Pontiac's Jason Line and Greg Anderson Discuss the Upcoming Season Preparing Their Summit Racing GTOs for 2007 and the GM DRCE3 MOORESVILLE, N.C., Jan. 26, 2007 - With the opening of the 2007 NHRA season less than two weeks away, it won't be...
Pontiac's Jason Line and Greg Anderson Discuss the Upcoming Season Preparing Their Summit Racing GTOs for 2007 and the GM DRCE3
MOORESVILLE, N.C., Jan. 26, 2007 - With the opening of the 2007 NHRA season less than two weeks away, it won't be long now before defending Pro Stock champion Jason Line puts his first POWERade crown on the line, and the eager group of drivers ready to rise to the challenge includes none other than his own Summit Racing Pontiac teammate, Greg Anderson. Competing under the motorsports umbrella of Las Vegas businessman Ken Black, it would be fair to say that Pontiac's Pro Stock dynamic duo have had much to celebrate during their last four race seasons together including a combined four straight POWERade championships, 51 national-event victories in 80 final-round appearances and 59 No. 1 qualifying awards. At 93 straight races, and with an average raceday starting position of 2.32, Anderson has the longest active qualifying streak in the category dating back to the 2002 NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.). Line has qualified for every national event he's entered (going back to the 2003 campaign), 73 in all and a total of 166 consecutive starts between the two. Entering the new year, Line's Summit Racing Pontiac holds both ends of the national record with an e.t. of 6.558 seconds and a speed of 209.75 mph.
We have a new points system for the 2007 season, the Countdown to the Championship. What do think of the new format?
Greg Anderson - "I understand NHRA's objective, trying to get some excitement in the points races, but most of the time, or I guess I should say at least half of the time, we have a lot of excitement coming down to the last race anyway. Especially last year, it was as exciting as you could ask for. Sometimes you don't need to fix it, and sometimes there is a problem and you get a runaway, and that's what NHRA is trying to fix. I understand that, I just feel like they made it a little too easy for possibly your top performing car all through the season having one slip in one of those last two races and he may end up fourth in the championship. The best way I can think of avoiding that is to win every race we go to. Is that going to happen? Probably not, but if we do that, we can't lose."
Jason Line - "I'm concerned that it won't reward the guys who have been consistent throughout the whole year. I'm sure, though, that whatever the outcome, changes will be made to the format to make it better for both the fans and the racers. If it would have been in place last year, I think we still would have finished one and two, I'm not sure, though, in what order. I'd like to think the deserving champion will end up winning but only time will tell. It will be interesting and hopefully the two Summit Racing Pontiacs will come out on top."
Last year the Summit Racing Pontiac team won its fourth championship in four years. Are you confident that you can achieve a fifth title?
GA - "I think so, but obviously it's not going to be easy. By no means is it a gimme - we're going to have to go earn it, just like every other year. We've had a lot of things happen this off-season. We had some changeover in employees, key employees, which we hadn't had in the last four years. We've got new guys in position and I think we've got a great team again, but it's yet to be proven. We'll have to wait until we get to that first race, and that second and third race, and see how they perform under pressure. We don't really know what we have. We think we have as good or even better team than we had before."
How would you gauge this year's NHRA Pro Stock field?
JL - "I think it will be the most competitive Pro Stock field and the best season ever for the class. From what we hear, a lot of teams have made some tremendous gains over the winter and I think you'll see some of the tightest racing there's ever been. That certainly is a motivator in itself, and everybody on this team is inspired to win as many races as we can, and if the opportunity is there, to win another championship. We'll need to do a better job than last year as far as turning on the win light, but that's our goal. We have some new people here who've never won an NHRA championship and that's why they came to this team - they want to win and we certainly don't want to let them down."
