Racing Back to their Roots: Greg Anderson & Jason Line Q&A Mooresville, N.C., August 7, 2009 - In the history of the NHRA's highly popular Pro Stock division, there have been a total of 633 national events contested. During that time, four ...
Racing Back to their Roots: Greg Anderson & Jason Line Q&A
Mooresville, N.C., August 7, 2009 - In the history of the NHRA's highly popular Pro Stock division, there have been a total of 633 national events contested. During that time, four current drivers from the same area of the state of Minnesota have combined to score an amazing one third of the victories (211); while appearing in over half of all final rounds (350).
Currently leading the North Star state contingent are Summit Racing teammates Greg Anderson from Duluth and Wright-born Jason Line, who have combined to win a class-leading 76 national events over the last eight years. This follows in the footsteps of the highly successful father-and-son duo of Warren and Kurt Johnson from nearby Virginia, who paced the Pro Stock field for much of the 80's & 90's.
As they prepared to return to their home state for the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Anderson and Line took time to talk about their formative years in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, as well as their prospects for this weekend's event.
Growing up in Minnesota, what attracted you to the sport of drag racing?
GA: "My father. He was a hobby racer, and even though he didn't chase all over the country, he had a Hemi Barracuda that he raced in the f ive-state area in B Modified Production. I couldn't have been more than 12 or 13 years old when I started going to the track with him. Just like everyone else, once you get into drag racing, you're bitten by the bug and you might as well consider yourself done for the rest of your life. That's what got me started, and I thank him every day for it, because I certainly love what I do."
L: "My dad raced, with his last car being a '67 Impala he still has today, as well as several of our friends, so my brother and I always had an interest in drag racing. We loved cars, and it seemed like the natural thing to do. We never even thought about it -- it just happened.
"I remember when I was 13 and my brother was 15 and had a farmer's permit, we went to the race track with some friends my dad had helped start racing back in the 60's, and my brother won the first race he entered. We were hooked instantly and never missed a race after that."
What is it about Minnesota that it has produced so many top Pro Stock racers?
GA: "The only thing I can think of, and I know it's shaped both Jason's and my lives, is that you really learn how to work hard at a young age in Minnesota. I don't know if it comes from trying to stay warm during the long winters, but you develop a tremendous work ethic that stays with you the rest of your l ife.
"Whenever I'm asked about the level of success we've achieved, I tell them we're not a bunch of brain surgeons, but we work hard at whatever we do, which we learned from our parents. I don't know if it's as simple as that, and I really don't understand why we've gotten so many race wins from a couple meatheads in Minnesota. I'm also not saying the rest of the country doesn't work hard, but I know for a fact that you definitely learn to work up there - if you didn't you froze to death! (laughs)."
L: "I guess we're stubborn folks, and that's our redeeming quality. (laughs). When I lived in Alaska, they had a saying that only the strong go north, and I think the same thing applies to Minnesota. You really have to be tough to live up there -- it's just a different way of life, and not to say the work ethic is better than anywhere else, but it's certainly strong up there.
"I think the four of us also share a strong desire to do well. We may not be the smartest group, but we'll work hard at something to get it right. Although it may only be a coincidence, Warren (Johnson) set the standard, and we're trying to do what he did. We may or may not ever achieve the same level of success, but it's fun to try."
What is your first Minnesota drag racing memory?
GA: "I remember going to Minnesota Dragways with my dad, where they always seemed to have a gazillion Funny Cars with people like Tom Hoover driving. I was in the pits and they started one of those things up, and I just couldn't believe how loud it was or that you couldn't keep your eyes open because it smelled so bad. It was an amazing show, but I couldn't imagine how they could make so much noise and smell so bad. Then again, they still do the same thing today, so I guess things haven't really changed (laughs)."
JL: "I remember when I was really, really young, we went to Twin Cities Dragway which I believe was in Anoka. There was a jet car, and my mom was trying to get me to see it, but by the time I had turned to pay attention to it, it was gone with nothing but smoke left behind. That's about my earliest memory of going to the track, but back in the 70's whether it was Twin Cities or Minnesota Dragways, I absolutely loved going to the drag strip."
What is your favorite Minnesota drag racing memory?
GA: "I don't know if I have any one20event from back then that stands out, other than just being able to go with my dad to the races and help him out wherever I could. For example, I'd carry the water jugs we used to cool the car between rounds.
"We'd put three or four five-gallon jugs in a little red wagon and you'd run to the water pump down the road, fill them up and then high-tail it back to the pits, where you'd dump it in the radiator after he got back from a round, and while he went to make a run, you'd go fill up the jugs again. I was so small that they seemed like 55 gallon drums to me and I could barely lift them, but it was a heck of an experience."
JL: "My favorite one would be in 2003, when Greg won in Pro Stock, and my brother won in Stock in Brainerd. That was a great weekend, and until I win my first Pro Stock race in Brainerd, it will stay as my favorite."
What does it mean to go back to Minnesota and race in Brainerd?
