also won at Indy in 2001, 2003, 2004-2006 and 2011. Only Bob Glidden has more U.S. Nationals Pro Stock wins with nine in 1973-74, 1978-79, 1983, and 1985-88.
“It’s wonderful,” said Anderson of his mastery in Indy. “It’s fantastic. I remember back in the day when we were winning quite often, from 2001 to 2011 we won six times. It was pretty crazy. You're convinced that I might win 10 of these. I can remember Frank Manzo I think he won like 10 times here and I can remember him saying that 'I’m nothing Greg Anderson already has six and he’s going to blow way past me.' Then times become tough, and it became hard to win here and I’m not going to catch him and that’s Ok. That just tells you how special Frank Manzo is and hard it is and how hard Indy is. In the heyday, we were knocking them off right and left and now when you go through a slump like this or whatever you want to call it, tougher times, you really appreciate it. Today was probably my most special Indy ever not only for the 100th reason, but to win Indy at this stage of my career is beyond believe.”
Anderson’s dream weekend included him being the No. 1 qualifier and defeating Fernando Cuadra Sr., Troy Coughlin Jr., Fernando Cuadra Jr. and
Anderson’s Pro Stock journey began 40 years ago as an apprentice to the late John Hagen, who died in a crash in Aug. 19, 1983, in Brainerd, Minn.
“It is funny that you bring that up because his son, David was here this weekend,” Anderson said. “He had to leave (Sunday), but he felt like something special was going to happen this weekend. The kids have stayed very close to me ever since that day and I love them to death. They came here because they felt like something special was going to happen. I’m definitely going to have to give him a call as soon as I walk out the door out here. They are a very special family. It is where it all started. I can absolutely say with 100 percent sincerity I would not be here today if it wasn’t for that family. It is incredible what they did for me and the love they showed me.
“It 100 percent started there, and I don’t talk enough about it about the Hagen family and how special they were. Anybody who knew him back in the
day, no one would say a bad word about him. You don’t have many in the world and he was one of those guys. I was very fortunate to spend time with
him. I treated him as he was my second father. It was a sad, sad deal, but I wouldn’t be here without him. It is as simple as that.”
One of Anderson’s other key mentors was Warren Johnson, and he receives a lot of credit for crafting Anderson into what he is today, but Anderson
acknowledged that Hagen also taught him profound lessons he employees now.
“There’s no question Warren opened my vision to a lot of different things and certainly educated me on a lot of things that I had not already learned,”
Anderson said. “But I had a good basic skill set when I came to Warren and that’s because of John Hagen. I guess between the two of them they have
got me to where I’m at today. They taught me how to work on race cars. They taught me how to work hard. I learned that northern Minnesota work
ethic and I brought it with me all my career.
“I tell people every day that I have never met anyone in my life that has failed in life by working hard. If you just work hard, you’re going to succeed in life. It is really that simple. I’m not a brain surgeon and I’m not the smartest person out there, but I work hard, and I have learned that from them. It is a valuable, valuable lesson that a lot of people now-a-days could learn from.”
Anderson joins an elite club of drivers – John Force, Frank Manzo, Dan Fletcher, and David Rampy – who have won at least 100 NHRA national events.
“It is incredible,” said Anderson about being in that exclusive club. “A couple three years ago when I was breaking over the 90 mark and I chased down
Warren (Johnson) with 97, I tried not to think about it. I was having too much fun racing. I was thinking I could race forever and now I’m certainly coming closer to the end of my driving career. I’m 61 years old. I have to be realistic.
“You can’t compete with Dallas Glenn and all these young guys out there who can go 00 on the light every time. My days are numbered but I got 100
and I don’t think I’m done. I think I’m going to get a few more and I’m not going to quit until basically I can’t win anymore, but I know that day is coming because the competition just keeps going up every year. It is pretty cool deal. I think it is wonderful that the class is full of all these young guns coming into it. I think that is pretty neat, but if it was just all the young guns it might not have the zip that is has now. You still have to have a couple of crusty old veterans who still can do it and who still can win to compete with these young guys who can do it. I think that’s what makes the class so cool.
Anderson, who also is the reigning NHRA world champion, had a candid answer as to when he became ‘crusty.’
“A lot of years ago,” he said.
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - GREG ANDERSON BEGINS ANOTHER JOURNEY TO #100 FROM THE TOP SPOT
GREG ANDERSON TAKES NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT IN INDY – Greg Anderson’s latest march to his milestone 100th career national event victory will start from the No. 1 spot.
Anderson clocked a 6.567-second elapsed time at 208.10 mph on Saturday to move to the top of the ladder, and he held onto it through Sunday.
It’s the 121st No. 1 career qualifying spot, his third this season, and His third in a row. His best race-day outings this season are runner-up showings at Sonoma and Topeka.
“This proves that we have a hot rod that can win again, and quite honestly, we didn’t have that the first eight to 10 races of the year,” Anderson said.
“We just weren’t quite up to par, and we were getting outrun by (Elite Motorsports), basically. We have done a lot of work over the last three months, and it is starting to pay off. We are starting to climb that ladder back up with a car that can win again.
“We just have to put it all together Monday: the car, and more importantly, the driver. The driver is going to have to get his act together and get the job done. It is not easy out there. There are a lot of young guns, and a lot of great drivers out there and a lot of people who can cut double-oh lights. I have two or three of them on my own team I have to fight off.”
