Jason Line, the two-time NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock world champion and driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, is third in points and has raced to three final-round appearances, amassing two wins and one runner-up finish. He recently took part in a national NHRA teleconference to discuss this year's campaign and his battle for the championship.
Q: Jason, you were recently involved in an incident in Rockingham, N.C., that badly damaged your Pro Stock car. Have you guys been able to pinpoint what happened during that test?
Line: Yeah, it was actually really easy to pinpoint. It was driver error. Yeah, it was not one of my shinier moments, but that sort of thing happens, and you've just got to move on. Obviously, it was not great timing. 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, and now we've got to start over. It's just one of those things.
Q: We're probably looking at maybe three guys at the top there that are close enough that can make a big difference, in this race coming up anyway. Do you think about that? Do you think about points when you go and you know those three guys, and you're one of them, going into Las Vegas?
Line: Well, I think you have to think about it a little bit. I mean, obviously you're going to have to win, so I don't sit around counting points, of course. I'm lucky enough that somebody else does that. But you have to win, and you really need to win the race. I've said that the last two races, and if we wanted to put ourselves in a better position, we needed to and just didn't make it happen.
But yeah, I think I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about the points because that's all that matters.
Q: It’s long season. Does that take a toll on you guys?
Line: It does me. I'm getting old [laughs]. Yeah, especially after weeks like I've had the last couple. But yeah, it's just part of the deal. You know that going in, so you try to do the best you can. I try to pace myself and be the best at the end of the year. But it's difficult to do. Some people are better at it than others, and I don't know where I rank, and it doesn't really matter. 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.
Q: You talked about the season, and it probably wasn't what you and [teammate] Greg [Anderson] are accustomed to in the middle half of the year. Pro Stock is such a fine line between really hitting on your combination and missing out even by a thousandth or a hundredth. What did you guys come upon when this Countdown started?
Line: Well, I think we kind of went back to square one. You're right, the difference between being great and good, it's a very little bit in performance, but obviously a lot of effort. Yeah, we tried to go down some different paths and do things a little bit different, try to separate yourself from everybody else, and you know, it's not easy to do. We were struggling with it, weren't making it work, so we kind of went back to some more basic stuff and got to running better, of course. We had to do something because the Countdown was upon us, and again, we wanted to be able to contend for it. But yeah, it's been a tough year for all the Summit team, and you'll have that. It's great competition, and that's what brings out the best in you hopefully.
Q: You're always so hard on yourself, and maybe that's your strength. Have you thought about how hard you are on yourself all the time?
Line: I don't think about that per se, but self-deception is very dangerous. If you go in thinking that you're better than you are, that's not a really good plan at all. I think you've got to be honest with yourself. Stars might lie, but the numbers never do, so I haven't had a great year, haven't done a great job. It was not for lack of effort. I want to be better, want to do better; I just haven't. But we'll figure out a way to get there.
Q: You talked about some of the hardships you guys have had this year and doing a better job as a driver and everything else, but what's being done to make sure you don't have the same struggles next year?
Line: Well, nothing, really. It's no different than you doing your job. You have to learn from your mistakes, and hopefully we did. We'll see. I guess the best predictor of the future is the past. Hopefully, we can learn from those mistakes and not do them again. Again, I've done it before, and obviously, some of it goes back to your personality type and what kind of human being you are. I tend to try to probably go too far and stretch things too far and reach too far into the future when it comes to working on some of this stuff and end up going backwards. But again, it is what it is, and I'll try to learn from those mistakes and try to do a better job so that next year we have a better year overall. Whether or not we win the championship is another thing. Obviously, with the playoff format, it changes things. But we still want to win races, and we didn't win many races this year.
Q: You talked about the season, and you talked about your teammate Greg. He's kind of looking at unfortunately maybe ending a streak of 12 seasons with at least having one win each season. Is that something you guys even think about, or is it you just focus on the task at hand of getting the car down the track and let the wins come as they may?
