Racing in front of family and friends at his home track, Jason Line put on a show in Q1 with the best run of the day in Pro Stock. Line, the 2014 Brainerd champion, drove to a 6.613 to lead a strong field of 20 Pro Stock cars competing for the title at the 38th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Line not only padded his points score by six qualifying points, but also set the tone for what he hopes will be a second victory. Line opened qualifying with a 6.613, 207.46, and then improved in the afternoon session with a 6.606 that is currently good for the provisional pole in the field.
Line’s advantage over the rest of the field is slim. He leads second-ranked Erica Enders by just a hundredth of a second while Deric Kramer, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Matt Hartford are also lurking in the top five with runs in the 6.62-second range.
“It stinks to qualify in middle of the field,” said Line. “Haven’t done a good job of that for a while. That was a good run, but I need to go back to shifting school. I missed it and left a few thousandths out there. I haven’t seen the weather for tomorrow, but I think we might go a bit quicker tomorrow. I’m not sure. Erica [Enders] is running really well, and Bo [Butner] has the potential too. For tonight, I like where I am and don’t want to trade with anyone.
"Racing here in Brainerd is fun, but it’s a lot of chaos. I love coming back here to see folks I grew up with," Line said. "I made my first runs-ever here and won my first [Lucas Oil Series] race here. This has been a great hobby for my family, and it keeps me out of trouble.”
Of all the pro drivers who remain winless this year, Line is perhaps the most shocking. The engines that come out of the KB Racing Shop in Mooresville, N.C., have powered Bo Butner, Deric Kramer, and Greg Anderson to wins this season, but Line’s best finish so far has been a runner-up at the season-opener in Pomona last February. Qualifying has also produced mixed results for Line. He led the pack in Richmond, but slipped to 12th in Denver, and started from the No. 10 spot in Gainesville and Las Vegas. Technically, Line has won his home event in Brainerd, but the win actually came two week later in Indianapolis, thanks to a rain-delayed final round. What Line wants more than anything is a win in Brainerd that he can actually celebrate with his large Minnesota fan base.
“Everybody knows I love Brainerd,” Line said. “I don’t know that it loves me back, but I love going there. It’s great to see my family and friends and folks I used to bracket race with 35 years ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but it’s fun to see everybody, and I always love going back there. I don’t know that I’ll be ‘helping’ anyone this weekend, but I’ll be ‘hindering’ on some Sportsman cars. I always enjoy that part a lot.”
Next to Line’s it’s also surprising that two-time champion Enders has yet to find the winner’s circle this season. Enders, well known for her starting line ability, has been among the class’ best drivers this season, but has not had luck when she needed it most. Next to Line, Enders’ Melling/Elite Camaro might be the best Pro Stock car in Brainerd with runs of 6.618 and 6.616 on day one.
With 20 cars on the grounds, there will be a big battle just to make the 16-car field. After day one, Chris McGaha sits on the bump spot with a 6.728 in his Harlow Sammons Camaro. The drivers looking to bump their way into the field are Alan Prusiensky, Christian Cuadra, Robert River, and Mark Hogan.