Denfeld News

June 29, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Teammates first, rivals second
By Jon Nowacki

Greg Anderson’s dominating three-year run atop the National Hot Rod Association’s Pro Stock standings came to an end last year, thanks to teammate Jason Line, the same guy Anderson hired in 2003 to drive KB Racing’s second car.

But rather than be upset or envious, Anderson was happy for his friend. A victory for Line was a win for the team.

This year, the roles have been reversed for the drivers hailing from Northeastern Minnesota.

Anderson, a 1979 Duluth Denfeld graduate, has returned to the dominating form that made him a three-time Pro Stock champion from 2003-05. Anderson has a commanding 954-753 lead over Jeg Coughlin in the season points standings, with Dave Connolly (660) third and Line (628) fourth going into the NHRA Nationals this weekend in Norwalk, Ohio.

Anderson, who resides in Concord, N.C., has six victories through 10 races, an impressive feat in an ultra-competitive class.

“There are a million ways to lose a race,” said Line, a native of Wright who now lives in Terrell, N.C. “So what Greg has been doing is pretty phenomenal, but we’ve got to keep working hard and getting better, because if you don’t, you could go the rest of the season and not win another one.”

That kind of drive is what keeps the team going. The cars are so close in the Pro Stock class that sometimes it’s hard to tell who won until results are posted. Many times the only difference between winning and losing is getting a better jump off the starting lights.

The KB Racing Pontiac GTOs have been so dominant that opponents have tried knocking off Anderson and Line at the start. At last weekend’s Pro Stock final at Englishtown, N.J., Coughlin was so bent on getting a better start than Anderson that he jumped the starting gun and was disqualified.

“They’re trying absolutely everything,” Anderson said of the competition. “They’re spending a ton of money. They’re hiring a ton of people. They’re pulling [out] all the stops.

“They’re tired of getting beat by us, and I don’t blame them. If I were in their shoes, I’d be frustrated, too. The target on our backs gets bigger every year, so it gets harder every year to win.”

That may have been the case last year, when Anderson won “only” four races, but nothing appears to be stopping him this year.

The win over Coughlin gave Anderson his 49th career victory, tying him with drag-racing legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme for No. 6 on the NHRA’s all-time list. What’s even more remarkable is that Anderson, who spent 12 years working for Pro Stock trailblazer Warren Johnson and got a late start as a driver, compiled 45 of his wins during the last five seasons and 35 during his reign as champ, arguably the best three-year run in NHRA history.

Anderson said tying Prudhomme was surreal.

“Who would ever have thought I could do that?” Anderson said. “I remember when I was 8, 10, 12 years old, watching him on TV or going to the U.S. Nationals with my dad and watching Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme. I mean, that guy was the coolest thing ever, and now here I am with the same amount of wins.

“That’s pretty wild, but I’m just too busy trying to go out there and win races that I haven’t even had time to stop and think about it. I’m just trying to live for the day.”

Indeed, Anderson and Line often log more than 80 hours a week fine-tuning the engines and setting up the cars. Unlike many drivers, the two remain very hands-on. While younger drivers such as the 24-year-old Connolly have showed better reaction times off the start, Line and Anderson feel knowing the cars as a driver and mechanic gives them an edge in handling a car’s setup.

“Sometimes I wish I could spend more hours of my day just practicing my starts like some of these young cats,” said Anderson, 46. “That’s all they have to worry about, while we have to build engines and work on cars. But who’s right or who’s wrong? I don’t know.

“You wish you could do it all, but unfortunately, there isn’t enough hours in the day. I’d add up all the hours I put in, but it would scare you.”

Anderson’s season reminds some of 2004, when he set an NHRA record by winning 15 of 23 races in being named the Speed Channel’s Driver of the Year (for all motor sports). He could have won more if it weren’t for Line, who had four victories as a rookie that year. This year, Line has one victory, giving KB Racing seven of the class’ 10 wins. On top of that, this year Anderson set an NHRA record for elapsed time by a Pro Stock (6.536 seconds at Gainesville, Fla.), while Line set the all-time speed record (211.69 mph at Gainesville).

Line, 37, said they put aside their rivalry for the good of the team.

“We both want to win, no doubt about that, but the main thing is that we both perform well,” Line said. “So long as we do that, then we’re both happy. We’re just fortunate to have a one-two punch. If the left one don’t get you then the right one will.”

As is their rule, Anderson is in charge of tuning Line’s car, while Line does the same thing for Anderson. They say it helps keep them honest for when they go against each other. Maybe this year that will happen in the final at their home track, Brainerd International Raceway on Aug. 12.

If that happens, expect a competitive but clean race, with the loser lamenting the loss while at the same time being pleased the team had the two best finishers. Then come Monday, they’ll head back to work.

“Those two are the hardest workers we have, by far. They lead the way,” crew chief Rob Downing said. “I don’t think we have any rocket scientists on our crew, but we all work hard, and we all work together. That makes up for a lot. We don’t always see eye to eye, but we all want the same thing. We’re like brothers in that way. Jason and Greg are a good example of that.”

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