Early in the week, the forecast had threatened to prevent racing on Friday at the 47th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, but Mother Nature played nice for the first day of the event at Gainesville Raceway, and qualifying was quick. The quickest of all in the Pro Stock category was Jason Line, driver of the blue Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro. If the provisional low qualifier can protect his position on Saturday, he will earn the 42nd No. 1 of his career as an NHRA Pro Stock driver.
“We don’t feel like we’re running up to our potential yet, and I know the other teams aren’t as well, but for right now I’m going to enjoy this small advantage,” said Line. “Nothing lasts forever, good or bad, but today was a good day.”
Line set the tone for the day in the first session with a 6.603-second pass at 209.79 mph for three bonus points. KB Racing teammate Bo Butner was right behind with a 6.617, 209.33, and Greg Anderson – the defending event champ – was third-best on a 6.623, 209.14.
In the second round of qualifying, Line again topped the pack for three more bonus points thanks to a 6.596 with top speed of the meet 210.01 mph. The run particularly stood out as he made it in the left lane where many drivers had trouble.
“I could see what was going on in front of me, and you think about that,” admitted Line. “Nobody was making it down that lane. So I told the boys, ‘We’re already No. 1, I’m just going to go to half-track and stop.’ I went to the first half and decided I’d go to the second half, too. It was really fine, you just had to be right in the center. Obviously, the car was hooked up good. I felt like it such a good run the front half, I just couldn’t stop.”
If Line’s No. 1 holds through Saturday qualifying, it will be the first Gainesville Raceway pole of his career – a rather interesting note as Line has more Pro Stock wins at the Gatornationals than any other currently competing driver.
“That’s a little bit surprising to me, to be honest,” said Line, a four-time Gatornationals victor. “This place has been pretty good to me. [But] I think if somebody can go faster than 6.596, they deserve it – so good luck to them. That’s a good run. If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t, I’m still going to get a good starting spot.”
A surprise contender in the early session was Alex Laughlin in the Gas Monkey Energy Camaro; he brought a 6.647, 208.36 to the table in his Gray Motorsports-powered Chevrolet and was No. 4 at the conclusion of the round. He had the parachutes out early in the second session and slowed to a 6.932, 153.47 to end the day in the No. 5 position.
Reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders was immediately showing marked improvement over the first two events of the year in her Elite Motorsports Mopar Performance Dodge Dart. Enders was in the top half of the field after the first session – No. 7 – and moved further up the ladder to No. 4 with a strong 6.644, 207.34 in the closing round of the day to pick up a bonus qualifying point and, perhaps, a bit of momentum.
Qualifying continues on Saturday with two sessions scheduled, 12 noon and 3:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Final eliminations for the 47th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals are slated to begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Gainesville Raceway.
Find qualifying results at Drag Race Central.