Jason Line Puts Pontiac in Englishtown Pro Stock Winner's Circle for Third Straight Year Frank Manzo Drives Chevy Monte Carlo to 63rd National Event Victory in Alcohol Funny Car ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 18, 2006 - With points, prestige and...
Jason Line Puts Pontiac in Englishtown Pro Stock Winner's Circle for Third Straight Year
Frank Manzo Drives Chevy Monte Carlo to 63rd National Event Victory in Alcohol Funny Car
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 18, 2006 - With points, prestige and Garden State bragging rights all on the line today at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Jason Line narrowly defeated Dave Connolly in an all-GM Pro Stock final round to claim his second victory of the season at the 37th annual K & N Filters NHRA Supernationals. It was the third straight win at this event for the 36-year-old driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac and the sixth victory this year for a Pro Stock competitor in a GTO.
"This place is cool, it doesn't owe me anything," said Line of the fabled NHRA venue. "And the fans here are the best. We've won three times now in the last three years, I just wish we could race here every week. I got lucky the first two rounds when I wasn't very good on the tree, but in the final against Dave (Connolly) I knew I would have to be spot on perfect, and we got it done. All the guys on the Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac did a great job this weekend.'
Line entered today's eliminator with his Pontiac GTO qualified in the No. 5 position after posting a 6.663 e.t. at 207.85 mph. With hot, humid air slowing the naturally-aspirated cars on raceday, Line defeated Greg Stanfield in round one with a 6.707 e.t. at 206.61 mph, Rickie Smith in round two with a 6.718 e.t. at 206.42 mph (for his 100th career round win), and Allen Johnson in the semifinals with a 6.725-second run at 206.42 mph. In the finals against Connolly's Cobalt, the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO launched first with a light-switch quick .013 reaction and held off the Chevrolet with a winning 6.726 e.t at 205.98 mph. The Skull Gear Cobalt followed with a 6.739-second time at 206.45 mph. Line's margin of victory was .033 of a second.
"The Summit Racing Pontiac was awesome today," said Line. "It ran on a rail all afternoon and it definitely allowed us to hold service until the final. Every pass was within a hundredth-and-a-half to two-hundredths of a second of each other all day long, and on this hot racetrack, that says a lot. The track was awesome today as well - probably the best hot track I've ever raced on. Hats off to the crew here at Englishtown and the NHRA Safety Safari for doing a great job getting it prepped."
It was the 10th career victory for Line and his second win this year. This weekend's effort moved the Summit Racing Pontiac driver back around Jim Yates and into second place in the POWERade standings, 37 points behind first-place Greg Anderson.
"The class has evened up a lot this year and this was a good win for the team - a nice morale boost heading into the hot summer months," said Line. "I haven't driven well lately so it was nice to be able to cut a good light in the final. You feel like you let the team down when you lose on a holeshot, and you do because we work hard to make a lot of power, and our Pontiac makes nice runs. It doesn't make any sense to give it away on the starting line."
"Any time you can win it gives you momentum and confidence heading down the stretch. Parity in Pro Stock is much closer than it's been in years past, and the fans like that. Everybody has about the same power, everybody's making good runs, and there are a lot of sharp people out here doing this. To be able to win any time is a big deal, but each time I do it's an even bigger deal because I realize how hard it is to get here. You learn to enjoy it a little more as time goes on."
Dave Connolly was looking to become the first driver to win three races this season, but he came up just a little short to Line in the finals. Still, the driver of the Skull Chevy Cobalt advanced to his 17th career final round, his fourth final this season, and moved back into fourth place in the Pro Stock standings.
"We had a tough side of the ladder to get through, but our Chevy Cobalt was great all weekend, said the Ohio native. "Maybe if the driver sharpened up a little bit we'd be in the winner's circle. We have a good hot-track racecar and considering what we're heading into, that's a good sign. We made up some ground in the points race, but the win wasn't meant to be - I got my tail kicked in the finals. They did a better job than us, they deserved it and I'm sure there will be more opportunities for us down the road. At the same time, we're back in the points race. This weekend grouped up a bunch of us, and we were able to make up some rounds on Greg, so that should make this year pretty exciting. It's going to come down to the wire and hopefully our Chevrolet is one of those cars that will be in it."
Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevrolet advanced to the semifinal round for the third straight event. Johnson, who won last weekend in Chicago, defeated Larry Morgan and Jim Yates to reach the third round of the eliminator.
"To be honest, we feel as if we did only half the job," said Johnson. "Even so, it was still a productive day for the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt crew. We gained ground on the points leader and opened up a lead on most of the cars behind us. We'll take that to St. Louis next weekend where we'll see if we can duplicate our winning performance from a year ago."
Jim Yates' Pontiac GTO ran the top speed of the meet during Friday night qualifying and eventually qualified in the No. 3 position. With a win over Ron Krisher in round one, Yates advanced to round two before losing to Kurt Johnson.
