Among the distinctions Greg Anderson has amassed in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competition, “ironman” is not one he would have expected.
This weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, the driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS will surpass Chevrolet Funny Car driver John Force for the longest career qualifying streak at 396 events.
Anderson, 59, envisions adding to double-digit events to the streak, which started in 2002 at Pomona, California.
“I don’t think there’s any secret to it. I just don’t like to lose, and I don’t think anybody is going to be shocked to hear that,” said Anderson, who missed five races to start 2014 because of off-season heart surgery. “When I don’t do well, I try to come back and do a better job next time. That’s what’s kept me going all these years. That’s what drives me.”
Force’s streak started at the February 1988 opener at Pomona and was curtailed by a DNQ in April 2007 at Las Vegas. In other motorsport series, which have a different “ironman” criterion, career Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon is NASCAR’s all-time leader with 797 consecutive starts. Tony Kanaan, who won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 in a Chevrolet-powered car and raced a Chevrolet this season for A.J. Foyt Racing, is INDYCAR’s career leader with 318 consecutive starts.
Anderson served as a crew member and crew chief during four of Warren Johnson’s Pro Stock championships. He moved to KB Racing as a tuner and then took the reins of a Ken Black-owned race car for his NHRA Pro Stock debut in June 1998 at Columbus, Ohio. Anderson won his first national event in April 2001 at Bristol, Tennessee, and began competing full time in 2002.
Four Pro Stock championships, including three in a row in 2003-05, followed.
“A lot of it is just about executing, and sometimes that’s tough to do, but it’s really the key,” he said. “You can have all the right ideas and all the right parts and pieces, but then you have to make them work together – including the driver.”
Anderson is third in NHRA career victories with 94, third in No. 1 qualifiers with 105 and fourth in elimination round wins with 831 heading into the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil. He earned 16 top qualifier honors and 15 wins in 23 races in 2004.
“The competition is definitely deeper than it’s ever been – I don’t know if that’s made it harder, necessarily,” Anderson said. “But if you look back 10 years ago, of the 16 cars that would make the show, you didn’t have 16 cars that realistically could have been the winner. Now you do.
“Times are tougher, the stakes are higher, and the competition is deeper, but I like that. I think that’s fun, and that’s what keeps me going. I like what the class has become over the last couple of years. It’s highly competitive, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Consecutive starts in other motorsports:
260: Lewis Hamilton (March 18, 2007 – ongoing)
Consecutive games played in other sports: