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2020 Is End Of The Line For NHRA Pro Stocker

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 16 2020
Ken Black Racing’s Jason Line announced his impending retirement this week. (RacinToday HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Three-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion Jason Line will retire from the cockpit after the 2020 season as the California-based sanctioning body celebrates 50 years of the “Factory Hot Rod” class.

Having turned 50 last July and with 50 Pro Stock wins on his resume, Line figured the numbers added up to retiring from behind the wheel of his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Line has dubbed his final season of driving for Ken Black Racing “The Finish Line Tour.”

Line plans to remain active in the sport building and tuning Pro Stock and Sportsman-class race engines at the Ken Black Racing shop in Mooresville, N.C.

“It’s been a good run, and I’ve really enjoyed driving a Pro Stock car for Ken Black and Summit Racing,” Line said in a team release. “I’m not leaving Pro Stock _ I’m just going to be working for wins for KB Racing from a different kind of seat.”

Line joined KB Racing in 2003 to drive a second Pro Stock car alongside Greg Anderson, now a four-time world champion, and made his professional debut at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio.

Drag racing and high-performance always have been a part of Line’s life. His entire family races _ including parents Lawrence and Maxine _ his siblings, and their offspring. Line won the 1993 NHRA Stock Eliminator divisional and national championships behind the wheel of a 1970 Buick Gran Sport. He drives the very same car to this day in Stock Eliminator whenever he gets a chance.

Line previously worked as head dyno operator at Joe Gibbs Racing for five years in NASCAR, and was part of the crew that helped Bobby Labonte win the 2000 Winston Cup Series Championship.  Labonte will join team-owner Gibbs as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 11th class during induction ceremonies at the Charlotte Convention Center on Jan. 31. The class also includes Buddy Baker, Tony Stewart and Waddell Wilson.

Line advanced to one semifinal during his four-race Pro Stock debut season in 2003. The following season he emerged as NHRA’s top rookie performer and winner of the Auto Club Road to the Future Award after claiming four wins in eight final-round appearances. Line also was one of only two drivers to defeat teammate Anderson in a first-round match. Anderson earned his second consecutive championship in 2004 by winning an NHRA record 15 national event finals and 16 pole positions.

“I’m very grateful to Greg Anderson and Ken and Judy Black for giving me the opportunity to drive for so long for the best team in drag racing,” said Line, a native of Wright, Minn., who began honing his racing skills at Brainerd International Raceway. “Driving a Pro Stock car was for sure a dream of mine as a kid, and winning a Pro Stock championship was something you always hope you’ll achieve but never really imagine will happen.

“I love this class, and it has been a privilege and an honor to be part of it for so long and be able to do so well. It’s the toughest class there is, and I will continue to help KB Racing and Team Summit win as many Wallys as possible.”

Line earned his Pro Stock championships in 2006, 2011 and 2016. Led by Anderson and Line, KB Racing has posted a combined 160 Pro Stock wins and eight championships, including the most recent title by Bo Butner in 2017.

The 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season schedule begins with the 60th annual NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., Feb. 7-9.

“We are very grateful to Jason for all of his contributions as a Summit Racing Pro Stock driver,” said Jim Greenleaf, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports and Events Manager. “He is a great driver and we’ll miss cheering for him as one of the faces of Team Summit. We’re excited to see what he’s capable of doing in the engine shop and on the dyno to move KB Racing forward.”

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NHRA Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. will continue Don Schumacher Racing’s tradition of fielding “giving cars” for the seventh consecutive season in 2020, when he wheels the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for the full schedule. 

Johnson will represent The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world’s most respected facilities focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. The center is located in Houston.

The “giving car” program, which enables a non-profit to be recognized through a dedicated tribute livery at no cost to the organization, was started in 2014 by Doug Chandler’s late wife, philanthropist and longtime friend of DSR, Terry Chandler. Following Terry’s passing in July 2017, Chandler opted to continue his wife’s legacy by personally funding the 11,000-horsepower machines piloted by Johnson and his Funny Car teammate, 2012 NHRA world champion “Fast” Jack Beckman.

From 2014 through the end of 2019, Johnson wheeled the Make-A-Wish Funny Car. After 10 race wins, more than 500 Wish Kids and their families hosted at the track, four Wishes granted and countless memories, Chandler made the decision to “spread the ‘giving car’ love” by fielding an MD Anderson car fulltime in 2020 with Johnson.

Beckman, a U.S. Air Force veteran and cancer survivor, will continue to serve as an ambassador for returning soldiers and their families by promoting the Infinite Hero Foundation on his Hellcat throughout 2020.

