Jason Line chose drag racing when he joined K.B. Racing more than a decade ago. The former NASCAR champion left the engine shop of Joe Gibbs Racing to link up with Greg Anderson, forming a two-headed monster out of Charlotte that went on to dominate Pro Stock in a way that changed the category forever.
His ability to coax horses out of engine blocks in conjunction with a steady presence behind the wheel made him a champion, but it’s not why Pro Stock fans fell in love with the Minnesota racer. Line shot straight in the pits, his Camaro, the media center and on television – a straightforward, no-nonsense engine builder more interested in dyno time than any other pursuit.
That didn’t leave him devoid of personality. Line may have the best sense of humor of anyone in Pro Stock, something that will go sorely missed in 2021 and beyond as he transitions to stay-at-home engine builder. Getting Line to open up about tuning his Summit Chevy Camaro was nearly impossible, but it was always a pleasure to try.
He enters the 2020 season fifth in all-time Pro Stock wins with 50, an incredible number in any era of the category. It’s unlikely Line passes Jeg Coughlin Jr. (63) and even less likely anyone moves beyond the Minnesotan in the near future (the closest active driver is Erica Enders with 25). All of that feels incredible given his full-time career did not begin until 2004.
Line has won at least once every year since that full-time debut and pulled off multiple wins in all but three of his 16 full-time seasons to go with 15 top-five finishes. So much of drag racing conversation enters a dull dungeon of parsing the accomplishments of crew chiefs and drivers that Line vaults because the two are one and the same. He is part of the brain trust that put the power to the ground that earned him three world championships, 13 playoff appearances and 102 final rounds.
Reducing Line to a resume feels unfair because he’s more than that. He’s a competitor that takes his work seriously, but not himself. Bo Butner once described Line as, “a big goofy guy,” and it always stuck in my mind because it he struck a balance that’s so difficult to find in professional sports. Line wants to win as badly as anyone else – that’s why he races with Greg Anderson; but he does so with perspective that can be difficult to attain in any all-consuming pursuit.
His excellence changed Pro Stock because he helped build K.B. Racing into the tide that lifted all boats. His presence in NHRA Drag Racing, whether it be finding more horsepower in Charlotte or driving his Buick Gran Sport, will continue to be felt long after he hangs up his gloves. Line is a personality, and a person, we should appreciate for every quarter mile we get to see him.