Just three races and two final rounds after tying his former boss, the proclaimed “Professor of Pro Stock” Warren Johnson as the winningest driver in the class’ history with 97 career victories, Greg Anderson stood alone following his triumph at the Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas Sunday.
Anderson defeated a red-lighting Chris McGaha in the final round, celebrating his history-making 98th win before he even crossed the 1/4-mile finish stripe. For Anderson, it was a feat more than two decades in the making.
“I couldn’t have imagined one win, but here we are, 98 later,” said an elated Anderson after the final round.
Anderson, 60, began his career in professional drag racing serving as crew chief for the late John Hagen, a close personal friend of Anderson’s father. Hagen lost his life in a racing accident in 1983, and Anderson returned to the sport three years later with another Minnesota native, Johnson. Anderson worked alongside “The Professor” and son Kurt for 12 years, where he gleaned much of the knowledge it required to succeed on his own. Determined to trade his wrenches for a set of driving gloves, Anderson told Johnson he wanted to “give the driving thing a shot” but would be there asking for his job back if it didn’t work out. It turned out, he never needed to.
Anderson made his Pro Stock debut at Columbus, Ohio in 1998 and earned his first career win three years later at Bristol, Tennessee, driving for current team owner Ken Black and then-partner George Marnell.
“I’ll remember that until the day I die,” said Anderson. “I was not expected to win, but we got it done driving a black Firebird. Everyone said, ‘he’s a flash in the pan, he’ll never win again.’ But here we are.”
Anderson contested his first full season in 2002, and just a year later was a world champion. By July of 2007, he already had three championships and 50 career wins in the bag.
“Going back to the beginning, I never thought I’d see one win, let alone 98. That is a big number, and what a career it’s been. The best part of the whole deal, though, is that I don’t feel like I’m done yet. I still can’t wait to get to the next one.”
Said Anderson of his tenure with Johnson in a 2002 National Dragster interview: “it was a good place to learn and it probably was the best place I could be and I learned more there than I could have anywhere else. It is not necessarily him that taught me everything. We learned together. We learned as we went because we had a lot of opportunities there and a lot of resources. It was the best place that a person could be to learn all about this game out here. I stayed there 12 years; I stayed there longer than anyone else did. Some of those years were tough. But it was still the best place to learn and have open range on being able to try new things. I can’t think of anywhere else out here that you could do that. It accelerated the learning curve.”
After scoring the record-tying 97th win last month in Reading, the National Dragster staff and NHRA statistician Bob Frey put Anderson and the Professor’s numbers side-by-side. Notably, it took Anderson a staggering 157 fewer races than Johnson to achieve 97 wins — a reflection of Johnson’s early years when he built and fielded his own cars and spent 11 years in the class before breaking through for his first NHRA national event win. Anderson, meanwhile, won in just his third season behind the wheel. Anderson’s round win count of 869 compared closely to Johnson’s 874; Anderson competed in 1241 rounds to Johnson’s 1381, qualified first 114 times to Johnson’s 138, and appeared in 13 more final rounds than the Professor.
In all, Anderson owned a 28-13 (or more than 2:1) edge over Johnson in head-to-head meetings.
Anderson’s 98 trophies are second only to Funny Car icon John Force’s 154 wins among professional-class drivers.
“What a run,” Anderson said of his amazing career. “I seem to get all the glory, but it’s not me, it’s this KB Racing team, it’s our wonderful team owners Ken and Judy Black, it’s Rick Hendrick and HendrickCars.com, it’s Summit Racing Equipment. I never thought this day would come, but the Good Lord was looking out for me. To my wife, Kim: Honey, tonight I’m coming home with our 98th trophy.”
With his win Sunday, Anderson also extended his lead in the Pro Stock standings to 81 points over Erica Enders with three races remaining, as he chases his fifth NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series championship.