Qualifying for the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is complete, and Summit Racing Pro Stock driver Jason Line proved that he has the quickest and fastest hot rod on the property as he reeled in the 43rd No. 1 qualifier award of his career. The field is set for final eliminations, and Line is slated for a first-round meeting with Matt Hartford.
Line launched into qualifying with a cool 6.703-second pass at a big 206.23 mph that came with two bonus qualifying points – and it only got better from there for the incoming points leader. In the later round on Friday, he returned with his blue Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro to lay down a 6.687, 205.98 to grab three more of those precious bonus qualifying points and take over the top spot.
The solid start to the weekend was particularly notable as it preceded Saturday’s highly anticipated K&N Horsepower Challenge, and the final two sessions of qualifying would also act as rounds one and two of the shootout with $50,000 on the line.
Line made a very nice run in his first round victory over Shane Gray and the Valvoline/Nova Services Chevrolet Camaro, clocking a 6.707 at an exceptionally fast 206.70 mph that would stand as top speed of qualifying. He raked in two more bonus points with the effort and scored a semifinals meeting with reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart GT.
In the second round of the K&N Horsepower Challenge and final round of qualifying, Line earned a decisive win over Enders. She was out of the gate first, but the KB Racing pilot soon eclipsed Enders’ advantage for a 6.720, 205.94 to 6.810, 204.39 victory, another bonus qualifying point, and a ticket to the final round final round of the shootout where he would go toe to toe with his Summit Racing teammate Anderson.
It was over at the start for Line, however, when fluid began to leak from his racecar on the starting line and he had to be shut off. Anderson struck the tires at the hit en route to the shootout win.
Line has qualified either No. 1 or No. 2 in each of the first four events of the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and he has one win in three final rounds for the first three races of the year. The Summit Racing team has yet to be knocked from the points lead in 2016; KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson took the early lead with a Winternationals win to start the season before Line took over the lead after winning Phoenix.
“I certainly don’t want to trade cars with anybody else,” said Line, who will be starting from the top spot in Las Vegas for the fifth time in his career. He now has three poles earned at the spring event at The Strip. “My Summit Racing hot rod is really good. It’s a great car right now, and we have a great shot to win the race. I have been driving well this weekend – very well, for me – and I was excited to try to win the K&N Horsepower Challenge. It was a good swift kick today, it knocks the wind out of you a little bit, but it was a great motivator for tomorrow as well.”
Over and over again at this early point in the season, Line and Anderson have said that they know the competition is coming as the class gains comfort and knowledge with electronic fuel injection (EFI) and the other major rule changes in place for 2016. The Elite Motorsports team showed this to be true in qualifying as Drew Skillman, driver of the Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro, gathered a total of four bonus points as one of the top three cars in two of the sessions, and Vincent Nobile, in the Mountain View Tires Chevrolet Camaro, was third quickest for a point in the third session and second quickest in final qualifying round for two more.
On Sunday, in addition to Line squaring off with Hartford in round one, Chris McGaha will line up next to Shane Gray, Skillman will take on Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders will meet up with former Comp Eliminator racer Aaron Strong, Anderson will face Joey Grose, Pro Stock newcomer Alex Laughlin will take on Allen Johnson in his 460th race, Bo Butner will race V. Gaines, and Nobile will square off with Deric Kramer.
Eliminations for the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals are scheduled to begin at 12 noon at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.