Jason Line didn't take off for Aruba in the 41 days between the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and the Virginia NHRA Nationals. Elite Performance owner Richard Freeman didn’t take a trip to Walt Disney World, nor to any other sunny locales; though he would have been well within his rights to do so.
“It was weird,” said Line of the longest in-season break he’s had in his 17 years working in Pro Stock. “I think the first couple of weeks we kind of walked around in a haze.”
That didn’t stop the multi-time champion from putting his head down and getting to work at the K.B. Racing shop in Mooresville, N.C. The team, which is fielding five full-time Pro Stock Camaros in 2019, has its hands full even with the addition of champion tuner Dave Connolly over the offseason.
“I think a big part of what we’re doing is trying to get everything organized,” said Line. “At the same time, we had some new things come up that we had to get to and that’s part of it, is being flexible.”
Freeman’s experience was slightly different. Elite campaigns three full-time E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series entries, so he's still attended every Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race while also keeping up with the day-to-day at the shop in Oklahoma.
We’re anxious to get to Richmond because we’ve found some power, so we’re excited to see how our cars run,” said Freeman. “We probably made a couple hundred dyno pulls working on things we knew we needed to work on. Some of those worked and some of those didn’t work but that just makes us more excited to step off the clutch in Richmond.”
Elite also wrapped production on a new car that Freeman expects to debut at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals, which follows Richmond on the schedule.
“Winning two championships with the RJ Cars and having Rick and Rickie Jones be a part of our team was always going to be part of the deal,” he said. “When NHRA mandated a couple of new tires and the power curve changed it really upset our package. We spent the better part of two years trying to catch up. We went through car changes, bought Haas cars and learned a lot from them. We implemented those changes and I think so far it’s paying off.”
Line drives one of the two house cars for K.B. Racing alongside teammate Greg Anderson. Bo Butner, Deric Kramer and Fernando Cuadra all take advantage of K.B. horsepower, making it, alongside Elite Motorsports, a powerhouse in Pro Stock racing.
So, keeping gains consistent among those five cars is as important as finding new ones. Butner won three of the first four races to start the season and boasts one of the best 60-foot times in the category. That marker correlates well to performance in the naturally aspirated category, especially for the teams that feel confident about their horsepower (K.B. and Elite do).
“All the cars are different, right? The horsepower is basically the same from car to car, but the rest is all details,” said Line. “So yeah, obviously the goal is to get all of them to run the same and to have them live up to the performance potential they do have. That’s one of the goals and it’s one of the things we worked on during this off time.”
Adding Connolly, who tuned Tanner Gray to the 2018 championship, should help spread the load around. But it might take some time before Line, or anyone sitting in the stands, sees a tangible impact.
“I think it’s helped but I don’t know if we’ve seen the fruits of all the labor yet,” said Line. “I think it’s helped. He’s been a good addition and I enjoy having him around a lot more than I thought I would. He’s entertaining and he’s been fun. It’s definitely not a thing where you snap your fingers and all of our issues go away.”
Elite will enjoy a busy weekend in Richmond as both Pro Stock and Pro Mod compete. While Freeman has enjoyed running top speed in another door car series, he’s ready to get back to his first love.
“I’ll tell you my first love will always stay with Pro Stock,” said Freeman. “Pro Mod is neat, and the cars are fast, but there’s just a lot more going with a Pro Stock car for a team effort. We love that and we’re going to do everything we can to continue to grow that class and to preserve it.”