Pontiac captures seventh NHRA Manufacturer's Cup
For the seventh time since 1996, Pontiac will claim the prestigious NHRA Manufacturer's Cup, presented since 1964 to the automobile nameplate scoring the most points for current-year models in Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock.
Led by NHRA POWERade champion Greg Anderson, Pontiac Pro Stock drivers have chalked up 15 national-event victories, raced in 19 final rounds and captured 18 No. 1 qualifying spots. Five Pontiac Grand Am drivers currently occupy positions in the top 10 of the points standings. In addition to Anderson, Warren Johnson is in fourth place, Mike Edwards is seventh, Jim Yates is eighth and Bruce Allen is ninth. Pontiac also has 124 all-time victories in NHRA Pro Stock competition, the most ever by an automobile manufacturer in the history of the sport.
"The NHRA Manufacturer's Cup could not have happened without the hard work of our GM Racing engineers and marketing staff," said Jim Panaretos, Pontiac Grand Am marketing director. "Everyone at Pontiac and the Grand Am marketing team appreciates their dedication to excellence. "Pontiac also salutes the outstanding efforts put forth this season by the Stock, Super Stock and Pro Stock teams that have chosen to compete with current-model year Pontiacs. It is because of their pursuit of excellence that Pontiac has been able to win its seventh NHRA Manufacturer's Cup in the last eight years. We thank all of these Pontiac teams for their outstanding contributions to this championship effort."
With just one race remaining, the record book is still not closed on the 42-year-old Greg Anderson. With his first NHRA Pro Stock championship already in tow, the Pontiac pilot has driven his factory hot rod SC/T Grand Am to 11 national-event victories, tying a 1991 record previously set by Darrell Alderman for most Pro Stock wins in a season. Anderson's 14 final-round appearances ties a record also held by Alderman and Jeg Coughlin Jr., and his 63rd round win at Las Vegas is the most ever by a Pro Stock driver in a season. "Being a Pontiac driver we're hoping we can knock that Dodge out of the record book once and for all at Pomona," said Anderson. "That would be just wonderful. We've had so many great stories to tell this year and it just seems to keep getting better and better. Sometimes I don't think I deserve this much good fortune. I am absolutely in awe of the things my team has been able to do to get this championship.
"My Pontiac Grand Am is so consistent. It's not only fast, it's consistent and that's what has really blown people's minds out here. It's not the run this Grand Am makes every once in awhile, it's that it runs that way every doggone time down the racetrack. That can be attributed to Rob Downing, Jeff Perley and the job they do tuning the car."
So far in 2003, Anderson's Pontiac Grand Am has registered 13 low-qualifying efforts, and in Englishtown, N.J., set national records in elapsed time and top speed with a run of 6.670 seconds at 207.18 mph. In addition, Anderson's Pontiac has posted the four fastest Pro Stock speeds in NHRA history. He and Jeg Coughlin Jr. are the only two drivers in the category to qualify for every event.
"I've got such a great corps of guys, hard workers that love to race and love to succeed," said Anderson. "With the people we have on this team, the facility, the backing from Ken Black and the support from Pontiac, I wouldn't be surprised to see us go even farther next year. If we can set the win record at Pomona that would be so special. To win a championship, set the e.t. record, the speed record, the single-season record, it would be a feather in all of our caps, and I can't thank everybody around me enough." Warren Johnson will be looking for his fifth victory of the year at Pomona. The GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver won the season-opening Winternationals and now returns to Southern California looking to sweep the slate at this legendary facility.
"Our program is geared for the long haul," said Johnson. "If we fall off the pace a little bit as far as performance, we don't get excited about it to the point where we're making wholesale changes. We make methodical, calculated adjustments to get it back on track as far as effectiveness. We just keep plodding along on our own course and eventually we get to where we need to be." Johnson has won the NHRA Finals six times (1982-83, 88, 92-93, 95) and been runner-up twice (1989, 99). The only time the 60-year-old Johnson won both races at Pomona in one year was in 1993. With 92 career victories he is the all-time leader in the Pro Stock category.
"When I chose this as my vocation, I pretty much established that I had to be successful," said Johnson. "As long as we maintained a strong work ethic and a solid program, the wins would come. A solid program consists of the knowledge of what it takes to put it all together, consistent sponsor support and employees that are as dedicated as Kurt (Johnson) and myself."
Mike Edwards will try to keep a win streak alive this weekend at the NHRA Finals. The Young Life Pontiac driver has scored at least one victory in every season that he's competed since 1996 (Edwards did not race in 2000). Edwards came close to keeping that streak alive earlier in the year at Bristol, Tenn., when he drove his Grand Am to the finals before losing to Kurt Johnson. Edwards will end the season with his sixth top-10 finish, but a strong run at Pomona could move him around Allen Johnson and into fifth place in the standings. Edwards won the NHRA Finals in 1996.
"Our goal is to go into each race with our Grand Am as prepared as it possibly can be, and then jump on that one big break you need to win," said Edwards. "If you're not the fastest car, which we're usually not, there's typically one round where you can look back and say, 'that was the break that I needed.' I'd like to keep the winning streak going, but with one race to go it's going to be tough. Considering where we started though, a seventh-place finish or higher would be quite an accomplishment for this team."
After a disappointing DNQ at the Winternationals, Splitfire Pontiac driver Jim Yates has battled through a difficult season, but has also managed to claw his way back to eighth in the NHRA Pro Stock standings. It's been a tough road for the two-time NHRA champion, and it wasn't until a respectable performance at the U.S. Nationals on Sept. 7 that Yates entered the top 10 to stay. Like Edwards, Yates is looking to keep his own win streak alive. The 50-year-old Virginian has won at least one national event in eight of the last nine seasons, and two of Yates' 24 career victories have come at Pomona Raceway, both in the season opening Winternationals in 1996 and 1998. Yates was the No. 1 qualifier for the NHRA Finals in 1997 and 2001.
"We aren't ready for the season to end," said Yates. "We feel like we are turning the corner and we're not giving up. We'd like to finish the season with the Splitfire Pontiac running good so that we can start the 2004 season on a positive note. We're going to finish in the top 10 and we're happy about that, but we're going to Pomona trying to win the race. I'd like to keep my streak alive."
Bruce Allen's Pontiac Grand Am has run strong at the last two national events qualifying fifth at Dallas and fourth at Las Vegas. Allen appears to be headed for his 13th top-10 finish which would place him second on the NHRA list for top-10 finishes by an active Pro Stock driver behind Warren Johnson (25 including this year), and ahead of Jim Yates (12), Kurt Johnson (11) and Mark Pawuk (11). Bruce Allen won this race in 2001.
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