Anderson has won the U.S. Nationals six times (2001, 2003, 2004-2006, 2011). Only Bob Glidden has more U.S. Nationals Pro Stock wins with nine (1973-74, 1978-79, 1983, 1985-88)
“You come to Indy and honestly you have 16 cars that can win,” Anderson said. “It is the tightest field we have had all year, and we knew that coming in here. It happens every year. … To qualify No. 1 feels fantastic and tells us we have one of those cars to go win a race.”
Anderson discussed how the marathon at Indy turns into a sprint on race day.
“You have to save a little bit for Monday because that’s the big day, that’s what it is all about,” Anderson said. “It seems like a marathon going through qualifying, and we are not even to race day yet. It has been a long week, but it has been a great week.
“The racetrack has been excellent every run. We had qualifying runs that were so close in performance, and that’s why the field is so bunched up. Who can bring the biggest gun (Monday)? There are a lot of big guns out there, and who will bring the biggest one to the starting line. It is going to be great.”
In addition to handling the driving duties on the HendrickCars.com Camaro, Anderson calls the tuning shots. What advice would the tuner have for the driver?
“He didn’t listen very well (Sunday), the driver was the weak link,” Anderson said. “I told you guys (on Saturday) because we qualified so well that we were going to experiment with some stuff (Sunday). I put some different parts on the race car for (Sunday) morning, and the driver screwed the run up. I cheated the clutch pedal. It lost the rev limiter and went to the high rev limiter and shook the tires. I completely lost all the data on that run. Then I came back (Sunday afternoon), and it wasn’t anywhere near on tune-up. I can’t be doing things like that (Monday).
“Hopefully I got it out of my system (Sunday) and tomorrow the driver has all his wits about him, and he doesn’t make a mistake because there’s no room for mistakes in this class.”
Then Anderson offered a self-assessment of the driver.
“I don’t claim to be the world’s best driver out there,” Anderson said. “I try to not screw things up, to be honest with you. I consider a lot of other guys a lot purer drivers than I am. I’m an all-around guy. I like working on the car. I like working on the engine, and I like to drive it. I don’t think of those three things that driving is my strong point, but I usually don’t be accused of being that weak at it, either.
“There is no room at all to be weak at this race, and I’m going to have to be the strongest driver Greg Anderson has ever been. I think I can.”
DALLAS GLENN EYES EVEN MORE SUCCESS THIS SEASON – Dallas Glenn was NHRA’s Pro Stock Rookie of the Year in 2021, finishing fourth in the points on the strength of three wins.
Glenn rolled into the U.S. Nationals sixth in the ‘22 points, and he’s aiming for success in Indy. He qualified second for Monday’s eliminations with a 6.578-second elapsed time at 207.72 mph.
“We raced on Sunday (here) last year, so it wasn't the traditional U.S. Nationals,” Glenn said. “This is where we're back to traditional U.S. Nationals. And you can definitely tell there's a lot of people here. The crowd's really good. There's a lot of cars here. And the prestige, you can definitely feel it in the air.”
Glenn is a teammate to Anderson and Kyle Koretsky at KB Racing, and he is upbeat about what he can accomplish.
“I'm really excited about this year,” Glenn said. “My car's running really good right now. I'm really happy with where the car is. I feel like I'm doing pretty good as a driver as well, so I feel like I'm ready for the Countdown (to the Championship, the last six races of the season) and this will be a good test.”
Although Glenn had an outstanding rookie season in 2021, he craves more.
“I guess you could say I'm a little bit of a competitive person, with all the bracket racing that I've done,” he said. “I went out there, and I don’t want to say I expected to win, but I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't. I know I have a good car here at KB Racing. They're going to do the best that they can for me and for the car.”
The 2021 season is where Glenn digested plenty of information.
“I felt like I had a good season last year, definitely. I learned a lot and I was having a blast and just kind of riding a wave, I guess,” Glenn said. “This year has been a little bit ... I can definitely tell I've relaxed in the car a little bit, which may be a good thing for some things and not a good thing for other things.
“This car has been … a different car this year, and it's been a little bit ... some things have been really good with it, some things have been a little bit slightly frustrating from last year. I don't know if it's me or the car or a combination of things. I feel like I'm kind of getting it dialed in, and I'm really excited.”
Glenn also realizes his team needs to be peaking in the Countdown if it wants to win a world title. “Obviously, the car that does the best at the end of the season is usually the champion, and I feel like we're finally getting our stride right at the right time here,” Glenn said. “Hopefully we can have just a little bit of luck and I feel like we've gotten all the small little bad luck gremlins out of the way, so I've been saving my luck for the end of the season.”
Competing at the Pro Stock level in NHRA is an experience Glenn relishes.
“There's so many things,” Glenn said of what he loves about Pro Stock. “Obviously, the fans are a new experience for me. I didn't ever experience that before with bracket racing. But it's such a tough, difficult technical car to drive, and when it makes a good run, you just can't help but smile. It's so fun.”
In a class that is full of young guns like Koretsky, Mason McGaha, and Aaron Stanfield, Glenn wants to be at the top of that list.
“I do take a lot of pride and put a lot of pressure on my myself to try to be the best,” Glenn said. “I feel like all the money that everybody spends with RAD Torque and Summit, KB Racing, that it's the driver's job to get every last bit out of the car he can. And the reaction time is a big chunk of it. There's a lot of races that could be won just by reaction time. It's the driver's job. For me, I'm not happy unless I'm 0.15 or better every run.”
CONNOLLY HAS INDY SUCCESS IN SPADES – Dave Connolly has carved out a great career in NHRA, first as a driver and as a crew chief. He’s now part of the tuning braintrust at KB Racing.
