Across the flat farmlands of northern Illinois, furious storms can move in quickly and that’s what the NHRA officials were worried about during the final rounds of the October 2005 event at Route 66 Raceway.
Reigning and three-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders remembers it well. It was her first final round, a milestone for women in drag racing, but it was also a massive panic as she and her team prepared to race Jason Line.
During her warm-up, they discovered a damaged crank trigger. “We were scrambling and NHRA was rushing us because of weather,” she said.
Meanwhile, Line, making his 14th final-round appearance, was patient.
“Even though he was ordered to run the final on a single, he said, ‘No,’” Enders recalled. “He waited on us to get up there, despite the pressure from the NHRA. He told them it was my first final of my career and I deserved to be there. I figured out pretty quickly the type of guy Jason is. I ended up going red in the finals and he won (for the eighth of his 51 victories).”
Line said that day, “We would’ve waited on them no matter what. I don’t want to win on a single, and the rest of the team, absolutely nobody would go for that at all. We like to race fair and square.”
“I learned another lesson that day,” Enders said. “Jason hates hugs. Now I hug him every time I see him, just to get on his nerves.”
Line probably is grateful that everyone is required to wear masks and refrain from hugging right now. But he’ll be receiving tributes and awards commemorating his three championships and more than 600 Pro Stock round wins as he completes his “Finish Line Tour.”
He plans to retire from driving the KB Racing/Team Summit Chevy Camaro at the end of this, his 18th season. Line will continue as the team’s engine builder and dyno operator at its Mooresville, N.C., facility.
It’s too bad people will refrain from hugging Line because he has those hugs coming. After all, he enjoyed aggravating buddy and unrelenting on-track rival Allen Johnson in 2012, repeatedly calling him a “rubbercrank” — as in “The rubbercranks are really fast now. We have our work cut out for us.”
What is a “rubbercrank”? Line explained that the term “is a derogatory comment about Mopar’s engines. I didn’t make it up. I’ve heard people say that since I was a kid. It’s not very nice, but that’s what makes it a good insult.”
Johnson felt sufficiently insulted. And although Line’s scrappy rival and fellow Pro Stock champion from the hills of east Tennessee conceded that “a lot of people call Mopars ‘rubbercranks,’” he snarled, “I’ll shown him my damn rubbercrank.”
In the style of WWE wrestlers or boxers hyping their next match, they engaged in silly name-calling and danced around a mutual challenge to have a fistfight at the top end of the race track.
“I’m willing to shed a little blood for the cause,” Line joked. And Johnson said he was willing to give Line a knuckle sandwich: “Oh, yeah. He thinks just because he’s bigger than me that he can whup me.”
While Line is much bigger in stature than Johnson, it never came to fisticuffs. They were just messing with each other — just like when Line changed the lettering on teammate Bo Butner’s car window to read “Bob Utner.”
It all was tongue-in-cheek. That prompted Pro Stock and sportsman-level veteran Jeg Coughlin, who is closing his full-time Pro Stock career that began in 1997 with his own “Breaking Barriers Tour” this season — to say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
But the truth is that Line and Coughlin, in spite of their genuinely kind and amiable personalities, have had the keen desire to win everything and show the competition — all the competition — no mercy.
Line has done that, especially in 2016. On the way to his third series crown, the Minnesota native, Air Force veteran, former Alaska cab driver, dyno dynamo and all-around Pro Stock threat earned a career-best eight victories in 14 final-round appearances.
Click below to continue reading.