With as quickly as things change in Pro Stock, Greg Anderson knows he can’t get too comfortable with last week’s win in Charlotte, especially with another huge NHRA Countdown to the Championship race taking place at this weekend’s 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.
But the five-time world champion got new life when it comes to the title chase with his first win of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the 102nd in his career. After struggling during the regular season, Anderson has put things together at the right time, pulling within 61 points of points leader and KB Titan Racing teammate Matt Hartford.
Anderson, though, knows he can fall back out of the title hunt just as quick as he got back in it, which is why this weekend in St. Louis is so important for the veteran in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro.
“Things are great and I can’t wait to get to St. Louis,” Anderson said. “I know I’m back in the fight and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. We feel great as a team and our effort, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a battle. All these cars are fast and it seems like everyone has stepped up when we got to the playoffs. You better find something special and we were back on the dyno trying to find something for St. Louis. If not, you’re going to get waxed and that’s how fast everything changes in this class.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year in St. Louis and this year’s playoff event will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), with action from eliminations set to air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1. It is the third of six playoff events during the 2023 NHRA season, and if Anderson is to find success at World Wide Technology Raceway, where he has a pair of wins, he’ll likely have to defeat Enders to do it.
She has won four straight races in St. Louis and her six victories at the popular track are the most for any driver in NHRA history. Enders is also just four points outside of first and has qualified No. 1 at each of the first two playoff races.
Anderson got by the reigning and five-time world champion in Charlotte, but he knows it will take an incredible effort to do it again in St. Louis. Plus, he also has to deal with the likes of Dallas Glenn, who is only 15 points behind Hartford, Troy Coughlin Jr., Kyle Koretsky, Aaron Stanfield and Deric Kramer.
“There’s so many people that can win in this class and you can absolutely get your butt whipped in any round you go up there,” Anderson said. “That’s what makes Pro Stock so great and that’s why it feels so good when a win light comes on. It’s going to be an exciting Countdown the rest of the way. We’re back in the game and back in the hunt with four races to go, and it’s going to be exciting. You’re only as good as your last race and you’ve got to appreciate every opportunity you have.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it was back to business as usual – at least in 2023 – for Gaige Herrera, as the points leader won for the seventh time this year, taking a 52-point lead over Matt Smith with his Charlotte triumph.
It was a big moment for Herrera, who didn’t win in Indy or the playoff opener and watched Smith take the points lead with his Reading win. Herrera, though, bounced back with his first career playoff win and will look to continue that momentum in St. Louis. Smith, though, has impressed at the facility, winning two straight races and five overall at the facility. Herrera will also have to contend with standouts like Hector Arana Jr., who is 54 points out of first, Angie Smith, rookie Chase Van Sant, Eddie Krawiec and Jianna Evaristo.
“My bike was consistent again (in Charlotte),” Herrera said. “Losing the last two races (in Indy and Reading) kind of lit a fire under me. After Reading I was kind of upset because we really couldn’t pinpoint what happened and that basically made me dig down. The bike came off the trailer (in Charlotte) flying.
“I’ve got a really fast motorcycle compared to a lot of others out here, so it makes it look easy, but at the same time, they’re all very tough competitors. I love the pressure. My dream would be to race Matt in the final in Pomona for the championship.”
Torrence heads to St. Louis second in Top Fuel points, trailing Doug Kalitta by 63 points. Kalitta has taken the lead by winning the first two playoff races against the likes of Justin Ashley, defending world champ Brittany Force, Leah Pruett and Antron Brown.
Defending Funny Car event winner Hight holds a 25-point lead over Bob Tasca III, who knocked off Hight last weekend in Charlotte. Other championship hopefuls include defending world champ Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, John Force and Chad Green.
The NHRA Midwest Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and the new Factory X presented by Holley category. It is also the penultimate race in the Pro Mod’s “Road to the Championship” as they get close to crowning a championship. The ET Racing Showcase, Jr. Arch Shootout, Budweiser Challenge, high school challenge and Jr. Dragster Shootout will all take place during the weekend as well.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
Race fans at World Wide Technology Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the St. Louis event winners.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 1. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 29 and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday Oct. 1, with eliminations starting at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased at the WWTR ticket office, by phone at (618) 215-8888, or online at www.wwtraceway.com. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult. For more information on NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.