Connolly had success propelling Shane Gray and Tanner Gray to U.S. Nationals wins. He would like to add another name to that list Monday from KB.
“This is always that race that everyone wants to knock off their checklist,” Connolly said. “Greg's obviously won it many a times, but we've got the younger drivers like Kyle and Dallas, and this is definitely one that's big on their priority (list). They're hungry this weekend. It’s the ‘Big Go,’ and it's one that you want to retire with, with the trophy on your shelf.”
This season the KB Racing team has been chasing the stable of cars at its rival Elite Motorsports paced by four-time world champion Erica Enders. Enders has a class-high six wins this season.
“We're better than we have been all year, I'll just say that,” Connolly said. “We're never satisfied, I guess. We're still working to get better, but we were a little off all year, to be honest with you. And, really, until Seattle, we finally kind of got our stuff together.
“So, it's getting better. All the cars are running and tightened up and going into the Countdown. Just look at the qualifying sheet and you can tell it's going to be a battle.”
When Connolly isn’t tuning with KB Racing, he’s driving in bracket races.
“I've got my '66 Chevy II wagon that I've been bracket racing, and had a pretty good last couple months with it,” Connolly said. “It got to the semis in the 500-grander in Michigan and won a 100-grander a few weeks back and runnered-up in a little 64-car shootout last week in Ohio. So, it's been going well.
“We got one more 100-grander in Montgomery next weekend. We're going to hit that up, and then probably take a little hiatus from the bracket scene until the Florida races through November, December. Those are close to home.”
HARTFORD HOPING TO TAKE CARE OF UNFINISHED BUSINESS – Matt Hartford is a veteran in NHRA’s Pro Stock class, and he would love nothing more to leave the U.S. Nationals as a champion.
“Make less mistakes than the other 15 people,” Hartford said about his approach for Monday’s race. “Simple.”
Hartford’s team struggled early in the season, but did get things on track with a big win at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver in July. Hartford wants to recreate some of that magic at Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
“I think we came here and went back to a lot of things that we know,” Hartford said. “We've been testing a lot over the last several races and it showed that we haven't been very good. So, we went back to some baseline stuff that we know coming into this, because it's points and a half and we're going into the Countdown. Two years ago, we lost by the narrowest of margins here in the final round. And we're here to close the deal this year.”
Hartford qualified fourth at 6.584 seconds.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN – When qualifying concluded Sunday, only two drivers were on the outside looking in: Alan Prusiensky (6.674 seconds) and Larry Morgan (6.714 seconds) were No. 17 and No. 18 on the ladder.
Fernando Cuadra Sr. grabbed the final spot in the field with a 6.661-second lap at 206.57 mph.
ANDERSON LOOKING TO SMASH THROUGH THE FACTORY HOT ROD CENTURY BARRIER
WINNINGEST DRIVER IN PRO STOCK TAKES PROVISIONAL LEAD AFTER THREE QUALIFYING SESSIONS - Greg Anderson is the winningest Pro Stock driver in NHRA history with 99 national event victories.
He would love nothing more to capture milestone victory No. 100 at the U.S. Nationals.
Anderson has won the sport’s most-prestigious event six times (2001, 2003, 2004-2006, 2011). Only Bob Glidden has more U.S. Nationals Pro Stock wins with nine (1973-74, 1978-79, 1983, 1985-88).
“Yeah, it would definitely mean everything,” said Anderson about winning in Indy this weekend. “It's been a struggle to get No. 100, I'm not going to lie, but I guess that's the way it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be difficult. It's definitely putting me through the wringer, and wearing me out, trying to get it done, but I couldn't write a better story. If I was able to find a way to get it done here at Indy, that would be the best story I could write. That would mean the most to me. It would be a perfect cap to the number 100. So, I'm going to give it all I got, I can tell you that. That's up to the big guy upstairs if it's my time or not. If it's not, we'll go on to Reading (Pa.) and try and get done there, but I would love nothing better than for it to happen here.”
Anderson took a small step in reaching that goal as the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock after three qualifying sessions in Indy at 6.567 seconds, 208.10 mph.
“Wanting and hoping for yes,” Anderson said of the run. “That’s what the numbers said. Reviewing the weather change we had from last night to this afternoon to tonight the temperature kept dropping the longer we went so the further back you were in the pack (to run) the more advantage you had. That was the one, we knew coming up here tonight, this was going to be the pole run without a doubt.
“We picked the right time to really make a perfect run. There’s not very often a driver said they made a perfect run, but I made a perfect run. Everything about it was right on the money. The car was perfect, and it seemed like I hit my shift points perfect, and the car stayed perfectly straight, and you just don’t do that that often.”
Dallas Glenn, Anderson’s teammate, is second on the qualifying ladder with a 6.578-second lap, followed by Erica Enders at 6.582 seconds.
Lucas Oil Raceway Park has a special place in Anderson’s heart.
“This place means the most to me,” he said. “It always has, I make no bones about that. I love this race. I love the fact that it's bigger, it's more important than every other race. I love that. A lot of people don't really like that about it, I love it. So, I think it would be the perfect deal. I just hope and pray I can write that story.”
Anderson arrived in Indy fourth in the points but has yet to win a race this season.
“We're definitely close,” said Anderson about getting a win. “We're knocking on the door. We've made two of the last three finals. So, we're back to where we can win again. No, haven't won yet, but we're back to where we can. We've got a good chance each weekend. So, I can't say that for the first eight, 10 races of the year, we weren't there. We were not capable of winning. We were not ready to win, but now I think we are, and as the year has gone on, we've gained and now we're going into the playoffs, and you know what they say, you got to peak at the right time, and I think we are.
