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NHRA driver Anderson inspired by owner’s courage

Greg Anderson never lacks confidence at a drag race.

But it wasn’t swagger or cockiness that led him to boldly state this past week that he would win the Pro Stock title today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I stand by it,” he said Saturday. “But whether I do or don’t, I’ll still leave here smiling.”

It’s hard to imagine Anderson smiling if he leaves without the first-place trophy. The intense racer credits that attitude for a pep talk he received Friday from the man responsible for helping him win three series championships and 60 titles.

“Ken Black put things into perspective for me,” Anderson said. “He said stop worrying about (Black) and go back to having fun. … He’s the best man I’ve ever met in my life.”

Anderson always has taken advice from the Las Vegan, but the words had greater impact coming from Black, who was in a wheelchair unable to use most of his left side after suffering a major stroke in December.

“I came here planning to give Ken a pep talk, and he ends up giving me one,” Anderson said.

Anderson qualified four spots behind pole winner Mike Edwards, the reigning Pro Stock series champion and winner of three titles this year. Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Mike Edwards in Funny Car retained their top positions from runs made Friday. Championship eliminations in the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals will begin at 11 a.m. today.

But none of the pole winners has as much at stake as Anderson and teammate Jason Line.

They desperately want to deliver a winner’s trophy to the 64-year-old Black, whose weekend has been full of happy interactions with many members of his extended racing family.

“I’ve had so many visitors. Mike Edwards just left,” Black said in a brief telephone interview Saturday afternoon.

“I’m doing better, but I still have a long way to go. But my mind is still good, and I can talk. We hope to be back at the track in October” for the NHRA’s second yearly stop in Las Vegas.

Black owned several major construction businesses in Southern Nevada before starting KB Racing.

“Ken is quite the man,” Anderson said. “He keeps light-hearted with a smile on his face while I’ve been kicking rocks and dragging my lower lip on the ground. And he’s the one in the wheelchair. My perspective changed after being with him.”

Black has spent the past few months in a physical rehabilitation center in the area and could move back into his home next week once construction of an elevator is complete.

Black gave Anderson his break to drive full time in Pro Stock, and Anderson passed the opportunity on to Line, who won the 2006 title.

Anderson worked with six-time Pro Stock champ Warren Johnson for 12 years before moving in 2001 to a new team owned by Black and George Marnell, another Las Vegan. The next year, Black started his own team with Anderson driving and working as crew chief.

Anderson’s first Pro Stock ride was provided by Troy Humphrey, his father-in-law. Humphrey’s son, Ronnie, qualified 15th for today’s race in a KB Racing Pontiac GXP provided by Black and Anderson.

The chain continues.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

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