GA - "That's what motivated us to go forward with the development of DRCE3 engine. We're going to have to start making bigger gains. We have to be honest with ourselves, over the last couple of years probably the majority of the class has made bigger gains year to year than we have, and they've narrowed the gap on us. We had a pretty substantial gap three or four years ago, but it's kind of diminished over the last few years and it's been harder to hold them off, so to speak. That's the main reason for the changeover, kind of looking for a new avenue for bigger gains to be found. The other teams pressured us into doing it this time. We pressured them to do what they've done the last few years, and now they've pressured us to make a big move. It's a risky move, obviously, but we think it will pay dividends down the road. From what we've heard, and you never know until you roll out on that racetrack, but there are people quietly talking like they've made some pretty substantial gains over the winter, so I think it's going to be tougher again this year than it's ever been. That just makes the entire class better, and that's what makes Pro Stock racing great. It seems to gain every year. It gains in performance and it gains in competition level. It's tough on drivers, but it's great for the fans and it's great for the sport, period. I think Pro Stock for the last couple of years has been fantastic, and this should be the best year ever. There should be great gains made again, the class should get quicker and I think that's what people really like about Pro Stock."
How is the Summit Racing Pontiac team prepared to meet the competitive challenge?
JL - "We're planning on running the GM DRCE3 (Drag Racing Competition Engine) in both Summit Racing Pontiacs at Pomona. The development on the engine has been a little slower than we would have liked, but we feel it's a good piece to start with and down the line, we're confident it's going to improve as the year goes on. Design-wise, it definitely has some plusses. The camshaft is raised almost an inch, valvetrain stability is going to be better and the changes in the cylinder head allow for movement of the valves a little bit, or gives a little more leeway in that department. So far, we haven't proved the engine to be any better, but by design, we're confident that it is better and that it's going to get better. We just have to figure out how to take advantage of that. From a horsepower standpoint, we're going to be able to go a lot farther with the DRCE3, but at the same time, even if we were working on the DRCE2, it's not done yet. I know a couple of years ago there was some discussion that the DRCE2 was done and that you couldn't make it any better, or you couldn't make it run any higher, and we proved that wasn't the case. The DRCE3 will be GM Racing's engine for the next several years, its potential is unlimited and we feel that it will get a lot better."
GA - "We've spent the entire off-season on the DRCE3. Any team that's done anything like this will tell you it's a huge, huge task. It's a complete different engine, different block, different set of heads, complete different design. It takes everything that's bolted to it differently. It's more than just a little bit of a different version of the DRCE2, it's almost like switching brands. It's a complete changeover and it's been quite a project. The way things are looking we're going to definitely run the DRCE3 at Pomona. We're going to have at least two, three or four of them along at Pomona, and they should be in both Summit Racing Pontiacs. By the look of it we should start off no worse than where we ended last year, engine-wise, if not possibly a little better. I think we cleared a big hurdle over the winter and at least got the engines up to speed, at least equal to the other stuff. Obviously we think that there's just a lot more future, a lot more potential and a lot more gains to be made with the new DRCE3 versus the DRCE2. We certainly didn't want to give up on the old one, but it was just time to bite the bullet and move on, and take a little R&D time and develop this new piece because we think that gains will start coming down the road in a little bit bigger bunches than we were gaining with the other engine. Hopefully our gains will get a little bigger with this engine as we go along. But just to be able to start off with an equal playing field to where we left off last year, we feel pretty good about that and feel like we should be able to gain as the year goes along. Maybe that will allow us to have a little in the bank when it comes down to 'Chase' time when it comes down to sudden death. That's obviously the goal."
Are you ready to move forward without former co-crew chief Jeff Perley?
JL - "I've never been to a race without Jeff so it will definitely be a lot different for me. It will be hard to fill his shoes. Jeff has a very good instinct for racing, he was really good on raceday and we're going to miss him. We've hired some new people who are hungry and eager to try and fill those shoes. One of the guys we hired is Derrick Jones and he's going to try and feed Rob (Downing) with good information that will allow Rob to make good decisions. I knew Derrick from Joe Gibbs Racing and he's worked at several places. He's an engineer who's never been involved in drag racing so he doesn't have any preconceived notions about how things should be. We're excited about him coming onto the team. He'll give us a fresh look at things and a new pair of eyes never hurts."
GA - "Rob (Downing) is going to be the main crew chief now. He's not going to share duties with anybody, and he'll be the final answer on everything. It puts a lot of pressure on Rob since he had Jeff pretty much divided things up, and he could really lean on him for a lot of quick decisions. He's going to have some new guys that have some talent, have some experience, but not necessarily in the drag racing world. It's going to be a bit of a learning curve for them, so Rob is going to have to be, at least for the first six months or a year, he's going to have to be the man. People of Jeff's caliber don't grow on trees, and it took us a long time to pick out Rob and Jeff. We've been out testing, so far with good results, and the crew seems to be working real well and picking things up fast. We'll see what happens."
