Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – BRAINERD, MN – Jason Line is in uncharted waters in his standout Pro Stock career and it’s a matter he hopes changes at this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The three-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world champ is still looking for his first win of the 2018 season, marking the longest stretch he’s gone to open a year without a victory.
The good news for Line is he is putting things together in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, advancing to a final round in Denver and the semifinals in Sonoma during the Western Swing. Racing at his home track this weekend, the Wright, Minn. native is aiming to break through for a victory with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship quickly approaching.
“We’re definitely in a better spot than we were four weeks ago,” said Line, who is currently ninth in Pro Stock points. “But that’s the way it is sometimes. You’re going to have ups and downs, and you just have to keep digging. That’s part of racing and especially in this class. The top 12 cars are all good cars and you can’t make any mistakes if you want to win races.”
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 19. It is the 17th of 24 races in 2018 and the penultimate race in the regular season, meaning time is running out for Line to move up in the points heading into the NHRA’s six-race playoffs.
But a big weekend in Brainerd, where Line won in 2014, would go a long way in doing that. Line is less than 30 points away from sixth place in a loaded Pro Stock class that has featured nine different winners in 2018. That winners list includes KB Racing teammates Greg Anderson, the current points leader, and defending world champion Bo Butner, but Line is itching to become the 10th in 2018. The 47-time event winner has recorded at least one win each of the last 14 years and it is an impressive streak he wants to keep going this season.
“We’ve dug ourselves a hole and we have to figure out a way to get out of it,” Line said. “We just have to do everything perfect. We should have won at Seattle and I did a lousy job of shifting. The only thing that stopped us was us. But, again, you can’t make any mistakes in this class. You have to be perfect and it’s all about being mistake-free. But there’s no time like the present to get on track. Hopefully we can go out there and get it done this year (in Brainerd).”
To do so, Line will also have to get past the likes of Tanner Gray, who has four wins in 2018, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile, and Erica Enders. But the class standout always enjoys the annual trip to Brainerd to race at the track where he made his first-ever pass in a car. A huge crowd of family and friends will be on hand to watch Line like they do every year, and Line hopes to deliver a memorable show while putting his name into the championship conversation in the process.
“I always enjoy going back to Brainerd,” said Line, who has raced in three finals in 2018. “It’s where it all started for me and I still love the place. It’s always nice to go back. Our guys have gotten the car a little happier and we’re starting to make good progress. All in all, we’ve got a good car. The only thing stopping us from winning is me, so hopefully that’s something I can correct.”
Defending Top Fuel event winner Pritchett is after her third win of 2018 going against points leader Steve Torrence, Seattle winner Antron Brown and defending world champ Brittany Force.
Funny Car points leader Courtney Force will look for her first career Brainerd win against the likes of Matt Hagan, five-time event winner Ron Capps and John Force, who has 11 Brainerd victories.
Jerry Savoie will look for his second Pro Stock Motorcycle win of 2018 against points leader Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr. and Sonoma winner LE Tonglet.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Lucas Oil “Muy Caliente” jet cars, with Tom Bogner driving the Lucas Oil Racing TV Missile and Tony Franco driving the Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity. Jet cars are propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals include Tom Hoover, Al Corda and Forrest Lucas.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:40 and 4:20 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.