No place like home for Minnesota's powerful Pro Stock duo of Anderson and Line
Thursday, August 16, 2012
The lush and lake-spotted landscape of Minnesota has been the native home to many a drag racer. The list of drivers with roots in that little corner of the Northern territory includes venerable trailblazers such as Tom Hoover, Warren Johnson, Bill Schifsky, Doc Halladay, and more.
These days and for a while now, no list of Minnesota racers would be complete without the inclusion of championship Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line, and this weekend, the Summit Racing Equipment-backed drivers out of the Ken Black Racing stable will return to their native land to race for a trophy that is for them, perhaps, a bit shinier than the rest.
Anderson has had the honor of winning at home on three occasions; the Duluth, Minn.-raised driver, now a resident of the Charlotte area, first scored at Brainerd Int'l Raceway in 2003 and collected another win at the facility in 2009, when he ousted fellow North Carolina transplant Line in the final round. And Anderson returns to Brainerd this season as the defending event champion.
For Line, born and bred in Wright, Minn., a win in the Pro category at home hasn't yet surfaced.
"You know, I won my first two national events there with my Stocker [1992 and 1997], and unfortunately, I haven't been able to get back to the winner's circle since," said Line, who was also a Brainerd finalist in Pro Stock in 2006. "I think I've put a lot of emphasis on it for the last couple of years, and maybe I've put too much pressure on myself, actually. This year, I'm not going to look at it that way. This year, it's more about preparation for the Countdown."
Jason Line, 1992 Brainerd Stock winner
Both drivers have already secured a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, and Line is second in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series standings, with Anderson just 10 points behind in third. The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is the first of the final two races in the regular season before the Countdown begins in Charlotte.
Line's return to home base affords the opportunity to claim the Brainerd title and iron out any lingering troubles before the race for the 2012 championship really kicks in, but it is also a time to reconnect with friends and family.
The reigning Full Throttle Series world champion isn't the only drag racing Line: dad Lawrence, mom Maxine, brothers Lance and Ben, brother-in-law Johnny Diekema, and at least one aunt and uncle will be racing at the event. Sister Stephanie will sit this one out.
"This is the one time I get to go watch my family race," said Line. "It's a lot of fun for me, and I look forward to it every year. It's a busy week, and it can be difficult because I want to spend time and talk to everybody. There are people out there who were racing when I first started 20-some-odd years ago, and that time of my life is still a big part of me. But balancing that with doing my job and tuning on the engine, that's important. It's a challenge, but it's something you need to learn to be good at, and it's worth it."
As for the success of the Line lineage, Ben has likely logged the most at their home track. Line says that although his younger brother hasn't yet won at the national level, "he's pretty tough to beat during the local Stock/Super Stock race." Older brother Lance won Stock in Brainerd in 2003 and shared the winner's circle with Anderson, making for a very special day for Line during his first year of working with Anderson.
Although it seems unlikely, Line says that there really aren't any family bragging rights associated with doing well in Brainerd; they all love racing, and they all enjoy watching one another race. It's simply something they have always done as a family and something that Line hopes to one day have the opportunity to enjoy with his own children.
For now, Line returns to Brainerd with last season's outcome still a little too easy to recall. In 2011, he was the No. 1 qualifier, had the car to beat on race day, and set low e.t. in the opening round of eliminations but was taken out in the second round when he had the quicker steed but was left behind on the starting line. The margin of victory at the finish line was a slim .008-second.
"Last year was probably the best chance I ever had to win the race; I just didn't drive well enough," said Line, who piloted a Pontiac GXP until a few months ago, when he and Anderson transitioned to the new Chevy Camaro bodies.
"We don't yet have the new cars where we're happy with them, but the power is there. We just have to do a better job of making the cars happy. The guys are all working hard on it, and we'll get there. There's no question about it. As for Brainerd, like I said, I'm going to try not to put any more emphasis on winning here than I do anywhere else. But it sure would be nice."
For tickets for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, call 218-824-RACE (7223) or log on to www.brainerdraceway.com.