Jason Line Uses Final Qualifying Session To Bump Teammate Anderson Off
Drives Pontiac GTO To No. 1 Qualifying Position At Maple Grove
READING, Pa., Sept. 16, 2005 - Jason Line drove the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to his first No. 1 qualifying position of the year today at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. During the final session of today's time trials, the 36-year-old Minnesota native bumped teammate Greg Anderson off the pole by posting an elapsed time of 6.735 seconds at 204.79 mph. It was the fourth No. 1 qualifying award for the GTO since the new Pontiac was introduced into Pro Stock competition seven races ago at Denver.
"Given the heat and humidity we were racing in, we definitely thought the track was going to be worse this afternoon than it was this morning," said Line. "But we made a good run. We've been making changes all weekend to the GTO, we learned something on that run and hopefully that will carry through for us on Sunday for both racecars.
"Until today, my car hasn't run as well as Greg's, and it should. It wasn't the car's fault though, it was a mistake we had made with the engine and now we have that figured out. The two Summit Racing Pontiacs are now running very similar, which is the way they should run. We try to be very thorough as far as making sure both cars are prepared the same, and the engines are the same, and when they don't run the same, we need to know why. It took us awhile, but for this weekend it appears that we have it figured out."
It marked the third career No. 1 qualifying spot for Line, whose most recent starting-day pole came last October at the ACDelco Nationals in Las Vegas. Line is the defending Pro Stock champion at Maple Grove Raceway and he will be looking to score his fourth win of the season during tomorrow's eliminator.
"I love racing here," said Line. "Reading and Englishtown, I don't know what it is, but for some reason I seem to drive better at these two places. Normally we look forward to the weather being nice and cool here but that's not the case this weekend. It feels more like Memphis and it's certainly thrown us for a loop. Even that last run we made, we certainly have the potential to go much faster than that, and I think you'll see better runs tomorrow."
Continuing his torrid pace toward a third consecutive POWERade Pro Stock championship, Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver Greg Anderson ended time trials in the No. 2 starting spot after running 6.736 seconds at 204.51 mph. Anderson was runner-up last year to his teammate at this event, and Maple Grove Raceway is one of only two venues on the tour (including Chicago) in which the Summit Racing Pontiac driver has never won.
"Not bad," said Anderson. "We've been trying to learn what this track wants. It's actually very good. We're making nice, smooth runs and I think this Summit Racing Pontiac can run a little bit better. We've been trying stuff with each run and in the final session we took a shot on both cars since they are identical Jerry Bickel-built GTOs. We can try things now and learn from each other. Hopefully what we did with Jason's car there will teach us what to do with my car, and then we'll have two fast cars tomorrow. We're kind of happy with where we are tonight and that's the benefit of having two equally prepared Pontiac GTOs. The No. 1 qualifying position stayed within the team and that's what counts. What's important to me is that maybe Jason's run will turn the light on and show us what we need to do with my car."
ACDelco Chevy Cobalt driver Kurt Johnson was the No. 1 qualifier coming into today's final two rounds of time trials, but settled into the No. 3 spot for eliminations with a run of 6.739 seconds at 204.54 mph. The 42-year-old Georgia resident, currently second in the Pro Stock standings, continues to keep the pressure on points leader Greg Anderson (whom he trails by 135 points), and is hoping to collect his fourth win at Maple Grove Raceway.
"The ACDelco Chevy Cobalt is running much better than it did at our last outing in Indianapolis," said Johnson. "We have that behind us and now we're moving forward. We felt like we had a car that could have gone to No. 1 this afternoon, but it just didn't pan out. The good news is that we're making good consistent runs, and I'm driving good so we're ready to go some rounds tomorrow.
"We're pretty pleased. We need to make a straight run though. It was on a nice straight run this morning but when you get in that right lane the car wants to go right so we'll have to compensate for that. We have some different clutch parts in the car, and I've gone .044 and .034 on the tree, which we were kind of concerned with that after going .107 last night, but I feel pretty confident going into tomorrow."
Ron Krisher, who was No. 1 on the ladder after Friday's first round of qualifying, parked his Valvoline Chevy Cobalt in the No. 4 position with a 6.745 e.t. at 204.17 mph.
"We're certainly doing a lot better this weekend than we did at Indy," said Krisher. "We set the car up exactly the way it was before we got to Indy, made all the necessary repairs to our motor and that's it. The car is the same way it was at the first two races we had it, the motor's good and the result is a big improvement in the way we've run here at Maple Grove. I like our chances tomorrow. Nobody's going to run away from us. We tried something in the final session that didn't work for us down low, so we'll fix it in the morning and be ready."
Jim Yates is starting to feel more comfortable in his new Pontiac GTO. The two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion (1996-97), and three-time event winner at Maple Grove Raceway (1996-97, 2002) had his best four rounds of qualifying since the June meet in Englishtown, N.J. when he was fifth. The Virginia resident will start from the No. 5 position for tomorrow's eliminator after posting a run of 6.746 seconds at 203.61 mph.
"We have two things going for us right now," said Yates. "We have a brand-new Pontiac GTO that Jerry Haas built for us and there's nothing better than brand-new pipe, and brand-new carbon fiber. The GTO is just a very stable car to drive and they've done a great job getting the front-to-back balance just right. The car is so stable that you have no idea that you're running as fast as you are. On top of that, Steve Schmidt has found us some more horsepower. We have a whole different engine combination in the car than we've run all year. Steve's been working on it and it's picked up our performance, which seems to me to be much better than it has been before. The engine is running better at high rpm, it's running better speed and some of that is a function of the improved aerodynamics of the GTO. When you have those two things working for you, when you're running within .02 of the fastest cars, then you have a combination you can win with."
Warren Johnson is qualified in the No. 6 position in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO with a run of 6.748 seconds at 204.23 mph. Rickie Smith is seventh in a Chevy Cobalt, Dave Connolly is ninth in a Chevy Cobalt, and Erica Enders moves her Slammers Chevy Cobalt to the No. 10 spot in the final session with a 6.760 e.t. at 203.40 mph.
"Having a car that's running as well as the Slammers Chevy Cobalt gives a driver a tremendous amount of confidence," said Enders. "The guys have been working on finding us more horsepower and we're getting it figured out, little by little with each run. The result is that we're climbing up in the field with each race. I only feel we have an outstanding opportunity to do well tomorrow and I'm looking forward to racing on Sunday.
"When I dropped the clutch on that last run I could tell it was on a nice pass. We went .991 to the 60-foot and earlier we were going one-flat. Even though that doesn't look like a lot on paper you can tell the difference in the car."
Dave Howard is qualified 13th in a Chevy Cobalt and Greg Stanfield is 15th in a Chevrolet. Allen Johnson was the 16th and final qualifier with a 6.777 second run at 202.33 mph and the entire Pro Stock starting field is separated by only .042 of a second.
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. has the quickest Chevy Monte Carlo in the field. The Avon, Ind. resident will start Sunday eliminations in the No. 3 qualifying position after posting a run of 4.794 seconds at 324.59 mph. So far this weekend, Johnson's Chevy Monte Carlo has posted the fastest speed of the meet.
Qualifying coverage of the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, Sept. 17, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Sept. 18, starting at 4 p.m. Eastern.