"We struggled with the setup for today," said Yates. "I thought on Friday in the hot weather we were really good, the Sea Ray Boats Pontiac GTO ran really well, and today, we struggled with setup on the car - spinning the tire real bad in the second round. Of course we lost lane choice in first round, we went over in that right lane and it was loose. We thought we made some adjustments to get down it, and we didn't make the right ones. We made probably our worst run in four or five races. We got beat - that's the way it is."
With a first-round loss to GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO driver Warren Johnson, Pro Stock standings leader Greg Anderson watched the rest of the front runners close in a little bit more on his current perch. The Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver is looking forward to getting back to racing next weekend in St. Louis and an opportunity to once again open up his lead.
"The good thing about it is that we get to race next week," said the three-time champion. "That's why they call it drag racing because sometimes it's a real drag. We didn't get the job done today. I was a tick late off the light, the car was a tick off, and in NHRA POWERade Pro Stock right now, that usually results in a loss. I didn't have a lot of luck going for me but I should know that you have to create your own luck. I'm not doing that right now and I have to find a way to do that if we want to win that fourth championship. Luckily we have a race next weekend and maybe we can rectify both ends of where we need to improve - driver and car, and make them both faster. Our goal next week is to win a race and give Summit Racing, Pontiac and Ken Black something they can be proud of."
In Funny Car, a pair of drivers in Monte Carlos advanced to the semifinal round including No. 1 qualifier Tony Bartone in the Lucas Oil Chevrolet and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Skoal Racing Chevrolet. Bartone defeated Bob Gilbertson in round one and John Force in round two before losing to Gary Scelzi.
"It was a tremendous weekend for the Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet Funny Car and Jim Dunn Racing," said Bartone. "It was great that we were able to qualify No. 1 in front of the hometown crowd. It was a tough racetrack today, we went some rounds, and we're looking forward to St. Louis."
Johnson knocked off Del Worsham in the first eliminator session and Tim Wilkerson in the quarterfinals before falling to Ron Capps.
"We closed the gap and actually gained points on all three guys in front of us," said Johnson. "We're only two-and-half rounds out of third place, so it was a good day for the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo in what were extremely tough conditions to race in. We made a nice recovery from Saturday morning when we weren't in the show, and in these tough conditions the guys threw one out there and got it done. If you'd told me Saturday that we were going to the semis, I'd have been real happy with that. It was a good day, not bad, and we'll keep working our way towards it. We have the car running better and were pretty successful in very tricky conditions - you had to tiptoe down through there. Almost made it - it just barely came loose, but all-in-all, we'll take this and go on to St. Louis."
New Jersey hometown hero and No. 1 qualifier Frank Manzo also put a win in the docket for Chevrolet this weekend in the Top Alcohol Funny Car category. Manzo picked up his 63rd career win with a final-round victory over the Ford Mustang of Bob Tasca. Both drivers posted identical elapsed times with 5.691-second runs, but Manzo's Lucas Oil Products Chevy Monte Carlo launched first with a .049 reaction to claim an early hoelshot advantage that the Ford failed to overcome. Manzo's margin of victory at the finish line was .03 of a second.
"This weekend was quite different than last weekend in Chicago," explained Manzo. "Last week we just tried to set a record and didn't look at the track at all. This week, we raced the track every run. There were times that I didn't think I could win the race because I felt the other car would run better. But I found a sweet spot on this Chevrolet where it was very happy with the racetrack and that's where I ran it on every run. I was hoping that strategy would put me in the winner's circle and it did."
To get to the finals Manzo defeated Ron Zavarella in round one with a 5.633 e.t. at 257.63 mph, Bobby Martin in round two with a 5.700 e.t. at 255.97 mph and Mickey Ferro in round three with a 5.684 e.t. at 256.06 mph.
"I've had trouble here in the past," said Manzo. "With all the friends and family that come out, you want to run low e.t. every run, you want to run top speed every run, and it's easy to get distracted. Bob Tasca was out there running low e.t. and top speed and it was hard for us to keep from trying to outrun that. Then we press the issue and the car goes up in smoke, or shakes and you get beat. Today we just raced for the win, and forgot where we were - the hometown crowd, the people, we just raced the track and it was a good deal."
"I can't believe this. I was so devastated last week in Chicago. We won the All-Star Race, we ran low 5.52, 5.53, 261 mph, on every run. To go up there in the second round, and for no reason, the car jumped off the ground, shook and I got beat. I red-lighted in the final at Pomona and it didn't hurt as bad as last week's loss. To come back here and win today is truly gratifying; the track was really marginal, tough to read, and even though some classes didn't have a problem, Alcohol Funny Car had a problem. We had a lot of great cars and it was hard not to take more than the track would give you. I'm hoping this will put us on a roll."
The next stop on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour is the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals on June 23 - 25 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.