“We're definitely on the uphill climb, going into the playoffs. So, I think the future looks good. We're certainly not out of this championship yet either, when we reset the points next week, it'll be game on again and start over. I'm a different race team than I was to start the season. So, we're back in the fight.”
Although Anderson has nothing to prove in Pro Stock, he has no plans of getting out the seat.
“It's the competition,” said Anderson about why he wants to continue to race. “I just love the competition. I absolutely love the competition, and the tougher it gets, the more I like it, I guess, because it gives you such a great feeling when you succeed. When you conquer that mountain, and when you win on Sunday, that's ... there's no better feeling. The tougher it is, the better that feeling is. So, I guess that's why I love it.”
ENDERS TALKS ABOUT U.S. NATIONALS – Erica Enders’ fantastic season continued Friday in Q1 at the U.S. Nationals. She clocked a 6.598-second elapsed time to take the provisional No. 1 spot.
“It's definitely really exciting,” Enders said. “We're coming here with two consecutive victories at the U.S. Nationals. So, we've had a lot of success here and I'm definitely looking forward to that trend. Having said that, I know the tough competition that's out there, but we've got a new motor in my car. We ran up to Tulsa (Okla.) to test and the rigs left from there to come straight here. We saw some promising numbers and we figured we're going to run it here and see what happens. So, it's definitely a good start looking at the graph. There's definitely some left in that run, and we'll just hopefully continue to trend forward, but we get hotter and ickier through the weekend. So hopefully it stays. But if not, either way, I've got a great racecar fired up to run here on Monday.”
Enders did acknowledge that getting off on the right foot was a boost for her and the Elite Motorsports team.
“I know I've talked a lot about it, but our mindset as a team coming into this season, with the fashion that we lost the championship in last year, we just wanted to come out swinging this year and I think we've done that,” said Enders, who has won a class-best six races this season.
“I think we've proved it with Elite Motorsports winning 10 of the 12 events contested, so we're going to continue rocking it, and I'm really excited about it. It's definitely something that I think about when I can't sleep at night. We've won six races so far this year, but here we are at the U.S. Nationals, and it’s points and a half, the last race for regular season before the (six-race Countdown) starts. So, we obviously want to end that part of the season on a great foot, but it's all about capitalizing on the final six races. So, we know what we have to do.”
During 2020 and 2021, the storied U.S. Nationals didn’t end on Labor Day because of COVID-19 restrictions, but it returns to finals on Monday this time around.
“That's pretty neat,” she said. “I'm excited about it. There have been a lot of races that we've gone to that we only get three qualifiers. So, having five here, when we left the shop, we made sure that we had all the parts and pieces and all our ducks in a row with seven Pro Stock cars out here (for Elite Motorsports). There's bound to be some support failures and some issues that happen, but we feel like showing up here on property, we're absolutely as prepared as possible, so we plan on winning races before we leave the shop, but it's cool to have five qualifying runs and then race for all the marbles on Monday.”
With the extra qualifying sessions, Enders discussed her team’s strategy.
“I mean, a little bit in the sense that you have the one-night session,” Enders said. “That's obviously going to be the best weather conditions. The other four are going to be run in the heat of the day. So, we try to come off the trailer. Obviously, it's your first run, so you want to be fast enough to try to take the pole, but not so on the edge where you're going to have to afford the run. So, it's a fine line. I'm glad that's my crew chief's job and not my job, but the mindset. No, I don't think it changes it, but it's definitely something that we take into consideration before we make our final setup.”
Enders has been coming to Indy for nearly three decades, and she took a trip down memory lane.
“So, before I was a racecar driver, I was a fan, and just the weight that the U.S. Nationals carries is super intense and I always loved watching it,” Enders said. “My sister (Courtney) and I first competed here. I was older, so she was watching at the time, but in 1994, they ran the inaugural Junior Drag Racing League nationals before they split it into conference finals. We were here in 1994 for that, made it to the final round.
“It just holds so much value, and I went to (Texas) A&M, and we have this saying ‘From the outside, looking in, it's hard to understand, and from the inside looking out, it's hard to explain.’ I feel like Indy is the same way. If you've never been here, if you've never competed in it, you've never worked on a part, you never watched it, you don't get just how meaningful it is until you've done it, and every year it's more emotional. It's better and it just means everything to all of us so we're going to do our best to get it done.”
FERNANDO CUADRA SR. PROUD OF THE PROGRESS OF HIS SONS –It has taken a little bit of time but Fernando Cuadra Sr. and sons Fernando Jr. and Cristian are earning respect with their Ford Mustangs. Cuadra Jr. has won eight rounds this season, and Cristian has four round wins.
“From a father’s perspective, I never expect to be that way, but also, they outrun me by far. They went way above me, and they showed me what they were doing is special. Besides that, they are hungry. They want to make it. So, I raise them a little bit of cold, a little bit of hungry and the value of the money.
“So, they work for it. You come and see them. They're working themselves, and they prototype their own deals.. … They are very focused. They are not the Friday night drinking and partying type. They are talking all day long about racing and how to improve and do better.”
The Cuadras are working with Elite Motorsports this season, and that’s a change Fernando Sr. is happy he made.
“Now coming to the world finals and with a good chance to do something important because we finally found the combination, thanks to Richard Freeman and Elite,” Cuadra Sr. said. “Not only Richard – Richard is the owner – but all the guys, they get along very well with my sons. They say, ‘Let's change this. Let's try that.’ They took my car – Richard Freeman was driving my car, testing on Tuesday. They rented a track privately, and he is driving the car and my car and Erica was driving also. So, three cars to see what's wrong.
