There have been few times during the illustrious career of Pro Stock veteran Greg Anderson that he has been relieved to achieve something, but that is exactly what he was Saturday night at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway as Anderson topped the Pro Stock field for the first time in nearly a year.

Anderson, who has won just one time in his last 30 races, bested teammate Jason Line by four thousandths in the fourth and final qualifying session with a 6.571-second pass at 210.54 mph in the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to take his first top qualifier award since July of 2018.

“Tonight’s session was just a perfect run inside the car,” an elated Anderson said. “It's one of those runs that you don’t have very often. You are going down the race track and you are almost clapping, you are smiling and just saying ‘yes, yes, yes’ and you hope and pray that when you turn the corner, they tell you it is No. 1. And luckily it was.

“I had to sweat it out one more pair with Jason and Matt Hartford. I just knew the way things were going I was going to lose it by a thou, but I didn’t so the gods were with me today and we get to start from the No. 1 spot and get another green hat. Now it is on to business tomorrow trying to find a way to change colors (of this hat). It has been a while. I really, really need it. I want it. It has been a long time since I have won. This class is so hard to win in, but I think these are the best racecars we have had all year.”

Anderson just held off Line in Saturday’s night session as Line crossed the stripe with a 6.575 at 209.39 mph. Matt Hartford was third with a 6.585 at 206.76 mph, followed by Erica Enders (6.590) and Richard Freeman (6.593).

With Saturday’s top qualifying effort, the 103rd of Anderson’s career, he moves into elite company behind only John Force and Warren Johnson in the No. 1 qualifier category in NHRA history.

“It is a huge number, there is no question about that. Anytime you can go by one of Bob Glidden’s records you better be proud of that. That is pretty darn cool,” Anderson said.

While it has still been nearly a year since Anderson last won a race, he has seen a big turnaround over the past few weeks including a runner-up effort at the Virginia Nationals two weeks ago and the top qualifier award this weekend. He credits much of that success to the month-long break in April and early May as time needed for the team to play catch up on the field.

“Since the little break we had in the schedule we were able to stay home and work for a month or so and it looks like the KB Racing team came out with the biggest gains in the little mini offseason we had,” Anderson said. “I am very proud of that. I am proud of the guys and how fast our cars are right now. Obviously we’ve done our homework. (Two weeks ago) we had the hottest track we’ve raced on all season and it seems like we did a better job on a greasy track. Now we are at the best race track we’ve had all year and our cars are strong again.

“I am just proud of the job Rob Downing and Dave Connolly are doing and all the guys on the crew. It is fun right now. It is a tough, tough game and you had better find a way to get better every day or you are going to get passed by.”

Anderson will face Alan Prusiensky in round one on Sunday as he seeks a trip to his second-straight final and first win of 2019. But it won’t be easy, despite being one of his favorite tracks on the schedule, Anderson hasn’t had a lot of success at Route 66 Raceway when it comes to taking home Wallys.

“I love racing here. I love the track and our cars always make good, high-quality runs here. I have no earthly idea why I’ve struggled to win here,” Anderson said. “It is all up to the drivers to get it done now and we will see what we can do tomorrow. The weather is going to be cool and that means the starting line will be great all weekend. You are going to see fast, side-by-side racing and it is all going to come down to who gets their foot off the clutch first.

“I am going to go home tonight and pray to the gods that my left foot wakes up on the right side of the bed tomorrow and it is quick and it gets the job done.”