KB Racing’s Line Knows Pro Stock Repeat Not Going To Be Easy
Jason Line is hard-pressed to imagine what he could do for an encore in 2017.
The veteran KB Racing driver compiled points from eight national event victories and six runnerup results to remain one hole-shot ahead of teammate Greg Anderson en route to his third National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock world championship last season. Anderson matched Line’s win total to secure second place for the second consecutive season.
Ironically, during the months bridging the 2015 and ’16 seasons Line and Anderson briefly questioned whether they wanted to continue competing in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series because of the introduction of an unfamiliar rules package. As it turned out, their respective Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS entries were dominant, winning 23 of 24 events over the nine-month season.
“It’s going to be really hard to duplicate last season. It was the second-best year we’ve had as a group and probably a better year than most teams have ever had,” said Line, who reached the final round of eliminations in each of the first eight events. “Can we do the same thing? It’s possible.
“We got spoiled at the start of the year going to every final round. I’ve done it long enough to know it doesn’t stay that way, but we did have a great run and it would be nice to start that way this year. It’s going to be hard. Everybody is going to be bunched closer together. Everybody’s figured out the rules package. The competition will be closer; we just hope we can maintain a little edge.”
Line has 45 career Pro Stock victories entering this weekend’s season-opening 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Anderson (Pro Stock) were winner’s of last year’s tradition-rich event, which will for the first time in history feature Sunday’s eliminations broadcast live on the FOX network. The first of 24 races also will air on FOX Sports 1 on Friday and Saturday.
Line registered a 65-16 win/loss record to complement his eight No. 1 qualifiers. Anderson, who fell four points shy of recording his fifth Pro Stock world title, posted seven poles and a 64-16 round record. The results were surprising following an offseason of continuous questions about an NHRA rules package that included electronic fuel injection replacing the venerable carburetor. Questions remain, but the focus narrowed during this offseason.
“Last year was about coming up with a recipe; this year is more about refinement,” Line said. “We were starting from scratch. We were not ‘fuel injection guys,’ for sure. Last season was a panic to come up with something because we had a lot to learn. We still have a lot to learn, but there’s a big difference in the mindset compared to last season.”
Anderson, who needs 12 wins to surpass mentor Warren Johnson for the top spot on the “Factory Hot Rod” career list, added, “We knew nothing about electronics, nothing about computers, nothing about the new way of doing it. We were scared and there was a couple of weeks where we maybe didn’t want to do it anymore. We finally got our heads in the game and did it and had a great season.
“There still is a lot more to learn with the fuel injection for us. The motors are still down 30 to 40 horsepower from where they were with carburetors, and we know we’ll eventually get that back, but it’s been a slow process.
“We realized as the year went on the competition did close the gap on us. We kind of lost that edge we had at the start of the year, but still we closed in good style. We ended up being 1-2 in points and won the last race of the year, so it was a good way to send off the year and gave us a little extra oomph going into the offseason to work. But we realized that if we didn’t make gains in the offseason we would probably get passed by so we’ve been working hard. You just have to do better than the next guy is the bottom line.”
Engine testing at the KB Racing shop in Mooresville, N.C., was validated by on-track activity last month in Florida and this week at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Ariz. Line and Anderson also will be among the handful to open the season with the aerodynamic 2017 Chevrolet Camaro Gen 6 bodywork.
“They look fantastic _ the best-looking body we’ve ever had,” Anderson said. “It’s been a big project but I sure like the end result. The cleaner you can make the front end of the car, the more air that is going to enter the engine and that’s been the goal of this offseason. Every time we’ve come out with a new body, it’s been a step forward and I expect that again this year.”
Another step forward arguably would keep the KB teammates ahead of the competition, which this season will include former two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders and five-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. driving Camaros for Elite Motorsports. Enders and Coughlin drove Mopar-backed Dodge Darts in 2016.
As for his own offseason, Line didn’t have to look far for motivation. While he made sure to celebrate his first championship since 2011, Line remains driven to get better.
“There are a couple ways to look at it,” Line said. “In the offseason, the guy who finished second (Anderson) is right next to me and he’s been working really hard. It was somewhat of a relief, knowing you won a championship and you try to enjoy it, but you look at Greg and he is more motivated than ever. But it’s obviously a great feeling to have accomplished your goal. It’s a rare feeling because it doesn’t happen a lot and it’s nice to say that you did it.”
In Top Fuel, native Texan Torrence defeated Doug Kalitta in the event’s final round en route to three wins and a third-place point finish in 2016. He’ll square-off against a field featuring back-to-back world champion Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett.
In Funny Car, Capps started his 2016 dream season with a Winternationals victory, using that momentum to eventually claim his peer-popular first world championship. The field also includes former world champion Del Worsham in a return to his family-run team, 16-time champ John Force, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, as well as Courtney Force and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Qualifying will start with rounds at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, also at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday.
FOX Sports 1 will televise one hour of qualifying Friday at 7 p.m. (EST) and another hour of live qualifying Saturday at 1 p.m. On Sunday, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying at 2 a.m. (EST) while FOX will televise three hours of live eliminations starting at 4 p.m. (EST).
CIRCLE K WINTERNATIONALS FAST FACTS
John Force, Funny Car, 7; Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 7; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 6; Don Garlits, Top Fuel, 5; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 5; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel/Funny Car, 5; Larry Dixon, Top Fuel, 4; Jason Line, Pro Stock, 4.
Top Fuel _ 3.680-seconds by J.R. Todd, Nov. ’16 and 332.34 mph by Shawn Langdon, Nov. ’15.
Funny Car _ 3.825-seconds by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’16 and 332.84 mph by Beckman, Nov. ’16.
Pro Stock _ 6.480-seconds by Erica Enders, Nov. ’14 and 213.84 mph by Drew Skillman, Nov. ’15.
Top Fuel _ 3.671-seconds by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car _ 3.822-seconds by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock _ 6.455-seconds by Jason Line, March ’15, Concord, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.No Comment