The Jason Line’s mid-season struggles in Pro Stock appear to be a distant memory after the three-time world champ claimed a key victory in the final of the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. Line, who won his first event of the season in Brainerd last month, established himself as one of the favorites for the 2019 Mello Yello championship after defeating first-time finalist and KB Racing engine customer, Fernando Cuadra in the final round. Line capped off career Pro Stock win No. 50 with a 6.553 to Cuadra’s competitive 6.594. Cuadra grabbed an early lead of three-hundredths at the start but came up .009-second short at the finish line.
“This was a big victory; it was not one of my finer moments, but a victory, nonetheless. I was a little tardy in the final; Not Alex Laughlin [at Indy] tardy but I was tardy," said Line. "That’s not what you want to do in a final. As for 50 wins, that means I probably should have gotten there a long time ago. It means I’ve had some good race cars and some great people I’ve gotten to work with over the years. It’s been a fun ride.
This really looked like his [Cuadra’s] day," Line said. "Even Greg [Anderson, teammate] said, ‘Your car is probably not going to start when you get up there.’ Because it just seemed like his day to win. It was a nice day for him as well. There is no easy race day. Bo [Butner] was probably the toughest round of the day. I didn’t drive great by any means but I had a great hot rod. I didn’t’ do a great job in any aspect other than I didn’t hit anything. Sometimes you have to win ugly and I’m okay with that too.”
Line has two previous wins in Reading. He defeated teammate Greg Anderson in the 2004 final round and defeated Ronnie Humphrey to win a second title in 2011. Opening the Countdown with a victory, Line took over the points lead from teammate Bo Butner, 2,194 to 2,155. Alex Laughlin is third with 2,139 markers and less than 100-points separate the top eight drivers in the class.
Line opened the season with a runner-up finish in Pomona but didn’t visit the winner’s circle until his home event in Brainerd, six months later. Line entered the Countdown as the No. 3 seed following an encouraging semifinal showing in Indy and he’s now the points leader with five races left after his Reading win. In addition to his final round win against Cuadra, Line also defeated Wally Stroupe, points leader Bo Butner, and Matt Hartford en route to the final. Line was both quick and consistent with a pair of 6.54-second runs and a 6.572 that held off Hartford’s 6.604.
For some of the Countdown contenders, the opening race of the playoffs was nothing short of a disaster. Line’s teammate, Greg Anderson, suffered a rare round one loss when he slowed against Hartford’s Total Seal Camaro. Bo Butner, Alex Laughlin, Erica Enders, and Deric Kramer, ranked first, second, fifth, and sixth at the start of the Countdown, each went out in round two opening up the points battle with five events remaining in the season.
While the Countdown contenders were slugging it out, Cuadra was enjoying by far the best day of his career. After going winless during the regular season and missing the Countdown by less than a round, Cuadra drove his Corral Boots Camaro to a string of impressive victories against Kenny Delco, Enders, and Coughlin, who missed his chance to make the final with a -.002 red-light in his JEGS.com Camaro. Coughlin’s nephew, Troy Jr., won the Top Alcohol Dragster title in Reading.