As birthday presents go, a Wally in the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals is hard to beat. Greg Anderson, driving the RaceStar Wheels Chevrolet Camaro SS, earned the 95th Pro Stock Car victory of his career and picked up his fifth Gatornationals title on his 60th birthday in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series season opener.
“This is absolutely perfect,” said Anderson, the No. 1 qualifier for the 107th time. “Being that it’s been a year and a half since I won (Dallas 2019) and it happened on my birthday, there’s a lot of reasons that it stands out.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve held one of those trophies, and I’ve said it a million times in my career, you always wonder if you’ll be able to do it again. I guess you’re not human if you don’t have doubts, and it’s a shame to have those thoughts, but I think it’s good in a way because it drives you to work harder every day. You just want to have that feeling again so bad. To finally get back to the winner’s circle a year and a half later, and to do it on my birthday, well that makes this a win that I’ll never forget.
“I’ve had a pretty good race car for the last six months and we just haven’t been able to get to close the deal for whatever reason, whether it’s driver or mistakes made or whatever. It feels good to finally close the deal and prove to yourself you still can win. That’s a shot in the arm and will help us from top to bottom on this race team. I’m confident that it won’t be our last.”
Troy Coughlin Jr., driving the iconic yellow JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Camaro SS, advanced to his second Pro Stock final in nine races. He fell to his uncle and five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. at Indianapolis last year. Coughlin beat Aaron Stanfield (who won Factory Stock Showdown), Fernando Cuadra Jr. and Mason McGaha to reach his second career final round.
“You have to have a little bit of excitement here for Gainesville,” said Coughlin. “We were fortunate enough to race most of the events last year with another team car, but now the spotlight is directly on me. It’s a real challenge and very exciting at the same time. I’ll be happy if I continue to get better and limit my mistakes.”
Anderson, who extended his NHRA record for consecutive race day starts to 400, moved to within two wins of leader Warren Johnson on the all-time Pro Stock Car list. He also closed to six elimination round wins of Tony Schumacher (850) for third on the all-time list. Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force leads both categories with 151 victories and 1,357 round wins.
Chevrolet has recorded 331 Pro Stock victories since the formation of the category in 1970, including 212 with the Camaro.
PRO STOCK CAR eliminations
ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.568, 209.88 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.595, 208.94; Troy Coughlin Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.564, 209.20 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 17.941, 44.94; Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.591, 207.50 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.549, 209.88; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.550, 210.08 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.596, 208.88 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.581, 209.39; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.541, 209.46 def. Bob Benza, Camaro, 6.767, 207.05; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.550, 211.13 def. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, Broke; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.564, 209.33 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.549, 210.37;
QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin Jr., 6.572, 208.91 def. Cuadra Jr., Foul – Red Light; Kramer, 6.562, 209.04 def. Koretsky, 6.562, 209.46; Anderson, 6.555, 209.98 def. Laughlin, 6.600, 208.49; M. McGaha, 6.605, 207.43 def. Hartford, 6.625, 208.81;
SEMIFINALS — Coughlin Jr., 6.633, 208.55 def. M. McGaha, 13.858, 61.17; Anderson, 6.569, 209.88 def. Kramer, 6.584, 209.23;
FINAL — Anderson, 6.602, 209.33 def. Coughlin Jr., 15.385, 53.98.
story by Chevrolet and NHRA, photos by Tim Hailey