Pontiac's Jason Line Focuses on Strong Finish to 2004 Campaign CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 22, 2004 - Even a casual observer of drag racing would have to agree that Jason Line has already experienced an outstanding season during his rookie campaign on...
Pontiac's Jason Line Focuses on Strong Finish to 2004 Campaign
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 22, 2004 - Even a casual observer of drag racing would have to agree that Jason Line has already experienced an outstanding season during his rookie campaign on the 23-event NHRA circuit, and with two races left to be contested, the driver of the KB Framers Pontiac isn't slowing down. Teammates with 2003-04 POWERade champion Greg Anderson, the 35-year-old Line drives a second Grand Am out of the Ken Black Racing stable, and regardless of the outcome of the final pair of eliminators, Line will readily admit that he's thoroughly enjoyed his first year as a Pro Stock driver.
"This season has definitely been more fun than I though it would be," said Line. "Not just racing itself, but being a part of a first-class organization and being a part of this race team. There are a great group of guys here at KB Racing, with diverse backgrounds and experience, and just being around it is what I've enjoyed the most.
"I probably have enjoyed working on the engines more so than driving. I take a lot more pride in the fact that the cars run fast than what I've accomplished as a driver. Getting to drive the racecar has been a bonus and I'd be happy if I were just working on the engines. It's like a never ending science project and there's always something you can do to make it better. When you combine a little science with a lot of hard work you can go a long way."
Looking at Jason Line's racing career, it would be safe to say that the Wright, Minn., native has taken a rather circuitous journey before finally arriving at his current destination in the seat of the KB Framers Pontiac. Like most professionals in the sport, Line was exposed to drag racing at a very early age. His father Lawrence was a bracket racer in the 60s and early 70s and owned an automatic transmission shop where Jason worked and spent most of his spare time. Growing up in northern Minnesota, the entire family raced everything from cars to snowmobiles, and it wasn't long before Jason began competing as well. And again, like most professionals in the sport, Line's racing career took root in the Sportsman categories where he began competing at the age of 15.
"I didn't have a driver's license yet, so I started a little premature, really," said Line. "I had what they call in Minnesota a 'Farmer's License'. If you lived on a farm you could drive a car or a truck in the daytime within 20 miles of your home, and that was the only license I had. They never asked me for a driver's license when I pulled up to the gate for my first race, so I figured we would go for it and it all worked out."
Driving a 1971 Buick in Stock eliminator, Line earned his first national-event win at Brainerd (Minn.) in 1992, came back the following year to win the 1993 NHRA Stock eliminator national championship, and then posted his final Stock eliminator win at Brainerd in 1997.
"Stock eliminator is a difficult category, and I have a lot of respect for all of the guys who are out there doing it and winning," said Line. "It's not easy, so winning the championship in 1993 was a huge deal to me. Getting up on the stage at Pomona (Calif.) to accept the championship award was a pretty scary deal for a young kid from Wright, Minn. I grew up in a town of 92 people, so getting up on stage in front of a crowd about 10 times that was a little intimidating."
Looking to capitalize on his skills as an engine dyno operator, Line made a career move that took him all the way to the heart of NASCAR country and to Joe Gibbs Racing in Charlotte, N.C., where he spent the next five years (including one season as the at-track engine tuner for Bobby Labonte's Pontiac Grand Prix). Line was a part of Gibbs' NASCAR Winston Cup championships with Labonte in 2000 and Tony Stewart in 2002.
"Working at Gibbs' Racing was an incredible learning experience and a tough schedule as well," said Line. "I'd like to think I didn't hurt their cause. At the same time, I missed drag racing and I was still very interested in what was going on in NHRA."
In 2003, a chance meeting with fellow Minnesotan Greg Anderson at a mutual acquaintances shop eventually resulted in an opportunity to drive a second car for Ken Black Racing and returned Line to his roots in NHRA Drag Racing.
