Currently sitting in third place in Pro Stock, two-time world champion Jason Line already knows he has to make up ground to leap past Mike Edwards and current points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. during the final two events in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. A recent mishap in testing might have made the task even more difficult, but Line remains as determined as ever to claim another season championship title for his Summit Racing Equipment team heading into the NHRA Toyota Nationals, to be held Oct. 24-27 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Line was uninjured following a crash during a private test session earlier this month, but the team had to replace his Chevy Camaro with a new one, making for a steep learning curve on the eve of the fifth of sixth races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and defending world champions Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) raced to victories last season at the popular event, which will once again be televised on ESPN2HD.
“Obviously, it was not great timing,” Line said. “We had our Summit Chevy Camaro running good, and we struggled a bit this year, so it felt really good to finally have the car running good and certainly as fast as anybody's, but now we've got to start over. It's just one of those things, but right now you have to somehow find enough strength to remain focused and be focused better than your opponents at this point in time. That's what's going to make you the champ or not.”
After both he and teammate Greg Anderson struggled for most of the season in their Camaros, Line caught fire at the perfect time, advancing to two straight final rounds to open the Countdown. He won in Dallas — his first victory since a win in Houston in April — and moved into the points lead for the first time in 2013.
A first-round loss in St. Louis a week later sent him back to third, but he still only trails Coughlin by 50 points in what is expected to be a heated championship battle over the final two events. Edwards, who has a class-best six wins this season, is just 45 points behind Coughlin, who won the most recent event in Reading. Defending world champion Johnson is 73 points back in fourth place, but Line is only focused on his own performance in Las Vegas.
“You have to win, and you really need to win this race,” Line said. “I've said that the last two races, and if we wanted to put ourselves in a better position we needed to but just didn't make it happen. But I also think I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about the points because that's all that matters.”
To even be in the championship hunt is nothing short of remarkable considering the team’s struggles in 2013. Anderson has yet to post a win — putting his streak of 12 straight seasons with a victory in jeopardy — and Line had only one heading into the Countdown. But the team continued to work hard to turn the season around.
“We had to do something because the Countdown was upon us, and we wanted to be able to contend for a championship,” Line said. “It's great competition in this class, and that's what brings out the best in you.”
Line also knows he’ll face an uphill climb to get the new Camaro running at a championship-caliber level this late in the season, but with a potential world championship looming, it’s a challenge he’s ready to take on.
“To have to start over is tough, and it wouldn't have been the path that I would have chosen,” Line said. “But that's the way it goes, and you have to just deal with those things the best you can and make the best of it. That's racing, that's life. You've just got to make the best of it. I feel like we'll have at least a competitive car. We're just going to keep working at it.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family. Also in support of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, Alexis DeJoria’s Tequila Patron Funny Car team has partnered with Nevada Health Centers to offer free mammograms all weekend long in the Midway for female race fans over 40.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
Families can take part in a special ticket offer for children 12 and under, who will be admitted free in general admission areas with a paid adult.
The NHRA Toyota Nationals qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. Qualifying continues at 12:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27.
Tickets are available for the NHRA Toyota Nationals online at www.lvms.com or by calling 800-644-4444.