The regular season in 2017 has looked far different for Jason Line than his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship season a year ago. But the Pro Stock standout can still replicate the start to the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, which would go a long way in helping Line contend for a second straight world title.
Line is the defending winner of this weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at state-of-the-art zMAX Dragway, the first of six playoff races, and a repeat win could jumpstart what has been a dramatically different regular season. Line, who is currently fifth in points, won the season-opening race in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro but has been winless since. That’s vastly different from the seven regular-season races he won a year ago, meaning the talented Line has a challenging road ahead in the Countdown to the Championship.
"I'll have my work cut out for me if I'm going to defend the championship,” Line said. “I certainly have to get my car a little better, and I'm going to have to drive better. There are a lot of things that have to happen, but all of those things are very doable because we have a great team and great folks behind us at Summit Racing. We'll just have to do what we've done in the past and pull it together right now. Now is the time, that's when it matters. The moment is here."
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Line (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 17. It is the 19th of 24 races in the 2017 NHRA season and Line starts the playoffs 50 points back of leader and KB Racing teammate Bo Butner. Also ahead of him is teammate Greg Anderson, as well as rookie Tanner Gray and Drew Skillman, who each have four wins and have combined to win the last six events.
That makes it an uphill climb for Line, who hasn’t been to a final round since his season-opening win in Pomona. But the good news is the veteran has enjoyed plenty of success in Charlotte, sweeping both races a year ago and winning three times overall. That’s comforting knowledge, but Line knows he must raise his performance heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
"It always seems like there is a lot more going on when you have a race at home, but it's nice to have my family there and get to sleep in my own bed,” said Line, who has 46 career wins. “Throughout history, I've somehow managed to have some pretty good races at zMAX Dragway. Of course, (winning is) always the goal – especially for the first race of the Countdown."
A good start would certainly erase any struggles, and Line is confident his car is headed in that direction. He’s advanced to four semifinals in the past seven races and felt good about his performance in Indy, despite a second-round loss. Of course, finishing the job and picking up victories in the Countdown to the Championship will be critical for success, but Line believes he and his team are ready to take the next step after overcoming a multitude of issues this season.
“I think we made some strides with my Summit Racing Camaro (in Indy), for sure,” Line said. “We have a great team, and that’s one of the most important things to have when you’re fighting for a championship. I think we’re going the right way, and now is the time to do that.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-455-FANS (3267). Tickets also available at www.zmaxdragway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.