“So, now with a combination of engines and packages from Frank Iaconio and Kyle (from Elite) together working in a program, we really stepped up the programs heavy. Kyle is a nerd, he's a genius. And then the tuning guys, let me tell you, and then Frank Iaconio came onboard and brainstorming and putting together with 50 years of experience. Now you will see the next five races how it's going to work.”
Although most of the competitors in the Pro Stock class campaign Camaros, it was an easy decision for the Cuadras to field Mustangs.
“We grew up with Mustangs in Mexico, so it was a must and desirable,” Cuadra Sr. “From 1965 all the way to ‘70, all I had was the Mustangs. So, my sons, it was inheritance on life with my Mustangs for them. They love them. When I told them, ‘What about Camaros?,’ they said, ‘We grew up with Mustangs. Why you want to change to Camaros? We love the Mustangs.’”
Fernando Cuadra Sr.said he also has a 2023 Mustang completed for his other son, David, who runs Top Sportsman.
“We are going to slow (David’s car) down to bring it to a lower speed,” Cuadra Sr. said. “He wants to race Pro Mod in that car, and they go 260 mph, 255. I told him, ‘Hey, we are going to cut a lot of power and bring it in Justin Elks.’ It's at his shop right now, the car. He's going to set everything up for him.”
Cuadra Sr. said David will run Top Sportsman in 2023 and a limited Pro Mod schedule. “We need to see the speed,” Cuadra Sr. said. Cuadra Sr. said the plan is also to have David run some Pro Stock next season.
“He's going to try Pro Stock and see if he likes it or not, but he has already told me he wanted to run Pro Mod,” Cuadra Sr. said. “He wanted to run Pro Mod, and I promised him that opportunity. He just graduated from college as an industrial engineer (major). And my promise is the car.”
BO BUTNER LOOKS TO GET TEAM ON RIGHT TRACK IN INDY – Bo Butner is a former NHRA Pro Stock, but 2022 has been a struggle.
Butner, who’s racing under the Elite Motorsports umbrella, arrived at the U.S. Nationals 10th in the points standings and with a mere seven round wins.
“(This year) has been a learning experience,” Butner said. “They've really worked … they showed me how hard they work. The Elite group is, they've tried everything you can try on the silver car and got one more thing we're going to try and then go test it some. This was Erica (Enders’) new car, and she was kind enough to let me have it in Topeka. It actually showed up in Topeka (Aug. 12) that Friday. That was the first hit on it. Yeah, and it seems to be good. Making a good run, so I'm happy with it. Whatever's the best, that’s what we're going to stay in.”
Butner said he wished this season had gone better, but is keeping things in perspective.
“The thing about 2022 is, if you look, the field's much closer,” he said. “From top to the bottom, it's probably one of the toughest years for a driver. I think now you have to drive. I like that because it's hard.”
Butner said he believes he will be back in Pro Stock in 2023
“Jason Johnson, if he decides we want to keep playing, we'll keep playing. If not, we might go run F1 or something. You never know. He's fortunate enough, he can go do what he wants. He’s a great guy and a great friend.”
Despite his tough season, Butner just wants to stay in the top 10 points to compete in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
“All we want to do is have a chance,” Butner said. “And they keep points for you, so it's pretty easy, but I feel like I can still drive. If I didn't, I'd put somebody else in the car, but we not only want to win some races, but have a shot to win the world.”
MCGAHA A FAMILY PRO STOCK TEAM WITH HIGH EXPECTATIONS – The McGaha family race team has turned heads in NHRA Pro Stock: Chris has eight national-event wins, and his son, Mason, 20, has been to 10 semifinal rounds in just 37 races.
“Like I said, I did those COVID races, so I feel like I got my feet wet here doing all those races,” Mason said about competing in Indy. “Then we ran last year (here), and we ran decent. I mean, it's the ‘Big Go,’ but it didn't really intimidate me much. It takes a lot to rattle me.”
Mason has had some impressive runs in his brief Pro Stock career, but he’s far from satisfied.
“Well, I haven't won yet,” Mason said. “I feel like a failure. I mean, we've had good races, but I haven't won. I want to win. I can look at those and go, ‘Well, we did good.’ But we have not won. Erica's won how many races this year?” It's consistency. We can pop off those runs, reaction time and ET wise, but you’ve got to do it four times in a row on race day. You can't do it first run and choke the second round or semis or whatever. You got to do it every run. And that's pretty much our only issue I feel like at this point is just doing it every run.”
Mason acknowledges his career-choice was all about racing.
“I mean, I've always grown up around it,” Mason said. “It's just ... I don't know any different. I’ve always been around it. Our family reunion, instead of going and doing a barbecue, we go to the drag races. My dad is easy to work with. He's pretty patient. I mean, he was really good for me licensing because he was the one who kept the whole thing together. It was like the ship was falling apart and he kind of kept it all together. And here we are now.”
At his young age, Mason is appreciative of the opportunity he has in racing.
“You get to race against Greg Anderson and all that,” Mason said. “Because as little kids, he was like my Derek Jeter for racing. I was like, ‘Oh, Greg Anderson, Greg Anderson.’ So, getting to race with him and just how competitive the class is. It's cool to be a part of that.”
Chris said he’s enjoyed seeing Mason’s progression, and would love nothing more than to see him get a Wally.
