NHRA: Line and Anderson are all smiles back home at Brainerd
NHRA drag racer Jason Line arrived in Wright on Tuesday night, happy to be back in his hometown after being gone a year. There wasn't a lot of time for small talk or seeing old friends. Instead, his older brother, Lance, promptly put him to work,...
NHRA drag racer Jason Line arrived in Wright on Tuesday night, happy to be back in his hometown after being gone a year.
There wasn't a lot of time for small talk or seeing old friends. Instead, his older brother, Lance, promptly put him to work, tuning an engine until 12:30 a.m., then getting up at 5:30 a.m. that morning to test it, waking up the neighbors.
"He's a glutton for punishment," said Greg Anderson, his Summit Racing teammate and a Duluth native. "But he still loves it."
Line, 48, had lunch with members of the media at Pickwick Restaurant and Pub in Duluth on Wednesday to promote the 36th annual Lucas Oil National Hot Rod Association Nationals this weekend at Brainerd International Raceway. Anderson, 56, was scheduled to fly into Minnesota on Wednesday night and hoped to golf with his high school buddies today before heading to BIR.
Both racers reside in Mooresville, N.C., but love getting home when they can, but that is often only for the NHRA Nationals.
"There isn't a lot of free time," Line said. "You're always busy."
That suits Line and Anderson just fine.
The two have a lot in common with their northern Minnesota work ethic, but they have their differences, too.
"I think that's what makes it work," Line said. "We've had a heck of a ride. For the two of us to stay together this long is really pretty amazing, an eternity in the racing world. It's been fun, but it's not over yet."
Anderson served as a crew member and crew chief for Warren Johnson when the Iron Range native won six NHRA Pro Stock championships. Anderson went on to win four Pro Stock titles of his own from 2003-05 and 2010, winning Speed Channel's Driver of the Year award in 2004, one of only three drag racers to earn that honor.
Line, a former engine tuner for Joe Gibbs' NASCAR racing team, joined Anderson in 2003 and earned rookie of the year honors in 2004 before winning Pro Stock titles in 2006, 2011 and 2016. Last year was a classic, with Line holding on to win the championship over Anderson by three points.
"Three lousy points," Anderson said, laughing. "You can only think of about a million different ways where you could have come up with three points. Crazy."
Anderson joked his memory of last year isn't great because he's tried to forget it. He came up short despite beating Line in the final race, with Line already having clinched the points championship by winning his semifinal race.
"We both got to celebrate at the end of the night, but Jason got the big trophy and I got the small one," Anderson said.
Line won the season championship last year but a pro win at his beloved Brainerd track has eluded him.
Line took the BIR title in 2014 but the win actually took place two weeks later at Indianapolis because Brainerd was postponed by rain. He has finished second at Brainerd the last two years, including a heartbreaking loss a year ago. Line had his best reaction time of the day, only for the tires to spin, a mistake in the car's setup that only happened once all season.
This season, Bo Butner, who rents his car and equipment from Summit Racing and has them tune it, has dominated in Pro Stock, leading with 1,423 points. Anderson is second, 240 points back, while Line is fourth, 378 back. Butner's big lead will be slashed when the NHRA playoffs begin next month, and Line knows a mediocre season could become good in a hurry with a win at his home track.
"If I was able to win here in front of friends and family, that would erase the last 10 bad races," he said. "I felt like I almost got cheated out of that experience three years ago, and I should have won the race here last year as well. One of these years it's going to happen for me. I'm looking forward to finding out what it's going to feel like, so hopefully this is the year."
Growing up in Wright, population 127, Line said driving with his parents to Duluth was going to the big city. He remembers the Pickwick and old Chinese Lantern. He has taken a little bit of the country life with him to Mooresville, where the family raises Scottish Highland cattle, goats and chickens on 10 acres - "Green Acres" as Anderson calls it.
Quiet and reserved, Line is a private person living a very public life drag racing on the NHRA's top circuit.
But at the Pickwick on Wednesday, joined by his wife and daughter, Line showed a different side of his personality and was more candid talking about growing up near Duluth, life as a professional drag racer and the occasional fan who takes it too far.
Anderson had an easy way to explain it.
"Maybe he's just happy being home," Anderson said. "Those are his people, and he's got a lot of them. There are a lot of Jason Line lovers up there. If you get down to the track and watch either Stock or Super Stock when the Sportsman classes run, and you'd swear that every other car that pulls up to the starting line has Line Performance on the fender. It's almost comical how many there are. They come out of the woodwork for this race."
The entire Line family will be racing at BIR this weekend - Jason in the pro classes and his two brothers, sister and brother-in-law and parents in the support classes. Brother Ben Line of International Falls won a West Central Division race last weekend at BIR, so they're no pushovers.
Lance Line builds engines for upwards of a hundred sportsman racers, including some of Jason's friends. That gave Jason a little extra work to do when he got home this year, but it's something he loves about being home.
"It's just fun to be a part of," Line said. "Once you get a lot of money involved with something, it changes the type of fun you have. The Sportsman guys are doing it because they love their car, they love their machine, they love working on it. They have X amount of money to spend and X amount of time to put into it. They're not doing it to get rich or famous, they're doing it because they love it."
36TH ANNUAL NHRA LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
What: 17th of 24 stops on the NHRA's top circuit, the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
When: Today through Sunday
Where: Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway
Schedule: Professional qualifying begins 2:45 p.m. Friday and continues Saturday and Sunday
Forecast: Chance of rain today and Friday before mostly sunny skies and highs in the low 80s for the weekend
TV: Fox Sports 1 (8-9 p.m. Friday; 6-8 p.m. Saturday; 1-4 p.m. Sunday)
Tickets: General admission is $25 today, $40 Friday, $55 for Saturday and $55 for Sunday; visit brainerdraceway.ticketforce.com or call the BIR Ticket Office at (866) 444-4455 or (218) 824-RACE (7223)