Beckman drove the MD Anderson Funny Car during the 2019 MOPAR Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil last April in Baytown, Texas. Chandler elected to campaign the MD Anderson car during the Houston-area event to showcase the institution’s top-notch cancer research and patient care initiatives.

Chandler has experienced first-hand the exceptional level of care provided by MD Anderson. In 2017, Terry was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and rare form of brain cancer, and sought treatment at MD Anderson before ultimately succumbing to the disease. When Chandler, a colon cancer survivor, received a recent skin cancer diagnosis, he chose MD Anderson to treat and help him overcome his latest scare.

“It’s my hope that by running this car fulltime, we can raise awareness for MD Anderson and all that they do, which will hopefully lead to more dollars donated for cancer research,” said Chandler, who, through his TLC Foundation, has awarded two grants to MD Anderson for glioblastoma research. “Cures are developed through research, and research takes money.

“The fans in Baytown, Texas, were so supportive of the MD Anderson car last year, and I’m certain the NHRA community will embrace MD Anderson just as they have with Make-A-Wish, Infinite Hero and Riley Kids.”

Team-owner Schumacher also is no stranger to the services provided by the renowned institution. Upon his 2014 diagnosis of head and neck cancer, Schumacher also elected to receive treatment at MD Anderson and credits their team for helping him to overcome the disease.

“We at DSR have been affected by cancer in a big way,” said Johnson, a 51-year-old native of Ottumwa, Iowa, and winner of 19 Funny Car events. “First it was Don’s ordeal, and then Terry, and most recently, Doug. It seems as if these days, pretty much everyone has been affected by cancer in some way _ whether it’s through a personal diagnosis or through a friend, family member or co-worker.

“We saw first-hand how much the folks at MD Anderson helped Don and Terry and Doug. MD Anderson does so many great things for not just adults, but kids too. A lot of people have benefitted from what they do. There are so many great and deserving organizations out there, and we couldn’t be prouder that Doug has chosen MD Anderson for us to represent this year.”

Johnson will drive the MD Anderson Dodge at 23 of 24 events in 2020, beginning with the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 7-9. Johnson’s machine will switch to a one-race-only Riley Kids livery during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, DSR’s hometown event, in the late summer.

Fans can support Chandler and DSR’s initiative by visiting http://www.mdanderson.org/myfundraising and using the DSRFC solicitation code when making a donation. 

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John Force drag racing fans, how financially deep is your loyalty to the Brute?

Chevrolet is offering a one-of-a-kind 2020 John Force COPO Camaro for bid at the 49th annual Barrett Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., this weekend. Proceeds will benefit DonorsChoose.org, whose mission is to help classrooms in need so that students in every community have the tools and experiences required for a complete education.

The racetrack-ready John Force COPO Camaro features a black-and-silver paint scheme and signature exterior graphics, including a ghosted American flag on the hood. The interior has been designed by the 16-time NHRA Funny Car word champion. The car also features a unique “2020COPO-FORCE” identification plaque.

“I enjoyed helping design this car,” said Force, who will give a custom helmet and fire suit to the winning bidder. “The car is stylish. Of course, under the hood it’s unbelievable. The COPO Camaro is already a formidable race car. But this one is even more special, as it will help support a cause I firmly believe in.”

Power for the John Force COPO Camaro is provided by a revised version of Chevrolet Performance’s supercharged, LSX-based 350 V-8 engine, featuring a 2.65-liter Magnuson supercharger and all-new LSX-SC cylinder heads. A Racer’s package _ consisting of a carbon-fiber air inlet, dual batteries, weight box, parachute and quick-change coupling for the engine _ also is included.

The John Force COPO, Lot No. 3004, is scheduled to be auctioned Friday at 8:30 p.m. (EST) during a live, three-hour telecast on the MotorTrend Network. Programming will begin at 8 p.m.

The John Force Edition is part of the second COPO program, begun in 2012, and builds on the legacy established in 1969 when the first purpose-built Camaro drag racing specialty car was designed to compete in NHRA Stock Eliminator. The COPO nameplate is a nod to the Central Office Production Order system, which Chevrolet dealers used to build one-of-a-kind high-performance models. Also, as a nod to the program, only 69 COPO Camaros are built and sold each year (552 so far) through a lottery.

“John Force is one of the most legendary drag racers in history _ and his legend started with Chevrolet,” said Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance and Motorsports. “We are proud to partner with him on this one-of-a-kind COPO Camaro and are excited to see what it will do on the auction block for charity.”

Force, driver of a Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car and his team’s namesake, will seek to extend an NHRA record for victories to 152 when the 24-race season opens at the Winternationals from Feb. 7-9 in Pomona, Calif.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 16 2020
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