Arguably, Sunday at Minnesota’s Brainerd Int’l Raceway belonged to the Lucas Oil team, with victories from Morgan Lucas in Top Fuel and Hector Arana in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Perhaps it belonged to Tony Pedregon, who kept his points lead and won the Funny Car final over closest challenger Ron Capps — despite parting ways just days before with crew chief Dickie Venables and his assistant, Kurt Elliott.
But while the nitro classes were stealing the spotlight, maybe the day belonged simply to — in Pro Stock winner Greg Anderson’s words — “a couple of meatheads in Minnesota.”
He was referring to himself and KB/Summit Racing teammate Jason Line, who grew up in Minnesota, grew into champions and have been part of an eye-opening National Hot Rod Ass’n’ statistic. Out of 634 events in Pro Stock class history, four active drivers from the North Star State have combined to earn one-third of the victories (212) and appeared in more than half of all final rounds (351).
Of course, the other two are father-son tandem Warren and Kurt Johnson.
Anderson indicated he felt more like a meathead than he did a gearhead this year. This man who scored three-consecutive series championships, set class and NHRA records, and dominated the class in the mid-2000s hadn’t won all year before Sunday.
He beat Line in the final with his quickest pass of the weekend, a 6.641-second run at 207.53 miles per hour to Line’s 6.655/207.30, winning by about 10 inches, or .0028 of a second.
“It’s like the first race I ever won. I know it seems crazy to talk like that, considering that I have been very fortunate to win a lot of races over the years, but I was absolutely starting to doubt I could ever do it again,” Anderson said. And to do it against Line, who he said “is hotter than a firecracker” right now, only made the victory sweeter.
His teenage pals in Duluth might have forgotten, but Anderson said he can “remember the day I walked out of high school and told all my friends that I was going to drag race professionally. Almost every one of them laughed and told me I wouldn’t be able to do it, and that I’d be back in a year. Well, about the only time I come back now is to race, where I get to show them it’s a great occupation, and they’re amazed.”
A home-turf triumph always is gratifying, and Anderson said, “After all, this was where I got my start, my introduction to drag racing…coming here with my dad as a little whippersnapper. I owe it all to him, and that’s why I gave him the trophy today.”
But Anderson had another special someone in his thoughts Sunday, a gentleman whose family received the first Wally statue Anderson won at Brainerd Int’l Raceway.
“After my father quit racing, I started racing with a man by the name of John Hagan, who raced in Pro Stock. He ran against Warren Johnson all the time,” Anderson said. “My dad certainly started forming my career and taught me most of my values, but through those crucial years when I was 17, 18, 19 years old, I practically lived with John Hagan. He was a second father to me, and a lot of what I’ve become I attribute to him.
“Tragically, he was killed in a horrific wreck at Brainerd in 1983, when I was his crew chief,” he said.
“Fast-forward 20 years and I’m now driving a Pro Stock car, and I was able to win the national event in Brainerd. John’s wife and two kids, who come out to support me every year, were there in the winner’s circle, and I was able to present them the trophy, which is one of the neatest things I’ve ever done because I owe them so much.”