“It's been good, but I'm with him, the end goal is to win a race,” Chris said. “I would've thought we would've been able to do it by now, but we haven’t. So that's really the end goal. It would be pretty good to watch it go from we can't even do a burnout to we won a race.”
Chris takes pride that he provides his team with in-house engines.
“I always have (done my own engine program), I mean, that's probably helped me be able to afford to do it,” Chris said. “Even though that is a big expense too, but you are the controller of your own destiny at that point. When you're renting, yeah, you're at somebody's mercy.”
Chris said he has no plans to stop driving.
“No, no, no. I still enjoy doing it,” Chris said. “I still would love to win. It's been a little harder the last few years. I turned it red in Dallas last year and really, we've kind of stunk it up since then. Even into this year, it's like, ‘Why have we struggled so bad?’ I still want to win probably as bad as he does, but it hasn't worked out very well.
“You get off on tangents in this deal and trying to go faster. Feel like some things have changed that we've had to adapt to for some reason; why, I don't know. We've changed a lot coming here. Because the last two races were pretty ... I mean, we ran really good in Denver and we ran really good in Sonoma and then we went to Seattle and Topeka, and we should have just stayed home and saved the money. It was bad. It was really bad. We made seven straight runs with the silver car and never went down” the track.
“That kind of stuff is – that's pretty trying your patience, it really is. We went to Martin, Mich. (on Monday and Tuesday). He couldn't go. So, I drove both cars. I mean, we felt like coming here we were pretty good, but we've changed so much that it's like, ‘What is it, really?’ So we were a little hesitant going up there last night. We were like, ‘Well, this is more than we've been doing.’ And then we thought, ‘OK, well we can do even more.’”
KENNY DELCO RETURNS TO COMPETITION – Veteran Pro Stock racer Kenny Delco had been missing from the last few races, but has returned to action at Indy.
“First is to qualify, and then try to go some rounds and see what happens,” Delco said about his goals for this weekend. “Hopefully it's not going to rain. We get four sessions, five sessions, we'll be alright.”
Delco said that he missed races to undergo surgery on his left shoulder, adding that doctors told him it was a now-or-never scenario to repair. He then opted to bypass the Western Swing given the high price of diesel fuel.
Delco is upbeat about this weekend.
“We got enough power to get in,” Delco said. “If we have enough smarts, that's another thing.”
Delco said his team is still running engines from Frank Iaconio’s shop.
“We changed cars, too,” he said. “That was the other thing. It's my old car. We were doing some work to it, and I didn't take it out until just now. We had a break when the Western Swing, I was going to take it there, but we didn't. I ran it (this car) last year and the end of last year. I was running Val Smeland’s car. I like drag racing. What else am I going to do? I like being home, but I like drag racing.”
ENDERS TAKES PROVISIONAL NO. 1 SPOT FRIDAY – Erica Enders’ amazing season in 2022 picked up momentum on Friday during Q1 of the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Enders clocked a 6.589-second elapsed time at 208.49 mph in Elite Motorsports Camaro at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. Enders and Dallas Green had identical elapsed times, but Enders took the top spot because she had a 208.49 mph, while Green was a tick slower at 208.01 mph.
Enders arrived in Indy with six wins and two runner-up finishes this season and is first in the points standings. She also has been No. 1 qualifier three times this season.
PRO STOCK NEWCOMER CARUSO DOESN’T LACK CONFIDENCE – Sometimes when drivers transition up to NHRA’s Pro Stock class there can be a lengthy learning curve. That, however, hasn’t been the case for Camrie Caruso, who has turned heads in her rookie season.
Caruso, 24, arrived at the U.S. Nationals eighth in the season points standings and has eight round wins.
“It’s been awesome, honestly,” Caruso said about her season. “It’s all based on my team and the people I have surrounding me. They have a million years of expertise with it, so we definitely couldn’t have done as good as we’ve done without the team we have in place. It’s been awesome. It’s a dream come true, and I’m thankful for the guys around me. We have Jim Yates and now we have (his son) Jamie Yates, and Mike Smith does the engine tuning. We have a lot of brains.”
Caruso’s trek to driving in the Pro Stock ranks was years in the making.
“I started in Juniors and then I went to Super Comp, Top Dragster, Top Alcohol Dragster, and then Pro Stock,” she said. “I was originally going to run Pro Mod, but the plan changed when my dad shattered his back (racing in a) Pro Mod (car). My papa changed my plans. Like I said, the people around me. They’ve been awesome teachers.”
Although some drivers would have modest goals – especially in their debut season in Pro Stock – Caruso aimed higher.
“I told everybody from the start, ‘If we’re not out here to win like everybody else, I don’t want to do it. I’m not interested in just being a filler,” Caruso said. “To me, it means nothing to be a filler.”
Caruso is hopeful she can find a home in the Pro Stock class.
“Hopefully, yeah. Hopefully, things still keep on going well sponsor-wise and all of that,” Caruso said. “We'll be here for a while.”
Caruso part of her bravado is fueled by Toni Yates, Jim’s wife.
“She’s always positive, and good to go to with everything,” Caruso said.
Being part of the storied U.S. Nationals is something Caruso welcomes, and she would be thrilled to walk away with a Wally on Monday afternoon.
“Honestly, it's every driver’s dream,” Caruso said. “We’re out here, we’re going to give it our all. Hopefully, we can win it and that’ll be great, but there’s a lot of tough people in this class. The class is very tight.”
AARON STANFIELD AIMS TO KEEP HIS MOMENTUM ROLLING IN INDY – The 2022 NHRA season has been a career-best for Pro Stock driver for Aaron Stanfield.
