Drag racer Jason Line admits he was worried about getting fired after a spectacular crash in his Pro Stock debut at the NHRA Nationals in June 2003 in Columbus, Ohio.
“A lot of things are going through your mind when you’re flipping upside down,” Line recalled.
Line, a native of Wright, didn’t just keep his job, he flourished. He went on to win three NHRA Pro Stock championships and proved that team owner Ken Black and teammate Greg Anderson, a Duluth native, were right all along to give him a shot.
“It all worked out good,” Line said. “Honestly, Ken, and Greg, I couldn’t have been treated any better. I can tell you that.”
Line, of Mooresville, N.C., announced via nhra.com that he would retire from his Pro Stock driving duties after the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, dubbing his final season of driving for Ken Black Racing his “Finish Line Tour.”
While the move was announced Wednesday, Line said in a phone interview he decided last fall.
“It was the right time,” said the 50-year-old Line. “I have a lot of reasons, but it was just time. I’m ready, and we’ve had a great run. Nothing lasts forever, and I don’t need to, either. I’m ready to help the team in some different ways that I maybe haven’t been doing as good a job at as I needed to. It’s just the right time.”
Line will continue building and and tuning engines at the Ken Black Racing shop in Mooresville, not far from where the Line family -- wife Cindy, son, Jack, soon to be 14, and daughter, Emma, 11 -- have a hobby farm that Anderson affectionately calls “Green Acres.”
“My kids are getting older, and I want to be able to spend some time with them,” Line said, before laughing. “I want to have a little influence on them before they don’t want anything to do with dad anymore. Now is a good time.”
Anybody who has seen Line at the NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway every August knows how busy he is on race weekends, not only driving but servicing the expanding fleet of KB Racing cars.
Line said that affected his decision, as well.
“It is one thing to do it for one or two cars. It’s a whole other story to do it for six,” Line said. “At some point when you have four or five customers’ cars, racing isn’t really about your racing anymore, and it’s very hard to do all of that justice. It probably needs to be one or the other and I’m OK with that. I like helping other folks and enjoy that, as well. I’ve had a great run. I’ve got no regrets. I’m ready to turn the page a little bit.”
Line admitted Jack isn’t as excited about dad’s decision as he hoped, but this decision will free up Jason to get more into his other passions, such as Sportsman racing, and help nurture his son should Jack want to pursue racing.
Emma, meanwhile, has no interest in racing and is already counting down the days until the 2020 season is over and she gets her first-ever puppy.
“We traveled so much, and to be a responsible pet owner, I didn’t think it was the right thing,” Line said. “So I told her when I stop racing that I’d get her a puppy, so she’s wanted me to stop racing for a couple years. So now I have to follow through with my promise.”
Line, of course, isn’t done just yet as a racer.
After 50 NHRA Pro Stock wins and championships in 2006, 2011 and 2016, Line would like nothing more than a fourth title after finishing fourth in last season’s Pro Stock points standings.
“Why not? I’m going to try to make it a good one,” Line said. “You have some years that are better than others, of course, but they’ve all been pretty good. I’m optimistic, for sure. We have some good stuff cooking.”
Line also holds the national record for elapsed time, 6.455 seconds set in 2015, and captured his first Pro Stock win in Brainerd last summer after previously being denied at his home track due to rain.
That is an impressive racing resume for someone who left the more glamorous NASCAR ranks in 2002 to tune engines in the NHRA, his true love, drag racing. That led to a shot at driving, but after his first race, his first time on TV, he thought it would be his last and he would have to go back to NASCAR.
“It’s been a great run,” Line said. “The truth is, I’ve gotten to do it 17 years longer than I ever dreamed I would. I’ve got no regrets. I’m not sad. I’m excited about my new role and some new opportunities. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying with KB. We’ve got a great family there. My position is just going to change a little bit, that’s all. My heart was always in drag racing, and still is. I still love it. The sport has been really good to me.”