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NHRA: Anderson Hopes for Better Top Fuel Results at Englishtown

8 May 1998

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- You won't find any sugar-coating surrounding Shelly Anderson's words these days. She'll be the first to admit that her Parts America Top Fuel team hasn't been exactly clicking on all cylinders this season.

NHRA's quickest and fastest female has come upon hard times in 1998. Her first four races were simply a nightmare. A multitude of problems with her Parts America dragster left the team on the outside looking in with DNQs at Pomona, Calif., Phoenix, Gainesville, Fla. and Houston.

The team regrouped and rebounded by making the race at Atlanta's Fram Nationals but lost in the first round on a foul start to upstart David Grubnic. At Richmond, Va., Anderson qualified 16th and won her first round of the season, upsetting top qualifier Kenny Bernstein. Finally, at Dallas' Castrol Lone Star Nationals, the team managed to put together their best qualifying effort of the season, posting a 4.685 second run at 308 mph.

The four-time NHRA national event winner hopes to build on the momentum gained at the Texas Motorplex and put her woeful start behind her with a strong showing at the 29th annual Mopar Parts Nationals, May 14-17 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The $1.6 million race is the eighth of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Anderson says finding the problem has been the biggest problem.

"It's been a bunch of problems really," Anderson said. "The car just hasn't run good since Houston last year when we lost the speed record to Joe Amato. It still ran 317, but after that, I think we got so lost changing things trying to find a combination that we changed too many things. This year we've changed the chassis, fuel tanks, fuel lines and went to a different clutch management system. I don't think this has happened overnight. I think it has been going on for about a year now and it hasn't been really good for a long time."

Being the daughter of former racer and engine development guru Brad Anderson only complicates the issue of not being competitive, she says.

"I think I have a harder time than most drivers," she said. "I work for my Dad's business that makes cylinder heads and manifolds and other parts for people I race against. I think I take it home more than most competitors because I don't get a break from it. I never dreamed we would go to four races and not qualify. We used to be a very good team and something's missing."

Anderson's last victory came at the 1996 Northwest Nationals in Seattle. Her best effort to date was a semi-final appearance at the Slick 50 Nationals at Houston in 1997. Since then she's had 13 first round losses, seven second round losses and five DNQs. A trip to the winner's circle at Englishtown would be the best medicine for her Parts America team.

"We want to win so bad right now," Anderson said. "Maybe we didn't appreciate it as much as we should have. Everyone on this team doesn't just want to win, we want to dominate. It's a hard way to look at it because we're a long way from it."

* NHRA provisionals: Despite not qualifying for the first four events of the season, Shelly Anderson doesn't feel like a provisional qualifying system like NASCAR incorporates is needed. She says in the best interest of the fans, NHRA's current system works just fine.

"If I can't run quick enough to make the top 16, I don't need to be there on Sunday," Anderson said. "If my car is not running good enough to keep up, then the fans wouldn't get what they deserve. In NASCAR you have 43 starters and it's different. In drag racing, with 16 cars, two side-by-side for eight pairs in the first round you need the quickest cars to make good racing."