On Friday, I-80 Speedway hosts the 12th annual Alphabet Soup Race. The race’s defending champion is Omaha’s John Anderson. Anderson also won one of the most exciting races ever at I-80, the 2009 Soup Race. There’s more: The Midwest Late Model Racing Association is one of the series co-sanctioning the Soup Race, and Anderson is the defending champion of the series and also a three-time series champion. But this week, this column is about more than racing.
Anderson started his racing career in 1990 at Friday Night Flyers at Eagle Raceway. In his career, he has more than 100 feature wins and five track championships, including a Friday Night Flyer championship at Eagle, a Grand National title at Sunset and three late model championships at Park Jefferson Speedway in Jefferson, S.D.
Anderson would switch from late models to modifieds, driving for owner Kyle Gerdes. The team decided to campaign in the United States Modified Series — forerunner of the USMTS — and finished third in the point standings, earning Anderson rookie of the year honors. After a couple of years, Gerdes switched to late models and Anderson reluctantly went along.
Eventually, the two decided to part ways, and Anderson was back racing for himself. Despite help from Larry Moring and Bill Koons, it was a financial struggle. During the 2006-07 offseason, Anderson met Manhattan, Kan., businessman Greg Junghans, a car owner with all the equipment but no team. Anderson had the team, so the pair decided to merge. That decision has paid dividends ever since.
In 2007, the team picked up a dozen wins and the first of its three Midwest Late Model Racing Association championships, but it might have been the one that got away that people remember. Anderson put a pass on Don O’Neal to take the lead of the $25,000-to-win Diamond Nationals at Wheatland, Mo., but eventually finished second to Brian Birkhofer. Still, it was a $15,000 payday for the team.
Since that time, the team added two more MLRA championships — in 2011 and 2012 — plus a number of major wins. Included in those wins are two Alphabet Soup titles, a Cornhusker Classic title, the Sunflower Showdown and the Belleville 100 Modified championship at the Belleville High Banks. But along the way the team continued to change and evolve.
“The chemistry of the team keeps changing,” Anderson said. “We are not where we need to be, but we keep working at it.”
He said Chase Junghans, Greg Junghans’ son, is racing a dirt late model with the team, giving it two cars to manage.
“Chase is the future of the Quick Trip team, as some day I will be stepping down,” Anderson said.
That’s John Anderson the race car driver. Now let’s talk about the other John Anderson.
John and his wife, Lisa, volunteer at their church with the F.A.I.T.H. youth team. A few years ago, the team raced in Hutchinson, Kan., on Friday night, and then Dodge City, Kan., on Saturday night. After that race, John drove 6½ hours back to Omaha to attend the baptism of four of their youth group kids, grabbed a nap and then headed to Heartland Park Topeka on Sunday night, where he won the feature.
“Lisa and I recently started a college group that meets at our house on Sunday nights,” Anderson said. “We have had as many as 18 kids on a Sunday to have a meal and just discuss life. Our activities have changed as our kids have gotten older.”
John and Lisa have a daughter who goes to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an 18-year-old son.
“I’m also fortunate that my son J.J. is on the Shop Quik team, so I get to spend some quality time with him when we are racing,” Anderson said.
I think it’s fair to say that John Anderson has proven to be a champion off the track as well as on it.
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