Aug. 11, 2006
By Lee Bloomquist
For "a knucklehead from Wright," and
a would-be hockey player from Duluth, Jason Line and Greg Anderson
are doing pretty well for themselves.
Line, the National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock
division points leader, and Anderson, the three-time defending division
champion, bring their Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO's home
this weekend in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International
Raceway and Resort.
Heading into Saturday's qualifying, the Ken Black
Racing teammates rank 1-2 in the NHRA Pro Stock season points race.
"For a knucklehead from Wright I've been
fortunate," said Line, who in four years in the NHRA has become
known for an unassuming personality and laugh no-matter-what-happens
outlook. "I think I'm having about the same year as I've had
the last two years, but I think everybody else is having a worse
Line and Anderson, Northland natives with different
approaches to the pressures of big-time drag racing, represent one
of the most dominant one-two punches in the world's fastest motor
Anderson, 45, grew up in Duluth and in 1979 graduated
from Duluth Denfeld, where he played hockey through his sophomore
year. He didn't attended college.
Since starting NHRA Pro Stock drag racing in 1998,
he's earned a reputation as one of the most intense and winning
drivers on the circuit.
But with success comes pressure and what can be
fickle fan support.
Three straight NHRA pro stock titles, four national
elapsed time records, a national speed record, and a desire to beat
everyone, can do that says Anderson.
"There's no question I get some hatred or
whatever you want to call it," said Anderson.
"Some people don't like it when a guy wins
all the time. The crowd sometimes goes wild when I get beat because
the crowd wants the underdog. I guess when you get to this stage,
it is kind of like what's happened with Jeff Gordon (in NASCAR)."
Line, 37, a 1987 graduate from Cromwell High School,
never attended college, yet spent three years, nine months and 11
days as a "paper pusher," in the U.S. Air Force ("But
who's counting," says Line).
After entering NHRA Pro Stock racing in 2003,
Line has 11 final-round wins (four in 2004, four in 2005), and three
this year. In 2004, he was one of two drivers to beat Anderson in
a final-round race and was named Rookie of the Year.
Though their cars are identically prepared --
and both men wear similar spiked haircuts -- Line and Anderson are
on opposite ends of the quarter-mile when it comes to emotions.
Anderson says he feels pressure to perform.
"It's kind of funny that anytime I slip up,
the reporters are on me like flies," said Anderson. "But
so much is expected of me that it bothers me if I don't have a perfect
Don't let Line's laid-back manner fool you, said
"Jason still hasn't won a championship, so
they don't come to him and say, 'What's wrong?' " said Anderson.
"But don't let that laugh and giggle fool you -- he's got the
killer instinct. I kind of wish I could be like that, but I get
down on myself."
Two weeks ago in qualifying, Anderson set a national
record elapsed time of 6.631 seconds to qualify in the top spot
at the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma,
Calif. He then absorbed a second-round loss to Allen Johnson.
Anderson picked up a 20-point bonus for setting
the elapsed time record, but Line won the event.
"We haven't been 100 percent this year,"
said Anderson. "At the last race, it was the fastest car. But
I like that kind of pressure. I'd rather have the fastest car out
there because then it's then up to the drivers and there's a lot
of pressure on me to perform differently."
Anderson led in the points standings for 12 events
before Line took the lead in mid-July in Denver.
Eight races remain in the 23-event schedule.
To prepare for BIR, Anderson said he and Line
spent the past week practicing starting line reaction times at a
test facility at team headquarters in Mooresville, N.C.
Both planned to visit their parents in Duluth
and Wright before heading to Brainerd.
"You try not to treat it (BIR) any different,"
said Anderson. "But it's still where my family is at the race
and Jason's family is at the race, so you want to do well in front
In what's becoming a rarity, Anderson and Line
not only drive their cars, but work on the engines during the week.
"We're kind of a dying breed," said
Line, a former race tuner for Joe Gibbs Racing's NASCAR team. "I'd
say that Larry Morgan, Warren and Kurt Johnson and ourselves are
about the last ones."
Although Anderson and Line's GTO's have different
chassis, each produces about 1,350 horsepower, creates about a g-force
of three at the start and reach about 208 mph in the quarter mile.
"We're able to tune the cars almost identical,"
said Anderson. "We try to put the same amount of power into
each and when we race each other, may the best man win. There's
no team orders. We don't want any 'gimmes,' or easy ones -- You're
not going to see that from this team."
Line, who sometimes laughs at himself even after
losing, says he may someday feel the same pressures as Anderson.
But for now, he's enjoying the moment.
"I'm just Jason Line from Wright," said
Line, who in January became a father for the first time. "I
think we're both serious about it, he just has a different way of
doing it. Racing is important, but there's more important things
in life. Your family is important and there's things like when we're
at a race working on our car and somebody will come up in a wheelchair.
Losing a race isn't the most important thing."
And what if push comes to shove in an Anderson
vs. Line race for the season points title?
"I'm bigger than he is," joked Line.
"Being selfish, I would like to win. But I'd also be happy
for him to win. You have to think about the big picture. If you
don't win this year, you come back next year and try again."
"I feel like I'm inches away from going on
a run," said Anderson. "But it's still way up in the air.
If it comes down to Jason and myself, as long as it's one of us."
Kurt Johnson, born in Virginia, won last year's Pro Stock title
at BIR. Johnson is fifth in the 2006 season points race. His father,
Warren "The Professor," Johnson, who grew up in Markham,
is 13th in Pro Stock points.
"I think it's come down to a three or four-horse
race between Jason (Line), myself, Dave Connolly, Jim Yates, and
Kurt Johnson," said Greg Anderson.