Throughout his life, Late Model Stock Car driver Anthony Anders has always been taught to fight hard in order to achieve his goals. Growing up in the village of Easley, South Carolina, he learned very early in his life that nothing is handed to you and that you have to fight for everything.
Last season while battling within the southern LMSC ranks, Anders jumped out to a blistering start, recording six straight wins at South Carolina tracks Greenville Pickens Speedway and Myrtle Beach Speedway, as well as Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee.
The hot start in 2013 had Anders in the driver’s seat to compete for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship. As the season continued on, however, he began to fall off the pace and out of the championship equation as Lee Pulliam, Keith Rocco and a host of other short track stars pulled away. He ended up finishing 17th in the championship standings.
That scenario alone could have discouraged Anders from putting in all of the effort involved in competing for a National Championship in 2014. Instead, he came back even stronger with a new team, the Hawk-McCall Racing team, and got out to another hot start. This time he was able to keep the momentum going for the entirety of the season on his way to capturing 30 wins and securing the 2014 NWAAS National Championship over defending champion Lee Pulliam.
“When we set goals we always want to accomplish them,” Anders told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’ve been taught that all my life. It’s amazing. It’s just really amazing to be a national champion between all of the race tracks all around the nation. It’s an honor. I’ve won four state championships and four track championships in a row. I couldn’t have capped it off any better than by having a national championship.”
Anders’ National Championship did not come without controversy. Throughout the season, drivers and fans have voiced their frustrations over, what they believe to be, Anders cheating the system by bringing additional cars to the race track to meet NASCAR’s “full field” requirements needed to achieve maximum points.
“It’s been done every year,” Anders said of drivers manipulating the NWAAS National Championship point system. “It’s been done last year. It’s been the year before and the year before. When I set up in Charlotte back in 2009, when I won the state championship, I won 14 races that year and Phillip Morris won 18. I had the four best wins of the year through the nation and didn’t even finish in the top-70 in the nation, so how does that work? It’s the car count and everybody knows that.
“I took cars to the race tracks with me and I can say this much here, and a lot of people don’t know because they weren’t there, my son raced every race I raced and finished second to me in points at my home track. We had other guys there that we brought into our program, which we don’t have a formal motorsports program, they wanted to race and we helped them out. Sure enough we had a few start-and-park cars there’s no question about it but there’s not another track that Pulliam, Morris, or any of them raced at that didn’t do the same as I did.”
Regardless of what fans and other drivers may think of Anders and the way in which he won the 2014 NWAAS Division I championship, his division-leading 30 wins were earned by preparing the fastest cars at the track and driving them to victory lane.
Nobody can take that away from him regardless of whether or not they believe he earned the championship.
“We’ve had a great year at it between our three home tracks that we race at, Greenville, Anderson and Myrtle Beach,” said Anders. “It’s unbelievable to hook up with Hawk-McCall Racing and win 30 races between those three race tracks that I’ve raced at all my life.
“Anderson I won my first race there back in 1994 and Greenville I’ve won many, many races there prior to this year. Myrtle Beach we rolled in there twice this year and started dead last and won. We felt like the bonus points we got there really sealed the deal. To set the goals that we set and accomplish what we said we were going to do is a blessing to us.”
As the weeks wound down in the fight for the National Championship, many eyes were on the battle between Anders and the defending champion Pulliam. Pulliam had clicked off a doubleheader win at Southern National Motorsports Park and slightly closed the gap before Anders bounced back with a sweep of his own at Greenville Pickens.
Despite most eyes being on the two southern Late Model competitors, Anders was focused on what Connecticut driver Keith Rocco was accomplishing at his local track.
“I think everybody was looking at Lee Pulliam and me, but the man that was kind of sitting kind of idle and people weren’t really paying attention to was Rocco,” said Anders. “He had a chance really if he could have capitalized towards the end, but he got rained out a couple times. He had four races right there that he could have capitalized from 10th back and tied me for it. I probably would have beaten him in wins. Everybody was looking at Pulliam and me but didn’t realize that Rocco, I think, had the better chance than anybody did.”
Eventually, the combination of rain effecting Rocco’s chances and Pulliam’s decision to not attend a few events at the end of the season led to Anders walking away with the championship by 12 points over Pulliam and 22 points over Rocco.
It is at the end of the season that Anders will now have to make his biggest decision: what color shirt, tie, and suit will he wear to the NWAAS championship banquet in Charlotte?
“I’m not sure yet. I’ve got so many phone calls over the last several weeks after winning this championship it’s been overwhelming. I have a lot on my table at home during the week, too.”
As far as the championship speech he will have to give in front of the hundreds of drivers, teams and fans at the banquet, Anders isn’t nervous about that, or at least he says he isn’t right now.
“I do own a business and do a lot of communications with a lot of things back at home,” said Anders. “I’ve been up there (at the banquet) for four years and I’ve watched it all unfold. I’m excited about it. I’m excited to give my speech about how great of a year we have had and about how anybody’s goal can be met if they just put it to the test.
“I come from a mill village with nothing and now I’ve accomplished four state champions, four track champions and a national champion. It’s just a lot of blessings from the Lord above.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Sara D. Davis/NASCAR via Getty Images