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July 16, 2014

Greg Anderson

SCOTT SMITH:  Greg Anderson is the driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro and is a four‑time Pro Stock world champion with 74 wins in his career.  He swept the Western Swing in 2004, which was on his way to his second of those four Pro Stock championships, and he is the only Pro Stock driver to sweep the Western Swing.
Currently he's 11th in points after missing the first five races of this year following an open heart surgery.  Greg, let's start with this season.  You knew it would be a battle coming in missing those first five races, and obviously your push is to get into the top 10 if not higher, but is this kind of where you thought you would be by this point this season, or did you think you would have made it into the top 10?
GREG ANDERSON:  No, probably realistically I'm probably about where I thought I was going to be.  When I originally did this heart surgery I was told it was going to be a full three months minimum, which meant six races on the calendar, and I really, really, really pushed hard all through the deal, all through rehab and everything, trying to get back just one race early because I knew in my heart of hearts that it was going to come down to just a few points one way or the other because the competition right now‑‑ I looked at the top 10 cars as I sat on the couch before I could come back, and the top 10 cars are all race‑winning cars.  They're all race‑winning cars.  They're all No.1 qualifying‑type cars.  There's no ducks.  There's nobody that's going to be easy to get around.
I looked at that and thought, you know, one race is going to probably make the difference.  If I can somehow convince the doctors that I'm ready to go just one week early, that would probably be a tremendous benefit to me and might make the difference one way or the other.  That's kind of exactly where I was at.  I was able to convince them to let me go back one race early.  I'm back up to 11th now.  I think I'm two rounds out of 10th.  It's not going to be easy, got five races left to go.  It's not going to be easy, and as I said before, I need to win races to get into that Countdown, and I think we've gained on our project, and we've been gaining on the performance of our car, and I expect bigger and better things as we go out west here.
I love these three racetracks.  I love Denver.  Sonoma is probably my favorite track on the tour, had great success there, and love Seattle.  This is the time for me to make my move and get in that top 10.

Q.  I talked to Capps a little bit about if you had to change the way you drive the Funny Car.  Explain what you have to do in the Pro Stock car and how different it feels at altitude in Denver.
GREG ANDERSON:  It's completely different, and you're running‑‑ we're running about a half a second slower, we're running 10 miles an hour, 15 miles an hour slower than we do at sea level, so you'd think, well, it's got to be the easiest place to drive, right?  It's absolutely the other way around.  You have to kill these cars so hard with like your gear ratios and things like that to try and get the car to think and have power that you do all kinds of things.  You go through the gears way faster in Denver than you do at sea level, because you're trying to make the car think it has some kind of power because we lose 300, 400 horse when we go out there from sea level conditions to there.
So it makes it harder for the driver to shift.  It makes it harder to drive the race car there than it does at sea level, and I know that sounds crazy, but every single one of us will go out there, and on the first qualifying run or two we'll hit the chip, it's out of low gear, we'll miss the shift.  It'll take a few laps, a few times down the racetrack to get it right and be able to shift the car quick enough because it comes by way quicker than we're accustomed to.
Kind of the opposite of what most people would think and it actually makes it one of the tougher places to drive.

Q.  Being in 11th and going into the Western Swing and how tough the Western Swing is and being the only guy in Pro Stock that's won the Swing, how big a deal would it be to you and the team to duplicate that?
GREG ANDERSON:  It would be huge.  Actually the biggest thing right now for me and a huge thing for me personally and this team would be for me to win a race, and obviously I can't sweep the Western Swing unless I can win all three of them, so I'm going to have to win Denver to even have a chance at that.  Right now for me to win a race, it would be huge.  It's been two years since I won a race, and I know exactly in my heart it's going to take race wins to make this Countdown.  That's going to be huge to me.
I can't even look far enough down the road to think about sweeping the Western Swing right now, but I would sure love to start out at Denver with that first win in two years and get myself into that top 10.  It would make things a whole lot better.  We think we've gained on our project a lot.  We think we're ready to race with the top cars, and I'm looking forward to it.  Allen Johnson has kind of had everybody's number out there the last several years, but I think we've got something for him this year.

