All four qualifying sessions are in the books here at Gainesville Raceway, and the field is set for Sunday eliminations at the 47th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Jason Line, driver of the blue Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro out of Ken Black’s KB Racing stable, will start from the No. 1 position in the 287th Pro Stock race of his career. The No. 1 is the first for Line in Gainesville, and it is his first of the 2016 season.
Because there are 15 cars competing for the trophy at the Gatornationals this weekend, Line and his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro will have a bye run in the first round.
“Honestly, today we just wanted to make good, safe runs more than anything,” said Line. “We did that. We struggled a little bit with Greg’s car [Anderson, teammate], but my Summit Racing hot rod – she’s fast right now. Even I can’t mess it up.”
On Friday in Gainesville, Line raced to a 6.603-second pass at 209.79 mph, and he followed up with a 6.617, 209.33 in the later session to keep hold of the provisional pole.
Saturday dawned rainy but with the promise of clear skies in the afternoon. After some delay as the wet weather cleared and the racing surface was prepared, two more rounds of qualifying were successfully logged. Going after his first No. 1 at a racetrack where he has more wins than any other currently competing Pro Stock driver, Line dealt the competition a stout 6.584, 208.84 followed by a cool 6.587 at a top speed of 210.44 mph.
“We’ve struggled a little bit with grip, [but] my car has been very good,” said Line, referencing the mastery of getting the horsepower efficiently to the ground this weekend. “I think that is probably one of the reasons it’s a little bit faster than everyone else’s. I felt like we could have gone a little bit faster than we did; we fell a little bit short. Still, very good runs for me today, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
On Sunday, the Mooresville, N.C.-based driver will be racing for his fifth Gatornationals trophy. So far this season, the KB Racing team has dominated the class despite the new rule-set, including electronic fuel injection in place of the old carburetor set-up, shorter wheelie bars, and the rev limiter dialed down to a super-low 10,500 rpms.
“Like I said in Phoenix, we’re just the least worst right now,” said Line. “We still have a long way to go; it’s in its infancy for all of us. I don’t know much about fuel injection, and I’m not sure that I know much about engines in general, but I know that there is a long way to go. We’re going to get better – everybody is going to get better.”
Line picked up a total of 12 bonus points throughout qualifying as the quickest car in each round. Summit Racing counterpart Greg Anderson nabbed a total of six, KB Racing teammate Bo Butner collected five, and Erica Enders, driving the Elite Motorsports Mopar Performance Dodge Dart scored one as the third-quickest in the second session.
Butner, the low qualifier at the last race in Phoenix, will start second, and Anderson will start from the No. 3 position. The KB Racing trio has occupied the top three starting positions in each of the first three events of the year and won the first two races in the new era of Pro Stock.
Other top performers in Gainesville qualifying included Gray Motorsports-powered Alex Laughlin in the Gas Monkey Energy Chevrolet Camaro, who qualified a career-high No. 4 with a 6.614, 209.04. The Granbury, Texas-based driver started the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with a career best No. 7 qualifying position at back-to-back events. In 2015, his debut season, his best start was 11th.
Drew Skillman, out of the four-car Elite Motorsports camp, wheeled his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro to a crisp 6.616, 208.39 to lead the well-stocked Elite pack and start No. 5. Teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. is No. 6 in the Magneti Marelli/Jegs Dodge Dart with a 6.627, 207.88, Allen Johnson is No. 7 with a 6.628, 207.91 in his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart, and Shane Gray, behind the wheel of the Gray Motorsports Valvoline/Nova Services Chevrolet Camaro, rounds out the top half in the No. 8 position based on his 6.631, 208.17.
Final eliminations for the 47th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Gainesville Raceway.
For full qualifying results, visit Drag Race Central.com.