The first day of qualifying for the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals is on the record at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and not many folks are surprised that KB Racing’s Jason Line, driver of the blue Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, is sitting at the top of the heap. Line, who was No. 1 two weeks ago in Gainesville, has qualified no worse than second in each of the first three Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races in 2016, and Team Summit has won every race so far this year.
“I’ve said it before, but we’re the least-worst right now. Everybody else is making gains, and we have a lot of work to do, but it’s great to be here as the No. 1 qualifier,” said Line. “We always say that the race is really won at the shop, and we had a very busy off-season. We don’t have a lot of outside vendors, but we had some help from Hogan’s Manifolds, and they did a wonderful job for us. There has been a lot involved in this process, but I think it’s come down to effort.”
In the first round of qualifying, Line was second-quickest of the lot with a 6.703-second pass at a very large 206.23 mph that would hold through the day as top speed of the meet and bring in a pair of bonus points. The second round brought about three more bonus qualifying marks for Line as he made the quickest pass of the day, a 6.687, 205.98, to take the pole. If it holds, it will be the 43rd No. 1 of his Pro Stock career.
Line’s KB Racing teammate Bo Butner, in the Jim Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro, is nipping at Line’s heels, though, and was No. 2 on Friday with a 6.693, 205.41. In the No. 3 spot is his Summit Racing counterpart Greg Anderson, who scored top marks in the first session with a 6.694, 205.88.
Although KB Racing has dominated in the first three races and look to be on par for a repeat here in Vegas, Elite Motorsports drivers Drew Skillman, in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro, and Erica Enders, the reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion and driver of the Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart GT, are No. 4 and No. 5 in the line-up heading into Day Two.
Alex Laughlin, in the Gas Monkey Energy Chevrolet Camaro, is No. 6, Chris McGaha, driver of the Harlow Sammons Chevrolet, is No. 7, and rounding out the top eight is Shane Gray and the Valvoline/Nova Services Camaro with Pro Stock veteran Jim Yates at the helm for the first time this season.
Qualifying continues on Saturday for the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, but the two remaining sessions tomorrow will be of even greater value as they will also be the first two rounds of the highly anticipated K&N Horsepower Challenge. The third and final round will be contested after Pro Stock qualifying is complete.
Anderson is the No. 1 seed and will race K&N Horsepower Challenge fan-vote recipient Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the first round. Other pairings are: No. 4 McGaha vs. No. 5 Skillman; No. 2 Enders vs. No. 7 Allen Johnson, and No. 3 Line vs. No. 6 Gray.
Line has never before won the K&N Horsepower Challenge, the annual Pro Stock bonus event that pits the top 7 qualified drivers based on their performance throughout the year, plus one driver inserted by fan vote, against one another for a $50,000 prize.
“This is probably is my best chance,” said Line. “I’ve had several really good chances before and just haven’t been able to get it done. I hear people say, ‘well it’s your turn,’ but you don’t get turns in drag racing. You have to make it your turn, and hopefully tomorrow I can do that.”
Last season, Line was the low qualifier at the spring race in Las Vegas. Overall, he has five low qualifier awards earned at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the home racetrack of KB Racing team owners Ken and Judy Black.
“Of course we want to win the K&N Horsepower Challenge and be No. 1 qualifier when it’s all said and done. You have to make hay when the sun is shining,” said Line. “[This isn’t] going to last forever, and it’s an opportunity pretty much everyone else would like to trade me for. I’m going to do the best I can tomorrow to make it happen. Ken [Black, team owner] is here, and he’s tough on me. He rags on me about my driving any chance he gets – and tomorrow, I want to make him proud.”
For full race results, go to DragRaceCentral.com.