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Pro Stocker Line Wins One For Hospitalized Teammate

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 10 2014

Jason Line gave KB Racing something to cheer on Sunday at the 2014 Winternatinoals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

Jason Line arrived at the 2014 NHRA Winternationals with a built-in excuse should he end the event with a less-than-wonderful result.  The KB Racing Pro Stock driver could simply say he had more important things than drag racing on his mind.

Line, however, opted against excuse making. Instead, he used news that teammate/team leader Greg Anderson would be forced to miss the first six races of the 2014 Mello Yello season because of a heart surgery, as motivation.

And the result was an impressive victory in Pomona and, hopefully, a nice emotional boost for Anderson, who is recuperation from his surgery in North Carolina.

“I talked to Greg this morning, and he gave me strict instructions,” said Line, who joined the KB Racing team, a group that now owns 104 event titles, in 2004. “When I finally get to talk to him tonight, I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy with me. This is really cool, and I’m glad Greg is getting better. I’m forever indebted to him for giving me the opportunity so many years ago that nobody else would have.”

The Ken Black-owned team announced just a couple of weeks ago that Anderson would have the surgery, the purpose of which is to correct a condition the 52-year-old former Driver of The Year Award winner has had since birth.

“It’s really not a big deal,” Anderson said in late January in announcing his plans. “I was born with a bicuspid aortic heart valve (two valve openings instead of three). It’s something we’ve kept track of over the years, and my doctor has decided it’s time to make some repairs so I stay in good shape. I will miss the first few races of the season, but once the doctor says I’m good to go, I’m gonna be right back at it looking for another Pro Stock championship.”

So KBR headed to Auto Club Raceway with NHRA rookie Jimmy Alund from Sweden in Anderson’s car, with Vincent Nobile driving under the team’s banner and with Line competing without Anderson to lean on for the first time since joining the team 10 years ago.

Line, tuned by crew chiefs Rob Downing and Tim Freeman, had a strong Summit Racing Camaro from the start.  He entered eliminations as the No. 3 qualifier based on a best time of 6.514-second at 212.63 mph.

On Sunday, Line over came Matt Hartford’s .004-second reaction time to win the first round matchup. 

In the second-round, Line nabbed a .003-second starting line advantage over Pro Stock returner Dave Connolly and lengthened his lead as he raced down the quarter-mile for a 6.536, 212.06 to 6.544, 212.06 win.

In the semifinals, Line beat Shane Gray with the quickest and fastest pass of the round, a 6.527, 212.23 to Gray’s 6.541, 211.79.

In the finals, Line beat V. Gaines by .003-seconds with his best run of the day.

Anderson was watching and cheering in a hospital room in N.C.

“But in all seriousness, this is a big deal for the Summit Racing team and our Chevrolet Camaros. We worked hard over the winter, and I think we really made some progress. The sport is crazy competitive right now, but we’re certainly off to a good start.”

Alund, meanwhile, qualified the second blue Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro in the No. 10 spot with a best time of 6.546-second at 211.86 mph. But in his first round matchup against Gray, he illuminated the red light by .014-second and forfeited the win.

“I think this is only the third one [red light] in all my days,” said Alund, who explained that the LED lights on the Christmas tree, NHRA’s timing system, were different than the system used in Europe, where he is an eight-time FIA Pro Stock champion. “It’s a little different here, but that’s okay. That’s racing.”

Still, the KBR folks head home happy.

“The KB Racing team was great this weekend,” Line said. “We all pitched in and worked together, and Jimmy Alund [who will drive Anderson's Summit Racing Camaro for the first six events] was a great help as well. He’s a very capable guy and was certainly an asset to us this weekend, there’s no question.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 10 2014
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