August 12, 2010
NHRA driver Anderson of Duluth returns
for quick stop in Northland
By Jon Nowacki
Greg Anderson admits his memory isn’t what
is used to be, so the three-time NHRA drag racing champion was a
little embarrassed when people approached him at Powerhouse Bar
in Proctor on Wednesday and asked, “Do you remember me?”
Anderson was too honest to answer anything but,
“No, sorry, I don’t.”
Anderson, a 1979 Duluth Denfeld graduate, returned
home to sign autographs and take pictures for an ALS fundraiser,
and he used the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make
some new ones. Anderson is in Minnesota for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals
today through Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway.
“I don’t remember much. I’m
getting old,” Anderson said, laughing. “I remember a
lot of the names, but the faces aren’t jogging the memory.”
Fifth Street was blocked off so Anderson could
display his Pro Stock Pontiac and, nearby, a makeshift classic car
show sprang up. A Twins-themed Polaris snowmobile and trailer were
being raffled off for ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a degenerative nerve disease that
leads to muscle deterioration and ultimately death. There’s
no known cure.
Anderson, 49, is best friends with Proctor businessman
Dan Hartel, who helped start the Black Woods Blizzard Tour. The
tour has raised more than $3 million for ALS patient care in 11
years, including a record $500,000 last year.
Anderson and Hartel’s mutual friend, Kevin
Kolquist, died of ALS in 2007 after a long battle with the disease.
“This is a chance for Greg to come back
and also, maybe help us raise a little money for the cause,”
Hartel said. “He hasn’t been back for so many years,
and a lot of his friends come and see him, so it’s kind of
a big thing for a local boy, but he doesn’t think of it that
way. He’s just Greg, the same guy he’s always been.”
Chris Shaw of Proctor has been going to the BIR
Nationals every year since 1991 and stopped by just to say “hi”
to Anderson and “thanks for coming up.”
Bob Hakala of Duluth is a longtime drag racing
fan who used to hang out with Greg Anderson’s cousin, Denny
“Greg is an icon around here,” Hakala
said. “When you’ve got somebody like him, who does what
he’s doing right here, it’s great for the community.
The hometown boy comes back to raise awareness for ALS. He’s
that kind of guy. He’s a great example of what we need around
Anderson has overcome his share of adversity this
year. Team owner Ken Black suffered a debilitating stroke in December
and is gradually working his way back to health, and in January,
Anderson’s home in Concord, N.C., was destroyed by a neighborhood
Anderson is fourth in the season points standings
and is the defending Pro Stock champion at Brainerd after beating
his teammate, Jason Line, a native of Wright, in last year’s
final. Line has yet to win at his home track.
“That was what I would consider a perfect
day, but one look at Jason’s face, and I could tell he was
not happy at all. He took that loss to heart,” Anderson said.
“There is nowhere he would like to win more than Brainerd.
It means the world to him, so I’d love to see him get it this
Anderson used to return to Duluth every year the
week before the BIR Nationals. His uncle, Les Williams, would hold
a barbecue, but with all the travel, the schedule is always tight,
so Williams took his annual cookout to Brainerd the last two years.
Anderson said it got too difficult to get his
entire crew to come to Duluth, but he said he will always try to
make time for things like Wednesday’s ALS fundraiser.
“The toughest part for me,” Anderson
insisted, “is remembering the names and the faces, because
this wasn’t bad at all. The No. 1 reason I’m here is
because of ALS. I still had to take an extra day away from the shop,
but for a cause like this, we’ll make it happen. I’ve
been wanting to do this for a long time.”