No. 33: Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson's career driving record with NHRA totals an impressive 24 national event victories and three Winston championships in Alcohol Funny Car, but does little to reflect the impact he had on the class for two decades.
In addition to his incredible driving career, Anderson was responsible for dozens of other event victories and championships in Alcohol Funny Car, Alcohol Dragster, Top Fuel, and Funny Car as a purveyor of parts, especially his cylinder heads, which were nearly required equipment for national event winners in the alcohol classes throughout much of the 1980s. It was not uncommon to find 16-car fields dominated by a dozen or more teams with Brad Anderson Enterprises cylinder heads - though the fields were often led by the man himself.
The list of current and former BAE customers would probably include almost every "name" driver in those classes - racers who have built their reputations thanks in part to the horsepower brewed with Anderson's cylinder heads in the recipe.
Anderson, who began his career with Stockers in his native Colorado in the early 1960s, soon gained an affinity for supercharged machinery. He made his first national event final-round appearance in Comp at the 1973 Winternationals, where the now California resident, at the wheel of a AA/Gas Supercharged Opel, lost to Steve Woods.
After switching to Alcohol Funny Car - where he routinely set low e.t. and top speed at meets in the late 1970s - Anderson won his first national event in 1981 when he captured the season-opening Winternationals after briefly considering retiring from driving. By the time he closed out that season with back-to-back victories at the Golden Gate Nationals and World Finals, Anderson - known for his beautiful candy-apple-red race cars - was considered a true threat.
He repeated that season-ending double play in 1982 and won the Finals for a third straight year in a one-win 1983 campaign before embarking on his greatest season in 1984, a year in which he won his first Winston championship.
That was the year that "Bad Brad" went on tour for the first time, and proved that his mastery extended beyond the borders of California. He racked up wins across the country, scoring in Florida, Indiana, Colorado, and Minnesota. He won six wins in eight starts, including four straight victories to close the season, and amassed a 23-2 won-lost record.
Then, while dealing with burgeoning success of his fledgling cylinder-head business and overcoming a host of mechanical maladies, he repeated his championship in 1985.
"The business has far exceeded my expectations," Anderson told National DRAGSTER at the close of 1985, "and unfortunately it has cut into my racing time. I've been spread a little thin this year. I'd be worrying about a customer's engine - after all, they foot the bill for my racing - and trying to work on my car. As a result, at times I felt I wasn't doing either my racing or my business justice."
Anderson scored three more wins in 1986 - two in final rounds over rising star Pat Austin, with whom Anderson would wage a heated rivalry that extended into the driving careers of his children, Shelly and Randy - but lost the title that year to customer Frank Manzo.
Anderson was the hands-down driver to beat in Alcohol Funny Car in the mid-1980s and won the prestigious U.S. Nationals three times, in each of his championship years and in 1987. For him, it was actually three years in a row: He missed the 1986 U.S. Nationals after getting oil under his tires and crashing the week before Indy at a Division 3 event in Bowling Green, Ky.
As the business continued to intrude upon his racing time, Anderson won only once in 1987 and once in 1988. Anderson reached the pinnacle of his class again in 1989, when he scored his third and final season title. He won his 24th and final national event at the 1990 Arizona Nationals.
Anderson walked away from driving following the 1991 season as the second-winningest driver in Alcohol Funny Car history, behind Pat Austin. Anderson reached the final round in 40 national events, all in Alcohol Funny Car, and won 24.
In 1992, Anderson turned the seat over to his son, Randy, who proved that winning might well be hereditary. Randy scored two event wins his first year, including the U.S. Nationals, then won the Winston championship the following two years. From 1992 through 1996, Randy won 14 national events and set a national record in the car tuned by his father.
Anderson also was instrumental in the career of his daughter, Shelly, who raced for a short time in Alcohol Dragster before graduating to Top Fuel in 1992. He had an active hand in the tuning of Shelly's successful Top Fueler and also of Randy's Funny Car in 1997. - Phil Burgess