The Shreveport, La., native already has wins in Phoenix and Bristol to go with four runner-up finishes. Stanfield arrived at the U.S. Nationals second in the points in his Janac Brothers Racing Camaro.
“It’d be pretty big,” said Stanfield about winning Pro Stock at Indy. “I mean, it’ss something my dad (Greg) knew... It was really special to him, and I guess that kind of instilled how important this race is, and how important it is to everybody who races at it, this is the one to win. So, winning Pro Stock would be awesome. And I guess to really take the cake and to be able to have the opportunity to go for it. That would be really cool.”
Stanfield is doing double duty this weekend as he also racing in the Factory Stock Showdown ranks, a class in which he’s won world championships.
“I think whenever I’m busy, kind of, I don’t know, it helps,” the 27-year-old Stanfield said. “I guess it just kind of keeps me active, keeps the blood going all day. So, I enjoy having a lot to do. I always say I’d rather have my plate full than empty.”
Being part of the Elite Motorsports team that has captured multiple championships is something for which Stanfield is grateful.
“There's always a little bit of healthy competition within the team, but at the end of the day, everybody’s kind of on the same page,” Stanfield said. “I mean, they all really push (to get) the team to be prepared, and I think it’s just important, it’s important that the team Elite has success, and, of course, individually, whoever’s working on whichever car they’re driving, whichever car they want to win, of course.”
If this season didn’t have enough going on for Stanfield, he and his wife, Joleigh, had a baby girl, Oakleigh, who is six months old.
“She’s not here at the races this weekend,” Aaron said of his his daughter. “She’s got to come out to a few races, and she’s already been in a couple winner’s circle pictures, so that’s been a really cool experience. Hopefully I can continue as she gets a little bit older, and she can kind of understand a little bit what we're doing.
“Joleigh and I are building our family, and so it's cool to ... it's just good to have success and have that positive momentum growth.”
CONFIDENCE RIDING HIGH FOR COUGHLIN JR. AFTER BACK-TO-BACK VICTORIES – Midway through the 2022 NHRA Pro Stock season, it seemed like Troy Coughlin Jr., couldn’t buy a round win, much less win a race.
After Coughlin lost in the first round to Fernando Cuadra Jr. in Bristol on June 19, he dropped to 11th in the points standings.
Things then changed in a big way for at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle at the end of July. Coughlin, in his Jegs.com Camaro under the Elite Motorsports umbrella, roared past the competition. He ultimately beat his teammate and world champion Erica Enders in the finals — his first Pro Stock win in 52 events. He followed that up with a victory at Topeka two weeks later.
Despite his recent run of success, Coughlin has kept his feet on the ground as he arrived in Indy fifth in points and with an impressive 15-9 record in eliminations.
“You know it’s really like coming in the gate, it’s just like going into Topeka and Seattle,” Coughlin said of showing up at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. “It’s just the same places. You drive it, you need to be as flawless as you can be, and need to be the best that you can possibly be. So, it takes a whole unit, every single individual on this team.
“We’re ready to keep attacking this Pro Stock field. We’ll stick to the races as we have been this past month or so and keep enjoying this great race car that we have.”
Coughlin said he couldn’t pinpoint a moment when his team clicked, it simply came to fruition as the product of hard work.
“I think that we, you know, between everybody here at Elite Motorsports, we sorted out a new car,” said Coughlin, 32. “I just think that took some time and I don’t have as many runs as some of the other drivers, as learning the cars and learning the nuances and figuring out where the quirks are. I just think we got it ironed out, and racer ready, and we are ready to go here at the Big Go.”
Having the last name Coughlin comes with added pressure to live up the family’s world championship history, but it is something Troy embraces.
“The pressure I use to my advantage. I enjoy that pressure. I think that’s fun,” he said. “I think that’s the name of the game, and that’s what keeps me coming back, honestly. So, that’s a lot of fun. It's a big honor to be a part of this family and a part of this team family here at Elite Motorsports.”
The history and prestige of the U.S. Nationals is at the forefront of Coughlin’s thoughts after Friday’s opening round of qualifying.
“I mean, it would mean the world,” he said of a possible Indy win. “I've got my wife (Brenna) coming, my daughter Aubrey’s coming, my dad’s here. Sister Paige is here, (and) a lot of family and friends are here.
“You know, you think of the names that have been here and that have won like Grumpy Jenkins, and Bob Glidden, and Lee Shepherd. The history of drag racing, it lives here. So, what an honor to be a part of this history lesson."
Although Indy has five qualifying sessions, it doesn’t change Coughlin’s mindset.
“I’m sure the crew chief staff will have some stuff they want to try, but as the driver, the process for me is I just want to make the best runs I possibly can, one run at a time,” he said. “No, I don't think the mindset really changes. I just think just trying to be at the top of the sheet every day. Try to get all those bonus points and add them up at the end.”
Coughlin is no stranger to the Indy winner’s circle, having earned a trip there as a sportsman competitor. His focus now is the 2022 Pro Stock world championship.
“You know, I got all the confidence in the world in every individual here at Elite Motorsports,” Coughlin said. “So, I would say it’s at a great high and ready to attack everything that comes our way.”
KRAMER RETURNS TO INDY, EYES IMPROVEMENT – Deric Kramer loves to compete in NHRA Pro Stock racing, but it’s hard for him to fathom how long he’s been participating.
