What’s the line on Line? Can he cash in again at Las Vegas?

REACTION TIME COLUMN

From Susan Wade

Pro Stock points leader Jason Line is on a roll and he hasn’t even gotten to Las Vegas yet.

The winner of the first two National Hot Rod Association races this year is primed for three in a row in his KB Racing/ Summit Equipment Pontiac GXP. Line, with his self-deprecating humor and pragmatism, might not feel lucky heading to a city that has a sassy reputation for dealing out generous jackpots but more often dashed dreams.

It would be especially gratifying, though, if he could excel just one more time. This third of 22 races int he Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule is at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in the hometown of team owner Ken Black, the beloved leader for Line and teammate Greg Anderson. It also is their team sponsor’s title race: the SummitRacing.com Nationals.

Line and Anderson have had two unsettling off-seasons, first with Black suffering a December 2009 stroke from which he is steadily is recovering and Anderson’s home severely damaged by fire. Last year, just hours after Anderson accepted his championship check at the NHRA Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles, the team hauler caught fire on the way home. The race car and all the equipment inside were destroyed.

Yet Line and Anderson are first and second in the standings today. Line has two victories in as many races. And the crew proceeded as though nothing had happened.

“We always have high expectations,” Line said, “but the truth of it is, this it off-season was a breeze compared to the one before, because you know with Ken having a stroke, it really had a profound effect on all of us.

“With Ken, he’s more than our team owner. We love the guy, and he loves us, and he’s been so many more things to me and all of us here than just a team owner,” he said. “He’s a one-of-a-kind kind of guy. So the fact that we burn up the trailer and all of the parts, that can be repaired and we have the manpower and equipment to fix that stuff. It was not as huge a deal. We kind of made a joke out of it, that we never really liked that car, anyway, even though it won the championship for us. We were able to laugh about it because of what happened to us the previous year.”

But being at the front of a wickedly quick pack of Pro Stock drivers is no easy task, and Line knows he has a handful of capable performers ready to ease him to the side of the road. They include Erica Enders, who during qualifying at Gainesville set the national speed record at 213.57 mph in Victor Cagnazzi’s Za Za Energy Chevy Cobalt.

For Enders, this season has been one of re-establishing herself, and she has done just that with a No. 1 qualifying position at Pomona, Calif., in the season-starting Winternationals and a superb side-by-side opening-round victory over NASCAR champion Kurt Busch at the Gatornationals.

“This is a very exciting and emotional game to begin with, but just to come back with Victor Cagnazzi and the same group of guys that I ran with five, six, seven years ago is a dream come true for me,” Enders said.

“To come from the trials and tribulations over the past couple of years and driving a car that wasn’t competitive, I can’t pay for that seat time. So that was crucial. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity that I do now to drive for Victor and ZaZa Energy had I not been in Jim’s [Jim Cunningham's] car,” she said.

“You don’t take it for granted when you’re doing well, but you forget how great it feels until you have it all taken away from you,” Enders said. “And I want to focus on the fact you don’t take it for granted, because we have run well before and it’s exciting, and you kind of lose sight of everything until it’s all gone.

“So where I came from last year to coming out at the first event and qualifying No. 1 and going to Gainesville and having a good run and getting the top speed, I’m excited about the year, and the fans have been great.

“I’ve had an up and down career in Pro Stock as far as qualifying and not qualifying and changing teams and manufacturers,” she said. “It feels great to still feel the love and to be paired back with a great group of guys, I think I’ve said this in a number of interviews this year, but I think people are key to making a program work and I’ve definitely got the right people.”

Third-place Greg Stanfield and his Safety Sentry Pontiac GXP, should be hanging steady with the frontrunners all year long after his series runner-up finish last year. No. 4-ranked Rodger Brogdon, who set the national elapsed-time record at Gainesville in qualifying in his Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP, will make some noise. And Allen Johnson is sure to jump back into the top 10 in his J & J Mopar Dodge Avenger. Ron Krisher (No. 5) and Kurt Johnson (No. 6) haven’t said a lot but have been talking pretty loudly with their accelerator feet. Mike Edwards, the 2009 champion who has fared well at Houston, definitely will be in the mix before it’s over.

“You know, I’ve got a feeling it’s going to get a little bit tougher,” Line said about maintaining his lead. “But it’s still fun to be off to such a good start.”

Ditto for Top Fuel’s Del Worsham (Al-Anabi Racing) and Funny Car’s Mike Neff (John Force Racing). Worsham is returning to the dragster ranks after a long career in the Funny Car class, and Neff is back behind the wheel after a year driving layoff as he fills the gap Ashley Force 22It feels great to still feel the love and to be paired back with a great group of guys, I think I’ve said this in a number of interviews this year, but I think people are key to making a program work and I’ve definitely got the right people.”

Third-place Greg Stanfield and his Safety Sentry Pontiac GXP, should be hanging steady with the frontrunners all year long after his series runner-up finish last year. No. 4-ranked Rodger Brogdon, who set the national elapsed-time record at Gainesville in qualifying in his Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP, will make some noise. And Allen Johnson is sure to jump back into the top 10 in his J & J Mopar Dodge Avenger. Ron Krisher (No. 5) and Kurt Johnson (No. 6) haven’t said a lot but have been talking pretty loudly with their accelerator feet. Mike Edwards, the 2009 champion who has fared well at Houston, definitely will be in the mix before it’s over.

“You know, I’ve got a feeling it’s going to get a little bit tougher,” Line said about maintaining his lead. “But it’s still fun to be off to such a good start.”

Ditto for Top Fuel’s Del Worsham (Al-Anabi Racing) and Funny Car’s Mike Neff (John Force Racing). Worsham is returning to the dragster ranks after a long career in the Funny Car class, and Neff is back behind the wheel after a year driving layoff as he fills the gap Ashley Force Hood’s pregnancy left on the team in late January.

Pro-class qualifying for the SummitRacing.com Nationals will begin Friday, April 1 with sessions also Saturay, April 2. Final eliminations will start Sunday morni

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