Anyone who knows Jason Line knows that the Minnesota native circles his calendar every year whenever the dates for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals are announced. Racing in his favorite event, Line put his best foot forward in qualifying with a clean sweep of all 12 available qualifying bonus points. Line came into Saturday as the leader with a 6.606, and that run was not bettered in either of Saturday’s two pro rounds. Line has now been the low qualifier 55 times in his Pro Stock career, which now spans 367 events.
“My car is really good. This is certainly the best car I’ve had in years,” said Line. “I’ve made four really good runs and that’s not always easy to do. There is a lot of good cars but to have the quickest car in four sessions in today’s Pro Stock is no small feat. Sometimes, for whatever reason the car will be super happy and somehow my car is very happy here. I say there is no pressure [at home event] but I suppose there is. I would just like to win here in Pro Stock .It’s something my family and friends could enjoy together."
Line drove his Summit Camaro to a 6.617 on Saturday morning, which was seven-thousandths quicker than KB Racing teammate Bo Butner, who ran 6.624. Erica Enders picked up the final bonus point of the round with a 6.630. Seven other Pro Stock drivers ran 6.64 during the third session, a further illustration of just how close today’s Pro Stock fields are. On Saturday afternoon, Line and Enders made identical 6.627-second runs to close out qualifying, but Line speed, 206.89, was a fraction quicker than Enders’ 206.80, sending the extra bonus point to the Summit driver.
“I didn’t do a great job yesterday, and I didn’t do a great job on the first run today, either, “said Line. “I probably could have run 6.60 earlier today, but I hit the rev-limiter a couple of times. There is a difference between just touching the limiter and really hammering on it and I hammered on it a couple of times this weekend. I’m sure that cost me a few thousandths but we were still able to make four good runs.”
A 12th place effort in Denver notwithstanding, Line has been solid in qualifying this summer including the pole in Richmond, second-place in Chicago, and fourth-place efforts in Norwalk and Seattle. None of those races, however, produced anything better than a quarterfinal finish, which is a trend he hopes to reverse on Sunday in Brainerd. His march to the final will begin with a round one battle against Wally Strouple who uses engine from the KB team.
Based solely on qualifying, Line’s biggest threat figures to come from Enders, who has been nipping at his heels all weekend, and gaining ground in thousandth of a second increments. Enders, with a best of 6.616 in her Melling/Elite Camaro, has been consistent through all four rounds of qualifying. That should be a big relief for the two-time champion, who is seeking her first win of the season. Enders believed she had the car to beat at the last two Western Swing races in Sonoma and Seattle but was stopped short when she wounded two engines. Enders will square off against Shane Tucker in round one.
Bo Butner, Deric Kramer, and five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. round out the top five in Pro Stock qualifying. Kramer is the defending event champion and will race rookie Fernando Cuadra Jr. in round one. Butner figures to have a busy Sunday. In addition to his round one battle against Val Smeland, Butner is also in the semifinals of Super Gas with his Corvette roadster. Butner drove that car to a win in his Super Gas debut in Sonoma last month.