"I used to spend a lot of time at Jericho Transmissions where I first met Greg," explained Line. "Greg was renting space from Jerry Hemmingson, and Joe Hornick and myself would visit with Greg at the shop, offered him our help and basically volunteered. Greg asked me if I could come work for him, and at the time I couldn't do it because my opportunity to learn was so much greater at Joe Gibbs Racing as far as engine theory and running the dyno. Financially it wasn't a smart move, either, because Greg couldn't pay me what I was making at Gibbs. The only way I could do it was if I had the opportunity to drive. Greg's response was that they were getting a second car, offered to let me drive it, and it was as simple as that. Greg gave me his word and he kept it. He's a very loyal person and I'm loyal in return. Racing in Pro Stock is just about the dream of every Sportsman racer, especially in Stock and Super Stock. I would have paid money to race in Pro Stock, and Greg and Ken Black made it happen."
In his debut at the 2003 Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, Line qualified his KB Racing Pontiac a respectable 14th, but during a first-round matchup with Terry Adams, Line's Grand Am lost traction and ended up on its roof. Although his pride and confidence were slightly shaken, Line escaped the crash physically, unharmed.
"The fastest I had ever gone before was 10.60 in Stock eliminator," said Line, "and I noticed a huge difference right away. I can't even begin to tell you how big of an adjustment it was. The guys that drive these cars, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them because they make it look easy and it's anything but easy.
"That was not my idea of starting a Pro Stock career. All I could think of while I was upside down was that I couldn't believe I'd waited my whole life to do this, and I screw it up on my first try. I thought Greg would be upset. It was a brand-new car with just three runs, and Greg and Ken were unbelievable. They were great. They just wanted to make sure I was okay, and as it turned out, it taught me a little about having respect for these cars. They'll get away from you in a heartbeat if you're not careful."
He returned to racing later in October at the ACDelco Nationals in Las Vegas, qualified what at the time was a career-best second, and advanced to the semifinals before losing to Kurt Johnson.
"My focus was just to make it down the racetrack," said Line. "I wasn't that concerned with winning rounds. The guys were real patient with me, told me not to worry about that stuff and just to go there, make laps and whatever happens, happens. Just be happy if we qualify. The goal was to get seat time and get comfortable in the racecar. It was great for me because there was about a five-year hiatus since I had raced, so there was a period where I needed to get used to it again all over."
This year, Line's Pro Stock career has taken off. After failing to win a round at the season's first three races, Line advanced to the semifinals in April at Las Vegas. Two weeks later in Houston, he drove his Pontiac Grand Am to the finals before losing to teammate Anderson, and three races later at the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, Line scored his first Pro Stock win.
"After the first three races it was a little bit discouraging not being able to win a round," said Line. "I wasn't real satisfied with the fact that I wasn't cutting good lights and not as good of a job as I had hoped. Fortunately for me, I've got the best driver in the Pro Stock pit area to get advice from. By the time we got to the Houston race, I was feeling a lot more comfortable in the car. I wasn't really driving that much better, but I got a little luck and went to the finals. After I made it to the finals, it was the most relaxed I had ever felt in the racecar and I cut the best light I ever had up to that point. Houston was certainly a turning point to my season. I haven't been perfect my any means, I'm still making mistakes, but for the most part we're doing things right."
But doing things right would be putting it rather mildly. Since Line's first visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April, he has captured four national-event victories, advanced to six final rounds, posted a season round-win record of 36 - 17 (.679 average) and advanced from seventh place to second in the POWERade Pro Stock standings. He's also qualified second or better seven times, and in the top half of the field at every event with the exception of the CSK Nationals in Phoenix for an average raceday starting position of 3.68. At the team level, Line and Anderson have combined for 17 victories, six runners-up and 104 round wins in just 21 races.
"It's been an incredible ride for this whole program, and I couldn't be more proud of what we've accomplished," said Line. "It's an exceptional team and a neat bunch of guys. We all enjoy what we do, we all get along well and we're all of the same mindset that we enjoy doing what it takes to be successful."
Although Line's achievements in 2004 have made him one of the leading candidates for the Automobile Club of Southern California "Road To The Future" award, he and the rest of the KB Racing team are more focused on getting Anderson the single-season win record.
"My goal and the goal of everyone on this race team is to help Greg get that 14th win," said Line. "We're going to the final two races trying to win as many rounds as we can. 'The 'Road To The Future' award would be a great honor. Eric Medlen and Morgan Lucas are outstanding competitors and there would certainly be no shame in finishing behind them. Winning it though would be a nice tribute to what Greg and Ken Black have done with this team."