GA: "It's obviously special because my parents, my aunts and uncles, my friends and a lot of people I went to grade school and high school with still live there. It's the only time of the year I really get to see them, and it's neat to go back and do your profession in front of them.
"I remember the day I walked out of high school, and told all my friends that I was going to drag race professionally. Almost every one of them laughed and told me I wouldn't be able to do it, and that I'd be back in a year. Well, about the only time I come back now is to race, where I get to show them it's a great occupation, and they're amazed."
L: "It's a lot of fun. I get to go back and see all the folks I started bracket racing with when I was 15 years old, and it's often the only time I might get to see them all year because they don't all go to the national event. I also enjoy having my friends come out to the track. As you get older and busier in life, you have less time to see your friends and folks you have known your whole life, so Brainerd is my one opportunity to try and connect with people who mean a lot to me."
Is there any extra pressure racing in front of your family and friends at BIR?
GA: "I suppose there could be but it's at the point where it doesn't really bother us. It's just one of the many times throughout the course of the year that we get a little extra pressure, much like when Summit (the team's primary sponsor) sponsors races in Las Vegas, Atlanta or Norwalk, or whenever we race in (team owner) Ken Black's hometown of Las Vegas. You just have to learn how to deal with it, performing just as you do at all the other races. We now go up to Brainerd and enjoy ourselves, spending some time with those friends and family members."< /SPAN>
JL: "No, not really. It's a little busier, a little more hectic and it makes it harder to split our time, but it's not really extra pressure. It helps Greg and I run better if we pay attention to what's going on with our engines and cars and if you're not careful, you can get caught up with all the people who come out to see you. Fortunately, we've gotten better at balancing the two, so it's really not an issue. Besides, I really want to win there."
Greg, what did it mean to you to be able to win in Brainerd in 2003?
GA: "It meant the world to me, and I remember it very well. After my father quit racing, I started racing with a man by the name of John Hagan, who raced in Pro Stock. He ran against Warren Johnson all the time -- in fact, they were the two heavy hitters in Division 5 at the time. My dad certainly started forming my career, and taught me most of my values, but through those crucial years when I was 17, 18, 19 years old I practically lived with John Hagan. He was a second father to me, and a lot of what I've become I attribute to him. Tragically, he was killed in a horrific wreck at Brainerd in 1983 when I was his crew chief.
"Fast forward twenty years and I'm now driving a Pro Stock car, and I was able to win the national event in Brainerd. John's wife and two kids, who are a great family and come out to support me every year, were there in the winner's circle, and I was able to present them the trophy, which is one of the neatest things I've ever done, because I owe them so much."
What would another Brainerd win mean to you?
GA: "If I was able to get another win in Brainerd, maybe I could give the trophy to my parents. You hate to pick someone else ahead of your parents, but they were as close to John as I was, and they understood why the first one went to his family. That would be my next dream -- to hand them the trophy in their home state at their=2 0home track, so I definitely need to get another win there. It's certainly on my to-do list."
Jason, what would it mean to you to win a Pro Stock race in Brainerd?
L: "I want to win in Brainerd more than any place else. Brainerd is my Indy. If I could pick one race to win every year, it would be that one. That would be a lot of fun. I wouldn't necessarily say it would be special, because even though it's a big deal to win, for me it's not a life-changing event. But still, someday when I'm older and look back, it would certainly be a nice memory to have won in Brainerd.D
On a more light-hearted note, you're obviously familiar with the Zoo (the nickname given to the campground at BIR, which is well known for its party atmosphere) -- any stories you'd care to share?
GA: "I certainly spent my share of time in the Zoo back in the day, often in the company of my buddy Kurt (Johnson), but there really aren't any stories I think either one of us would care to share other than seeing more than one car set on fire in the mud pit. After being shut down for a while, I know it's been making somewhat of a comeback, but we really don't frequent it too much anymore other than to go through taking in the sights and spending a little time with the fans."
JL: "My brother Lance and I would go over in the Zoo back in the day when they had the Pepsi Challenge, which was a match race they would have for the Funny Cars when John Force and all those other knuckleheads would come out, and it was also open when the bracket races were going on. It was a lot wilder back then, and I'm sure there were things that were going on that shouldn't have been. I certainly didn't belong over there, and my parents didn't know I was in there, but it was fun. I never did anything crazy, but witnessed a lot of it."
Finally, how do you like your chances going into Brainerd?
GA: "I'm not going to be overconfident because I haven't won yet this year and don't have that luxury, but I'm certainly optimistic. Things have been on the upswing for me in the last three or four races, and I proved in Sonoma that I can get back to final rounds. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm headed in the right direction. Hopefully that trend will continue when we get to Brainerd. I guarantee that one of these weekends I am going to break out of this slump, and maybe our Summit Racing team will be able to string together a few race wins. I'm close to that first win of the season, and I can't see why Brainerd can't be it."
JL: "I'd say pretty good, as good as anyone else's. One of these days, I am going to figure out a way to win in Brainerd, and as well as my Summit Racing Pontiac has been running of late, this is as good a year as any to get it done."