NHRA: Minnesota's own ready to roll at BIR
Between them they have 136 career victories.
Greg Anderson and Jason Line are multiple-time Pro Stock champions with Line the current defending champion.
Both are sitting in the top four of the NHRA season points standings with two events remaining before the Countdown to the Championship.
Both are seasoned, crafty, educated veterans of the Pro Stock class and drag racing in general.
And both are taking notice of the youth surrounding them.
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Greg Anderson, Jason Line
- Division: Pro Stock
- Hometowns: Duluth and Wright
- Crew chiefs: Rob Downing, Tim Freeman
- Sponsor: Summit Equipment Chevrolet Camaro
- Career wins: 136 combined
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Take 18-year-old Tanner Gray, who is sitting third in the points right between Anderson at No. 2 and Line at No. 4.
"I like him," said Line. "I enjoy him. He's a character. He's entertaining for sure. I have no problem racing him. There is only one issue I would have in racing him and that's if his light comes on more often than mine does. Other than that, I enjoy him."
Then there is Gray's teammate Drew Skillman, who is fifth in the points standings and the defending champion of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, which kicks off Friday, Aug. 18, at Brainerd International Raceway.
"He's got my number right now," Line said. "He's beaten me a lot. I've struggled beating him, but nothing lasts forever and that's not going to either."
One of those defeats occurred in last year's finals at BIR, Skillman snuck past Line preventing the Wright native from securing his first NHRA victory at BIR.
For Anderson, a Duluth native, the youth movement is invigorating.
"That's part of the Grey Motorsports team with Tanner Grey and Drew Skillman being teammates," said Anderson. "They've got very fast cars. They're very good drivers and between the two of them they won the Western Swing. Drew won two and Tanner got the other one. They obviously think they have momentum going and they're peaking at the right time.
"They will be a handful. Tanner is an 18-year-old kid who is not afraid of anything. He's got that attitude where he doesn't care. He doesn't worry about lining up against some guy who has a lot of experience. He just expects to go up there and whip every one of us. It's kind of fun right now. It's a handful for us trying to race a kid with an attitude like that, but I'm still going to bet on the experience in the end."
And experience favors the Summit Racing Equipment team of Anderson and Line. The two dominated the field last year by getting a jump on the new electronic fuel injection package presented by the NHRA. As expected, however, the rest of the field has caught up with the Minnesota boys.
Bo Butner has a comfortable 240-point lead over Anderson. Erica Endres, Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile are all within striking distance. The field will be tight come playoff time and Anderson-Line know it.
"It's really become more of a tuners and a drivers race nowadays because the engines are all making about the same horsepower," Anderson said. "For the last half a dozen races or so, Jason and I have struggled with the tuning and the driving end of it. We haven't won. I guess back in Englishtown was the last time I won.
"We're trying to figure out ways to get a little bit faster on Sundays. We're qualifying fine, but we're not racing great on Sundays. We've got to rectify that and we have two races to go before the playoffs start. We've got Brainerd and then we have Indy before the playoffs. It's coming down to crunch time and you need to peak at the right time, which is playoff time, and we're just about there."
But Line thinks both teams have the experience and knowledge to peak at the right time. He's comfortable with the situation he finds himself in heading into Brainerd. But then not much seems to phase Line.
"Yeah, I think it is possible to make yourself peak at the right time," said Line. "You've learned enough and saved enough over the course of the year that maybe you can bring out a little something special for when Indy comes or when the playoffs start.
"But, thank God, there is a reset for the Countdown. If there wasn't that, I would have no chance, but it's a playoff style format and we all know that going in.
"The truth is we race a little bit differently. We do a little more testing and also do a little less panicking when things don't go our way. You don't sweat it quite as much because you know it's going to get reset. At that point you get a fresh start and get to hit the second-chance button and try again. Hopefully we'll have our act together."
The key, according to Anderson, is finding more power in a set up that doesn't allow much variation from team to team. Sometimes it takes luck, other times it takes ingenuity. Whatever it is, the search is ongoing.
"These engines are so refined," Anderson said. "We've had basically the same engine for 20 years. They're so refined that there's just not a lot of low-hanging fruit, so to speak, left to pick. It's all small pieces and you gotta really go over it with a fine-tooth comb.
"Unfortunately, there's probably not a big gain to be had any more. It's going to have to be small stuff, but you've got to pay attention to detail and you're gonna have to find a way to find something quicker than the other guy finds it. That's what it comes down to."
That, and becoming even better drivers. Line and Anderson have worked harder with their reaction trainer. Anderson admitted that last year having such a large advantage the two spent more time working on engines than on their own reactions.
Not this year though. Not with the young and eager staring down the older and the savvy.
"You've got a Tanner Grey, who is 18 years old and has already won three races this year and he can get it done, but you know, he hasn't been through this before," Anderson said about the Countdown. "He hasn't been through the playoffs so it's going to be interesting to see how he acts and I'm certainly not sitting here predicting he's going to struggle. He may ace it. He may do great at it, but I would much rather have the experience that we've got. We've been through it before.
"We've been through the ups. We've been through the downs. We've been through expecting to win before and not expecting to win before. We've handled pretty much anything that's been thrown at us. I still like our chances come playoff time, but don't get me wrong, you've got to be good. You've got to be perfect because the competition is too close right now."
As for the defending champ:
"I'm not nervous," said Line. "Being nervous will help you in no way shape or form. It's just drag racing. We take it serious. It's our living, but being nervous will not help you make good decisions and it will not help you drive better."