May 21, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT
If there was any doubt about former NHRA Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson’s health and whether he could still pilot a race car, it was erased during Monday’s final round of the Summit Racing Equipment Spring Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Anderson underwent heart surgery less than two weeks prior to the start of the season-opening NHRA WinterNationals to repair a defective valve.
As a result, Anderson missed the first five races of the 2014 season recuperating. Had he not undergone the surgery – which the veteran of the quartermile wars originally balked at – Anderson’s doctor said the valve would likely have disintegrated and Anderson could have died, possibly in his race car due to the G-forces and high speeds.
But with his freshly repaired heart and at Atlanta in Monday’s finals, which had been postponed due to rain on Sunday, it was vintage Anderson behind the wheel.
Of course, he had extra incentive to perform well, given that the race was presented by his primary sponsor, Summit Racing.
And while Anderson finished runner-up to five-time and reigning Mello Yello Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin, who earned his first win of the 2014 season, just doing what he did was as close as a win as you can get without actually doing it.
“I had a good day behind the wheel of my Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro,” Anderson said in an NHRA media release. “I’m disappointed because I wanted that win, needed that win, but I’m happy because my health is fine and I can still drive these things. That’s good news.”
Coughlin powered his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart to his 57th career Pro Stock win with a 6.558 at 211.63, bettering Anderson’s effort of 6.588 at 212.13 in the final round.
“It’s great to have Greg back and racing with us,” Coughlin said. “We stayed in touch as he was going through his recovery. Sure, we have different sponsors on the sides of our cars, but we’re a close family out here.”
Reaching the final round at Atlanta proved something very significant to Anderson.
“I know that I can win again, it’s just a matter of time,” Anderson said. “We’re close, but we’re not there yet with our Camaros.
“But now I’ve answered the question: ‘Can I still do this?’ Yes. I can start my racing career over. It’s a new chapter for me. A new lease on life.”
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