“I joked at the beginning of the year, this was my 10th year in the class and I’m kind of one of the grizzled old veterans,” Kramer said. “So yeah, it’s always enjoyable to come here, and I know we got a heavy dose of it in 2020, and that was a lot of fun.
“We got to get a lot of data for a track that we didn’t get to come to very much, you know, as myself growing up. It's all the way across the country for me and right when school started, so it was really hard to get here. But we’re here now, and we’re going to try and make the best of it with most of the information that we have.”
During the 2020 NHRA season the schedule was reduced to 10 national events because of COVID-19 restrictions, and three of those events were in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Kramer enters Indy 12th in the points standings after four consecutive first-round defeats in Denver, Sonoma, Seattle, and Topeka.
“Not as good as we were hoping, honestly,” Kramer said about the current season. “It seems like we’re fighting one problem after another, and it's like those first couple of years with KB, we really couldn't do anything wrong. We just put one of their engines in our car and our setup and just go out and make the runs we were doing before, and everything was great. But we just seem to be fighting one thing after another, the last year or so.
“So, hopefully ... we feel like we found a couple of things that we feel like we fixed and changed everything in the last race, and that when our first-round exit showed, we were only a few hundredths back from the rest of the class. Whereas the rest of the runs prior to that, we were quite a bit farther behind. So, we feel like we might have figured out what our issues were, I guess we’ll find out this weekend.”
Kramer acknowledged his team needs to get things figured out immediately at Indy.
“That’s one of the things about racing at Indy with the elongated weekend, the qualifying run-on Friday night seems to be the run that everyone tries to hang their hat on,” Kramer said. “So, we’re definitely going to have to roll off the trailer and make a really good run to be in a good qualifying spot, so that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Kramer works as an iPhone developer when he isn’t racing. There’s a tie-in between the communication and racing industries, he said.
“Just in the computer data acquisition in industry in general,” said Kramer about the crossover. “That’s probably about as much of it that crosses over directly. The one good thing is it allows me to work from the racetrack, so I get to come out here.”
Back in 2017 at the U.S. Nationals, Kramer won the exhibition “Pro Stock Battle of the Burnouts” and won the $5,000 first prize from Denso Spark Plugs. That was a fond memory for Kramer, but he’s in a different place in his career now.
“Well, at the time we were running our own power, so it was really easy to make that decision,” Kramer said. “It’s a lot harder when you get Jason (Line of KB Racing) in the background slapping your wrist every time you do a long burnout. (If I get Jason’s) permission first then I'm all for it (a long burnout).”
Kramer has won four NHRA Pro Stock national events, and would love to add his fifth in Indy.
“It’s the biggest race of the year, right? It's the pinnacle of our sport,” Kramer said “Everyone’s trying to win Indy. And then after that, everyone’s trying to win a championship. So, at the end of the day, I want to try and win them all. But win them all from every qualifying position, I think those are the two really, really cool stats that you can have at the end of your career. And that’s what I’m trying to go for, so I got a lot of work to do and hope getting an Indy win this year is a big step in the right direction.”
LESTER MCGAHA TALKS ABOUT HIS FAMILY’S PRO STOCK TEAM – Lester McGaha has been an integral part of the McGaha NHRA Pro Stock team. His son Chris has made a name for himself in the class by capturing eight national-event wins.
Now, Chris is racing with his son Mason, who has reached 10 semifinals and one final round in only 37 starts. And that kind of performance comes from engines built in-house.
“This is just something we like doing,” Lester said. “Even back when we ran Comp, the only reason we did it and enjoyed it is because we did our own stuff then. There is so much stuff about it we don’t know, but we all try to make up for it with the engine.”
Lester acknowledged watching Mason break into the Pro Stock class came with its nervous moments.
“We had our doubts at first, but Chris was patient enough and stuck with it,” Lester said. “Chris figured out what he was doing wrong and got him going.”
Lester said his team, like a lot of Pro Stock teams, has its challenges to keep competing in the sport.
“When you are in Comp or something like that you can take a guy with you to the races and treat him to a race on the weekend and he’s fine with it,” Lester said. “The biggest deal and biggest expense are the people. You've got to have it when you are out here doing this. Seven days a week, we work all the time trying to find horsepower.
“We will keep doing this as long as we can buy diesel (fuel). That’s a big expense now the cost of getting to races. I put diesel in my motorhome in El Paso (Texas) on the way to Las Vegas. I looked at and even took a picture of it and it was $824 to fill it up. I was hanging it up and I said, ‘Oh, man’ I have two more right behind me that’s going to take that much or more. It is expensive to get to and from. You get a lot of airline miles, and you need them because it is always something.”
Lester hasn’t been involved with the day-to-day operations of his family’s Pro Stock team since he battle a bad dose of COVID-19 in 2021.
“I had COVID-19 pretty bad,” Lester said. “I was in the hospital for two months and they wanted to keep me, and I didn’t feel like they we were doing much for me. I was just pretty much laying there, so I went home, and I laid at home for two months. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t do anything. I was on a ventilator for 10 days. When I got out, I weighed 165 pounds. I lost right at 50 pounds. It was pretty tough.
“I knew if I got out of there and got back walking, I could get my strength back. I couldn’t even get out of bed and after I got home, they sent a physical therapist and a nurse, and the first therapist told me there’s nothing they could do for me. Then, they sent the guy who was actually going to do the therapy, and he worked with me for a day or so and he said he would have me walking in two weeks — and two weeks later I was walking. I feel a lot better, but I still have issues with COVID-19. If I’m working pretty hard, I have a tough time breathing and I don’t have the strength that I had, but I will take what I have got.”