Q.  What did you miss most when your health procedures prevented you from getting back in the car?
GREG ANDERSON:  You know, obviously you miss driving the race car, but just going to the races and being with my team and seeing all the fans and just being a part of it.  It's all I know, and I've raced for basically it seems like all my life.  The day I graduated high school I started racing full time as a crew member and then a crew chief and then a driver.  It's all I've known all my life.  I grew up with my dad doing it.  It's all I've known.  I've actually never had to miss a race in the last 25 years professionally for any reason at all, so it was a strange feeling.
You know, it's all of it.  It's being around the atmosphere, being at NHRA national events, all the guys that we compete against week in and week out that we love to go beat on the racetrack and beat our chest and prove we're the man.  That's what you miss.  You miss the competition and being at those events and just locking horns with those guys.

Q.  Everyone finally hangs up the helmet; do you think it'll be the same?  Do you think you'll probably be back at the track in some way?
GREG ANDERSON:  Yeah, I think I'll be back at the track some way.  It's all I've known.  I love it.  I did prove one thing to myself, that I was able to withstand it.  It was tough staying on the couch, but I was able to sit back and watch my replacement Jimmy Ålund drive and cheer him on, so that was kind of neat deal, a different feeling.  I certainly wanted to be in it myself, but I think I proved to myself, maybe someday down the road I can stand back and watch somebody else drive my car.
I want to keep doing it as long as I can do it at a high level, and when I get to a point where I can't drive at a high level, then I'll step back and I'll let somebody else drive that car, but I'll definitely still be involved.

Q.  Earlier Antron talked about the Western Swing being a marathon and Ron Capps talked about how it's kind of like survival of the fittest as far as personal fitness.  I'm wondering if there's anything about this tour that really presents a problem for you coming off of open heart surgery.
GREG ANDERSON:  I think I'll be in good shape.  I've really tried.  Before the surgery I thought I was in very good shape, and as soon as I was able to get back to the gym and start working out, that's what was able to get me back in the car sooner and quicker.  I've had no issues ever since I've been back in the car.  Everything feels great.  I'm gaining strength by the day.  Still not back to 100 percent strength‑wise, but I don't feel there's anything I can't do, so I think I'm going to be in good shape that way.
He's right, it is sort of a marathon.  It's not only a marathon physically, the beat up and down the road and race to race and guys trying to keep in the game, it's mentally, trying to keep yourself sharp.  That's probably a bigger thing than anything.  The mental part of this game is so important as it is in any major sporting event.
To keep it for three races straight, three completely different type racetracks, to keep that mental sharpness, that's the tough part, and I think that's really the main reason why you've seen so few people sweep the Western Swing.
I feel personally that I may have more blood going to my head these days because of the heart surgery, so I'm hoping I can stay sharp mentally, and I know I'll be fine physically, so I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Q.  Do you feel you need at least one win on this tour to get yourself in shape for a Countdown run?
GREG ANDERSON:  Yes, I do, I absolutely do, and I've said it many times.  Not only do I think I need one, I think I have to have one, or there's no sense in me being in the Countdown.  If I can't get my performance both car‑wise and driver‑wise to where I can win races before that Countdown starts, I don't need to be in it because then I'm not going to win that championship.  I need to do it.  I have to do it.  Otherwise there's no sense being in it.  But I think we can.  I think we're ready to do it now, and there's no excuses.  Just time to go out and get it done and get on in that Countdown and prove that we can win a championship.
SCOTT SMITH:  Greg, just to kind of follow up with Ron's question about just how hard it is to win one of these races and to get that Wally, are you starting to see that a little bit, like kind of like what Ron was talking about, just how difficult it is to win?
GREG ANDERSON:  Oh, 100 percent.  I never would have dreamed after my last win over two years ago that that would be my last one.  Still don't know if it could be.  So if and when I win again, yeah, it's going to be a heck of a celebration.  I guarantee I've been accused of that before, just like Ron; why do you act like it's your first win, you win all the time, because I used to win fairly regularly.  But you know what, you never know when it's going to be your last win.
I'm living proof.  Over two years now, and there's no guarantee it'll ever happen again.  The competition gets tougher every year, fields get deeper, the competition gets tougher, and you just never know what your future holds.  I went through heart surgery that I didn't expect.  You just never know, and you've got to cherish every one of them.  The way it is right now and as tough as it is, it feels fantastic when you win.
SCOTT SMITH:  Thank you for taking the time out of your day today to join us, Greg.

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