Jason Line Comes Out On Top In All-Pontiac Pro Stock Final Warren Johnson Back In First Place After Eighth Lead Change of 2005 ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 19, 2005 - Just when you thought the NHRA Pro Stock championship chase couldn't get any more...
Jason Line Comes Out On Top In All-Pontiac Pro Stock Final
Warren Johnson Back In First Place After Eighth Lead Change of 2005
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 19, 2005 - Just when you thought the NHRA Pro Stock championship chase couldn't get any more exciting, today's all-Pontiac final round at the K & N Super Nationals between Jason Line and Warren Johnson catapulted the POWERade points battle to a heightened pitch and the eighth lead change this season. The 35-year-old Line captured his third win of the year, and his second straight on the tour to move within six points of first-place Warren Johnson, who climbed back to the top of the standings with his fourth final-round appearance of the season.
"We have a great team, great sponsors and I'm just the lucky guy that gets to drive the car," said Line. "Fortunately, today the car ran great, everybody made a great effort getting it ready for raceday and I drove it good enough to get the job done. As the conditions changed the team did a terrific job keeping up with the race track, one of our better days that we've been able to do that. We certainly didn't win the race because of big horsepower, we did it by being able to adapt and making the right calls on the Summit Racing Pontiac when we had to. This was a very big team effort."
Line came into today's race with his Summit Racing Pontiac parked in the No. 7 position. Although he struggled during qualifying, Line seemed to have the kinks worked out of his car on race day and eliminated Greg Stanfield in round one, Greg Anderson in round two and Larry Morgan in round three before facing off with the six-time champion in the finals. Line's Pontiac put up strong numbers all afternoon posting the quickest e.t. of the meet in the first session at 6.659 seconds, and then followed that with a 6.671 second run in the quarterfinals and a 6.680 e.t. in the semifinals. In the title stanza against the GM Performance Parts driver, Line's Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac launched first with a .014 reaction time and then sprinted to the finish line with a 6.692 second e.t. at 205.98 mph. Johnson's Pontiac followed with a 6.714 second run at a career-best top speed of 207.50 mph. Line's margin of victory was .044 of a second.
"We kind of got off to a sluggish start to the season and now it looks like we're on a roll," said Line. "Greg and I have been driving better, but we still have a lot of work to do. The race season is getting in the way of our engine testing but we're going to get better as it goes on."
It was Line's seventh career victory, his 13th career final round and the second straight win for the Pontiac driver at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The Minnesota native has now advanced to the final round in three of the last five events and throws his hat into the center of the ring for the 2005 NHRA POWERade championship.
"I love this place," said Line. "It's also the first time I've ever won two races in a row. That's pretty exciting. Hopefully either Greg or myself can get the points lead and we can be one and two. This is the closest I've ever been to first place, that's for sure. We have some cool stuff coming in the engine department and there's no doubt we're going to be tough for the rest of the year."
Warren Johnson captured his first career victory at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in 1982. Today the GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver drove to his 147th career final round, his fourth this season, and advanced back into first place in the Pro Stock standings. After qualifying in the No. 4 spot, Johnson defeated Allen Johnson in round one, Jim Yates in round two and Kurt Johnson in round three before losing to Line in the finals. After changing engines before his final-round battle with Line, the GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver came back to post a career-best speed and the fastest of the meet at 207.50 mph.
"On race day you have to do whatever you can to win," said Johnson. "It doesn't have to be pretty, as long as you get to the finish line first, which we were able to do three times today, and just missing getting it done in the final. We had spun the tires in the first three rounds, so we gave it a lot more power for the final based on being too cautious early on. As a result, it blew the tires off at the hit of the throttle, and we came up 50 feet short of running him down. Still, we were pleased by the GM Performance Parts Pontiac's performance in the final.
"Overall, it was a good weekend. Certainly we would have preferred to win, but anytime you make it to the final, it's a good day. In addition, we learned a few things about this DRCE III engine that we will be able to apply to our entire inventory, which bodes well for the future. We're going in the right direction which is all that I can ask."
Three drivers in GM-branded cars advanced into the Pro Stock semifinal round including Kurt Johnson (Chevrolet), Warren Johnson (Pontiac), and Line. Kurt Johnson lost in round three to Warren Johnson and two-time POWERade points champion Greg Anderson lost in round two to Summit Racing Equipment teammate Jason Line by .004 of a second.
"You'd like to win the race but it just didn't happen," said Johnson. "We made some changes on the car before coming here, and it was good during qualifying, but obviously, running with the sun on the track and behind the Top Fuel cars made a big difference today. It spun this morning when we ran the 6.68, and we were under more control in the second round with the 6.67. We kept backing it down, backing it down and it lit the tires off - it was a totally different racetrack in the semifinals. We're getting qualified, we just need to win."
