NHRA Pro Stocker Line Is Off To A Perfect Start
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Every year, Jason Line tells somebody somewhere that the goal for his NHRA Pro Stock season is to win (fill in the number of events that are held that season right here) races. This year, the number is 22.
And every year, the goal goes unrealized.
He knows that the goal probably will elude him again this year but for the time being – that is, heading into this weekend’s Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas, – the dream lives on.
Line is undefeated through the first two events of the year: He won the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. in February, and then the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. in March.
And if going undefeated in 2011 is a fantasy, the speed and consistency he and his Summit Racing Equipment team has shown, is not.
“We’ve got a great hot rod right now,” Line said during a telephone chat earlier this week, “and I definitely feel like we have a shot to go 3-0. We’ll see what happens.”
The start is the best for Line in the eight years he has been driving full time in Pro Stock. Better than 2009 when he won five events and 50 rounds in eliminations, better, even, than 2006 when he won the series championship.
“By far,” he said.
“I didn’t drive nearly as well as I should have in those years,” Line said. “I did have a pretty good year
(in 2006), but I didn’t finish things off like I should have. In ’09, I did have a better year driving. That was probably the best I’ve driven throughout the course of the year.”
Also at record levels for Line is the momentum and confidence he currently possesses.
“It feels really good,” he said. “I would say that at this point in my career, its the most confidence I’ve ever had. I figure it stems from the fact that we have a lot of depth right now in our team.
“We have great crew chiefs (his are Rob Downing and Tommy Utt) and that’s something we’ve never had before. We used to be a little under-staffed in that department but all of our guys, every one of them, they’re doing a great job.
“That gives me a ton of confidence that every time you go out there, you’re going to make a good run. I can’t tell you how good a feeling that is for a driver.”
Pro Stock, as usual, is the best stocked of the pro classes this year. And while it may not feature the power powerful cars and thunderous action, it offers the best pure racing in NHRA, many believe.
Line certainly believes that.
“That’s the great thing about Pro Stock. There’s a lot of technology involved,” Line said. “Funny car and Top Fuel is more of a shock type class. Pro Stock is a little more finesse and certainly on the cutting edge of technology as far as the engine goes.
“The technology is out there for everybody but we try to get on that leading edge. It’s about the right people in the right place.”
Coming between Line and his desire to go undefeated this year will be the people in place on teammate Greg Anderson’s Pontiac GXP.
Anderson is the defending series champion. Anderson is, in fact, a four-time Pro Stock champion who has not finished worse than third in points since 2001.
But while it seems fairly certain that Anderson will come between Line and a Wally or two this season, it is just as certain that their status as teammate could result in better finishes for the team in the long run.
“I think we definitely push each other but not outwardly and it’s never spoken about per se,” Line said.
“Greg is the most competitive person I have ever met. He wants to win more than anybody. He is so focused that it’s hard to describe. But he has pushed me to become a better driver and pushed me to do a better job.
“The last two weeks it’s not worked out good for him personally, but it’s still worked out good for our team. Hopefully we can have a year where we go back and forth, we each get to win a lot of races and we get to meet each other a lot” in final-round matchups, like they did in the Gatornationals.
Well, Anderson said, he hopes this weekend things don’t turn out exactly like they did in the Winternationals.
“Jason has done a tremendous job this year, coming out and winning the first two races,” Anderson said. “It’s great for KB (Ken Black) Racing, and everybody on the team is happy for him including me, but now it’s my turn. I need one of those special silver Wallys, so I’ll be trying even harder this weekend, seeing if I can wrestle one away from him.”
This weekend’s race is a home job for Summit Racing Equipment. The race’s title sponsor bears the name and the team bears the burden.
Also heating up emotions and pressure for the Summit folks is that team owner Ken Black is scheduled to be on hand.
Black suffered a stroke in 2009. A severe stoke. He is still wheel-chair bound and facing a tough recovery.
But things are better with Black now and a lot better around the team.
“After he had the stroke (in December of 2009), basically, the whole month of December, our guys, like everybody in the shop, we walked around like somebody had shot our dog, you know?” Line said. “Everybody was kicking rocks. We were very depressed. For sure. And for a lot of reasons.
“It’s one of those moments where, especially when he started to finally get better, like we really realized what we have with Ken and what kind of guy he is and his whole family and how devoted they are.
“It’s a very big deal. You realize that there are very few times in your life when you are going to meet a person like Ken. But not only to meet him, but the opportunity to work for him. He’s a great man.”
Anderson said, “Every trip we take to Las Vegas is special because of Ken Black, but it gets even better in the spring because as a Summit event we get to see all our friends from Summit Racing Ken means everything to this race team, and he just keeps swinging away, working hard to get better. We miss him at the races he can’t come to right now, but he’ll be at the track with us all weekend, so life will be right again.
The Summit team drivers hooked up with Black at mid week in Vegas. And the news was great.
“He looks better. Every time we see him, he looks better,” Line said. “My prediction is that he’s going to walking by summer.”
And making good on that prediction is a lot more important than realizing his hope to go 22-0 this year for line.
“He’s an example of how we want to live our lives.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment