Jason Line, Wright, launched his Pontiac Grand Am Pro Stocker from Brainerd International Raceway in the second session of qualifying Friday for the 23rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Sunday. Line qualified third.Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
Jason Line's signature on a letter sent from Alaska 14 years ago to his father Lawrence, living in Wright, has come true.
It read: Future stock eliminator champion/Pro Stock driver.
Line won stock eliminator at BIR in 1992 and 1997, the 1993 NHRA National Stock points championship and NHRA Division 5 Stock Championship and entered the 23rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Saturday through Sunday at BIR second in points in the Pro Stock class.
Jason said his father didn't find the letter until last year, the same year he debuted in the Pro Stock class in a national at Columbus. It fell behind his father's desk in his office.
"(Racing at BIR) is a great feeling actually," Jason said from his transporter lounge at BIR Friday. "(It's) a little bit overwhelming because of visits by a lot of people I haven't seen for a long time.
Of course it's nice to have everybody come and say hi but it gets very busy. Hopefully it's not too distracting where I don't do my job right."
Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
Jason Line, formerly of Wright and a NHRA Pro Stock rookie, signed Dilynn Koehlers shirt Friday in Brainerd International Raceways pits. This is the first full season for Line racing in the class.Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
Jason's boss and teammate is fellow Minnesotan and points leader Greg Anderson of Duluth. Anderson, who chose the Pro Stock class as his first drag racing venture, has won 12 national events this season.
Anderson said from his transporter Friday at BIR that Jason is "absolutely so far ahead of where he should be already."
He noted that Jason's season so far is another surprise to the team. He considered his points lead and 12 national wins this season the first surprise.
"Together we're both way ahead of schedule," he said.
But who should be surprised of Jason's success considering Jason comes from a racing family? His father races a Chevy Monte Carlo SS, his mother races a Chevy Chevelle, two brothers race Ford Mustangs and his sister drag races a Chevy Chevelle and they're all from Wright, population 92.
"At one time we had Oldsmobiles and Buicks," Jason said. "We've had everything but a Chrysler actually."
Before strapping into his Pro Stocker, Jason's career best elapsed time and fastest speed in his 1970 Buick Grand Sport was 10.62 at 122 mph. His career best elapsed time in his Pontiac Grand Am is 6.706 seconds and his career-best speed is 206.42 mph. He recorded both at the most recent national event in Sonoma earlier this month.
He has won two national events this season and qualified No. 1 once. His first win came in May at Joliet, Ill.
Line has lived a racer's dream, especially if you like NASCAR. He worked as motor tuner and dyno specialist for Joe Gibbs racing from 1998-2002.
Jason said he accepted this position reluctantly at first because he wasn't a huge NASCAR fan. Gibbs called him at least twice asking him to run his dyno machine (Jason had bought a similar one earlier).
He said after a lot of thought he accepted Gibbs' offer planning with intentions of working there one year.
"Once I got (to Gibbs' shop) I was in awe of everything," Jason said. "It's unreal."
He was there when Bobby Labonte won the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup points championship, attending every race on the circuit.
He admitted that he didn't like attending the NASCAR races. He considered once he worked on Labonte's engine, his job was done. "I felt my learning curve slowed down by being there (at the races)."
He said what he enjoyed most about this task was the opportunity to learn engine theory and engine development.
Line's boss and Labonte's engine builder Mark Cronquist has relatives in Baxter.
In 2003, Jason said he toured Anderson's race shop in North Carolina to ask him if he needed any volunteer help. Anderson had just moved to North Carolina.
"One thing led to another," Jason said of his situation now.
Anderson said the pair didn't know each other despite living only 45 minutes away.
Jason said he has a handshake agreement with Anderson.
"If you can't trust Greg Anderson, you can't trust anybody," Jason said.
Jason said it was a tough decision to quit Gibbs Racing but Anderson promised him he could drive a Pro Stocker.
"I just wanted an opportunity to drive it a few times a year," Jason said. "I believed him and he was absolutely true to his word."
He said he couldn't describe how it felt to go down a quarter mile in a much faster car.
"Its night and day," he said. "I don't think there is anything that can prepare you for the first time (going those speeds)."
He noted that unlike most Pro Stockers he made a big jump going from a stock class to Pro Stock.
"I would like to think that the experience of running the stocker has helped me in the transition," Jason said, "whether that transition has been good or bad we'll look back upon it a year for now and decide then."
He said the first time he let his car's clutch out at the line, he wasn't ready for it and it was complete "chaos."
He noted that he is blazing down the first 60 feet in less than a second. "You're not in complete control," he said. "You're more or less guiding it down the racetrack more than anything."
Now, Jason has guided his family and friends to one of the biggest NHRA national events on the 23-race series.
He qualified No. 3 Friday with a run in 6.782 seconds at 203.83 mph. Anderson qualified No. 1, 6.759 at 203.89 mph.
clint wood can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5869.
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