With bracket-car consistency Del Worsham captured his first Funny Car victory of the season in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo with a final-round victory over Ron Capps. Worsham qualified his Chevrolet in the No. 4 position and defeated Tony Bartone in round one, John Force in round two and Robert Hight in round three. Worsham rode a wave of consistent performance numbers in his Chevy Monte Carlo all the way to the winner's circle including a 4.828 e.t. in the first session, a 4.820 second run in the quarterfinals, a 4.854 e.t. in the semifinals and a 4.866 second run over Capps in the finals.
"We've done a lot of testing and made a lot of changes," said Worsham. "On Friday I felt so confident that we could win this thing with no problem, but then we had a tire-smoking Saturday and this morning we did some real soul-searching. Dad and I butted heads on a few things, and he knew there were some things I wanted to do but he made the right call and got us in the winner's circle. This one's for him. He kept the car consistent and the changes the team made worked."
It was the 35-year-old California veteran's 20th career victory and his second at this event. His first win at the Old Bridge came in 1991 and he advanced to the finals again in 1992. Today's victory plants him in ninth place in the Funny Car standings, but a little less than 100 points out of fifth place.
"Besides what this win does from a points standpoint, it's a huge shot in the arm as a morale booster," said Worsham. "To come back and win today now makes us think we can go into every race and win. We're looking forward to the rest of the season because now we feel we have a car that can win. This team seems to find a way of pulling everything together and getting the job done."
Including a runner-up performance at Topeka (Kan.), Tommy Johnson Jr. drove the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to a third consecutive semifinal round appearance today at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Johnson defeated Tim Wilkerson in round one and Gary Scelzi in round two before losing to Ron Capps in round three.
"This is the most confident I've come into a raceday in a long time," said Johnson. "The team has really come together and the performance of the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo has really come around. We're as competitive as anybody out here right now. I felt really good today, the best I've felt in years. Before Topeka we were convinced that we needed to do something to turn this thing around. We made some changes and the car responded. To get a runner-up there and then to go to Joliet and get a semifinal there, and another here, this team is headed straight forward and getting better and better every race. I think that will just multiply now because we are a competitive car and people are starting to notice. I only see it getting better."
Other Post-Race Comments:
Jim Yates (B & W Trailer Hitches Pontiac) "We've had a lot of highs and lows this weekend. We broke a transmission on Friday night and then had to go up there on Saturday morning and get in the field. That's kind of a scary situation to be in, but we did really well and we qualified our Pontiac No. 5. We felt like the car had the potential to do some damage today. In the first round we made what we felt was a really nice run but the car ran slow. We changed the engine tune-up to match the changing air conditions, messed around with the gear ratios a little bit and the car had so much power that in round two we were out of control in the first couple of gears. The car got loose, started shaking the tire and I had to quit. Either I was going to quit or I was taking the car home in a box. We're excited about qualifying No. 5 and we like the fact that we won the first round, but then we're disappointed with some of the failures we've had this weekend. In order to win a race you have to be perfect every round. We're working toward that end, we just have to keep going. We tested at St. Louis a couple of times already this year and that gives us a little bit of a head start on the competition. We've changed the car around quite a bit during the last few races and I'm excited with the way this Pontiac is running - I think it will work very well in St. Louis given the conditions there that we can expect. If you have a good history at a racetrack then you typically know how to win and we'll be going there with the intent of doing just that. We're constantly working on things. About the time you get complacent and think you're doing really well, we make a run like we did today in the second round against Warren (Johnson). We constantly have to keep challenging ourselves to be better, and if we don't then we won't be able to compete with the top cars. We just don't want to qualify or finish in the top-10. We want to be in the top couple of cars qualified and win races. In order to do that you have to keep challenging yourself and put that carrot out in front of the cart to do better."
Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac) "That's the way the breaks go and it's our own fault for qualifying where we did. If we want to be on opposite sides, then Jason (Line) and I need to be one and two. We didn't get that done this weekend and that's the way the cards fall. It was a great drag race. I knew I was in trouble when I let the clutch out and the car went sideways - right to the wall in low gear. At the same time, I was surprised it was close as it was. The bottom line is that I probably lost the race in the first round when I lost lane choice. We got all we could out of it. The Summit Racing Pontiac ran pretty good this weekend and obviously we're proud of that. We've been running good the last four or five races and we're kind of hitting our grove again even though there are still a few things we felt we could have done better this weekend. We never nailed that perfect run but you're not going to do that at every race. We have to accept that, keep trying and try to get it done at the next race. We have two good running cars that are fighting for the championship, one that's still in the show and we're going to do all we can to put Jason (Line) in the winner's circle. It's going to be a heck of a championship race. There's going to be at least five cars, if not more, all the way to the end. Kurt's (Johnson) running great right now and he's going to come back on us. It's great for the fans because that's what Pro Stock racing is all about and they should be liking what's going on now. We're going to dig down and try to come out on top."
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the Ninth annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., on June 24 - 26.