Line: Well, I've thought about it, and I'm sure that he has as well. There's no question I'm sure he has. We don't mention it, don't talk about it, but certainly I think we're all proud of the fact that the Summit team has had a pretty good run for 10 years, and to break that streak, you know, that would kind of stink. But again, at this point, we only have two races to do something about it. That's why we're here in Vegas testing. We're trying to make sure that not only do we give ourselves a shot to win the championship but him a chance to win one of these last two races and keep the streak going. It's not the end of the world if it doesn't, but at the same time, 10 years, it's hard to start another streak like that. Hopefully he can get a win one of these last two races.
Q: Talk about testing. You guys race at Las Vegas twice a year for your category, and then you're testing. How much data can you hopefully bring from this week and even from the spring race into the race next weekend?
Line: Well, you'd like to think some. It's hard to say, obviously. Weather plays a big factor. The racetrack is in pretty good condition, and its personality hasn't really changed much in the last few years. Obviously, the race car is the big variable. You know, I'm sure there's a lot of good data from past testing here, but not all of it's going to be good because obviously our setup has changed considerably. But hopefully we can learn something this week testing here and have two good hot rods for next week.
Q: First, how is testing going, and are you at an advantage or a disadvantage with this different car?
Line: Based off testing so far, I'd say a severe disadvantage, but it's not over yet. Yeah, it wouldn't have been in my plan, I can tell you that much. Like I said, the gray Camaro that we were racing there, it was fast and running really good. Very predictable and consistent. To have to start over is tough. It wouldn't have been the path that I would have chosen. 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. Hopefully, by next week we'll have a good, competitive car and be able to give everybody a run for their money.
Q: Did you have some type of database going in with this car already that you were able to build off of in testing?
Line: Yes, but not a database that we're real happy with. Yeah, again, it's a tough deal, but it is what it is. You've just got to make the best of it. Like I say, I feel like we'll have at least a competitive car. Will it be as good as the car we had last week? You know, at this point, I'm going to say I probably doubt it. But you never know; a lot of things can happen in a matter of days. We're just going to keep working at it.
Q: You mentioned self-deception being very dangerous earlier in the call. Did you guys underestimate what it would take with the complete switchover to the Camaro this year, maybe underestimate what it would be to run these new cars?
Line: No, I don't think so. We had the Camaros last year, so I think the last five races of the year last year I had the blue Camaro, and we qualified No. 1 for five races in a row, ran really well. I think the self-deception comment was more me being critical of myself, and again, I haven't done as good a job as I need to do. I can't blame anybody for that other than myself. But as far as the underestimating the task of making the cars good, no, I think we pretty much know at this point what it's going to take. The problem is we have a constant quest to go forward, and we make a lot of changes and probably make them too fast. When you do that, you tend to get lost a little bit. But it's all in the hopes that you're going to find something that sets you apart from the competition, and in Pro Stock right now, obviously a hundredth is a huge deal. That seems like a world away. But in trying to go forward, sometimes obviously it's one step forward, two steps back if you're lucky. It's just a hard deal.
Q: You said that the best predictor of the future is the past. First of all, you sound like Dr. Phil.
Line: I've never watched Dr. Phil, by the way, just so you know.
Q: That's one of his big things. But that being true, does that actually give you some kind of hope because it seems like every time something bad happens to your team, you guys come back out and storm to the top? So maybe that's a good thing?
Line: Yeah, maybe it is. We're looking at it that way, and again, you know, a lot of bad things happen to a lot of people. You can look at it and say it's bad luck or call it whatever you want. The truth is most of the time it is self-inflicted. You can either cry about it or you can move on. Obviously, we've got some pretty tough folks that work for us, and we're just going to move on. We'll make the best of it, and maybe something good will come of it; it's just a matter whether it does this week or next week or maybe six months from now. I can tell you that I learned a lot from the incident, and unfortunately, it cost a lot of money to learn that, but again, it is what it is, and you have to somehow turn it into a positive thing.
Q: Has Greg come in and helped on that front?
Line: Oh, yeah.
Q: Because so many things happened to him as well.
Line: Sure; absolutely. Anybody that really knows Greg, he's a hardworking guy, and he doesn't give up too easy, that's for sure. If you tied him and a mule together, after about three days, a mule would give up. He's a hard worker and a go-getter, and he's not going to quit until it's over.