With your driving success, do you think people have forgotten your skills as a crew chief?
GA - "I don't try to get in the middle of much anymore, but I certainly know what goes on. We test all the time together, and yes, I certainly can still do it, and that's one of the reasons we're not necessarily in panic mode right now. If worse comes to worse, Rob can still bounce ideas off of me and I can still help him with things. We've kind of had a guy on the bench, a crew chief on the bench, whatever you want to call it, but a guy we could call in if somebody got hurt. I'll help a little bit in the meantime while we get the other guys up to speed. I think that's going to play a key role. We have a little depth on our team in that area and we can rely on it. I learned a ton in all of those years with Warren (Johnson), without a doubt, and I think I can do it with the best of them. I'm not going to say I'm the best guy out there, but when I was doing it full-time I think I was up on things as well as anybody in the game. Sure, you lose a little bit over the years when you don't concentrate on it, but I think it's kind of like riding a bike. You never really forget how. You might miss out on a few new tricks here or there, but I think if called on I could serve in that role adequately."
Given the right conditions, could we see a 210 mph top speed this year in NHRA Pro Stock? How about an e.t. in the 6.40s?
JL - "I would say that it is not only possible but highly probable, and I can tell you that if one of our Summit Racing Pontiacs doesn't run 210 mph by the end of the year, then we'll be very disappointed. Running in the 6.40s would depend on how far we get in developing the DRCE3 engine, but running that quick would be a pretty tall order. I think we're probably a year away from that. The cars will constantly get faster, it's never going to end, but gains will become incrementally smaller. What used to get you a hundredth might have taken five horsepower, now it takes more like 10 horsepower."
As a driver, what do you need to do to improve this season?
JL - "I'm going to try and do better job on the starting line, and really, my main focus will be to have fun and turn the win light on. Winning a championship kind of takes the pressure off a little because for me, that was always kind of a way-out there dream, so to have it happen was really phenomenal. The rest is gravy. I feel like I can be a little more carefree, relax and have more fun. The funny thing is that I seem to do better under those conditions. I really think this is going to be one of the most exciting seasons ever in Pro Stock. Our success has pushed other teams to excel over the last four years and in turn, they're making us work harder. It's been a lot of fun and I don't see us slowing down."
GA - "I've really tried to get Rob and our new engineer involved with trying to help me out with some ideas on things we can do, both mentally-wise and mechanically-wise, that we can do with the racecar. I need all of the help I can get. Nobody's going to hand it to me. I've tried a few different things to try and make myself sharper, but at the same time I've asked for a little bit of help in making the cars a little bit sharper in that area. It's like anything else, whether it's the motor, tires, or whatever it is, there are certain things you can do to make things better for every aspect of the game. A fool would probably be a guy that thinks the car is going to be everything as far as reaction time is concerned. A fool would also be a guy that thinks the driver is going to be everything as far as reaction time is concerned. It's got to work together and you've got to have them both working perfectly to get those low lights, those .00 and .01 lights, everything's got to be right. It's not just the car, it's not just the driver. It's got to be both. They're just areas you have to work on all of the time."
Greg, your streak of 93 straight races currently leads the category. That's a pretty big accomplishment given the strength, top-to-bottom of the Pro Stock class.
GA - "I think it is, especially the way the competition is these days. I can't look at anybody in the class that couldn't DNQ tomorrow, including Jason and myself. To have a string that long and possibly make 100 would be fantastic. That would be a neat milestone. If you could do that, I think it's a heck of an accomplishment in these days and times. It's so brutal out there, one slip, one wrong move and you're going to be going home. We've been able to avoid those pitfalls for a few years now. Can we do it again this year and the year after? We'll see. I think we can, but you have to execute."
Jason, you've qualified for every race you've entered, 73 straight so far, and another tremendous accomplishment given the competitiveness of the class.
JL - "I'm pretty proud of that actually. Not only for myself, but everyone who's worked on my car and on this team should be awfully proud of that. When you add the number of consecutive races that Greg's qualified for, that really sticks out as a team accomplishment to be proud of, and makes it even more impressive. When you also take into account Greg's average qualifying position over the last four years, that makes it even more amazing."
-credit: gm racing