CHANDLER, Ariz. — When Jason Line raced to a third career Winternationals victory to open the season at Auto Club Raceway, one might think it was just a normal day for the KB Racing driver.
But for the two-time NHRA Pro Stock world champ, his determination to open the season with a victory wasn’t about him. It was all about his noticeably absent teammate.
Greg Anderson, Line’s teammate and mentor at KB Racing, was nowhere to be found during the season-opener two weeks ago in Pomona. He was instead in Charlotte, N.C., recovering in a hospital from heart surgery.
It was big news when Anderson, a four-time Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world champion, announced during the offseason that he would undergo surgery to repair a heart condition he’s had since birth and would miss the first three months of the racing season.
“It was very strange to be at a race without Greg,” Line said. “This was the first time that’s happened for me. Before the race, would I have expected to win? I don’t think I could have said with 100 percent confidence that we would win the race, but apparently I need to work on being more positive.”
Line, along with Anderson’s substitute, Jimmy Alund, went out to show the power of the KB Racing team and their Summit Racing Chevy Camaros. The Minnesota native was fast early and qualified fourth, while Alund had a successful qualifying try at 10th.
On race day, Line did what he did best. Knocking out Matt Hartford, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and V Gaines, Line sent a message that the KB Racing cars were going to be the ones to beat. With the absence of his teammate, Line pointed out that this Winternationals win had more significance than his other two.
“This one is probably the biggest one for me,” Line said. “If I had a top five list of the coolest races I’ve won, this one would definitely be on it. No question.”
Line now moves on to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Feb. 21-23.
“No matter what, until we get to Phoenix, the Summit Racing team won the last race and that’s a nice thing to say,” Line said. “It makes everyone at KB Racing feel good about going to Phoenix and we know we have a car that’s good enough to win every race.”
The newly refurbished Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park dragstrip will be a new challenge for many drivers in the series, but Line was one of a group of Pro Stock drivers who were able to test prior to arriving in Pomona. He thinks the improvements will provide a fair test of racing in the Valley of the Sun.
“The lanes should be very equal, and that should make for some great racing,” said Line, who won the Pro Stock category at Phoenix in 2012. “The weather is usually good, and that always helps. Anytime you go to a race after just winning one, it’s fun. You know you can do it, and in racing that’s the best feeling you can hope for.”
Line understands the importance of winning and will continue to focus on leading the KB Racing team forward, but he is also not losing sight of the bigger things in life.
“The most important thing is that Greg is doing well,” Line said. “He’s getting better and actually I got to pick him up from the hospital and take him home. That’s a very positive thing for sure.”