There was little doubt a member of the three-car KB Racing team would be the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock champion.
In the end, it was the baddest of the bad, Jason Line, who claimed his third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock championship by achieving eight wins in 14 final rounds. Ironically, the driver he beat out for the title, teammate Greg Anderson, won his eighth race of the season in 14 finals to finish the season.
So much for the disdain Line spewed at the onset of the season, expressing his dislike for the rule changes which led to his most dominant drag racing season ever.
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“We were a little bitter,” Line said of the initial changes to Pro Stock which included electronic fuel injection and largely an rpm limit. “We didn’t exactly embrace the new rules. I didn’t anyway. Greg finally drug me in.”
Line and Anderson weren't the only ones pouting regarding the new Pro Stock format which made every team return to square one with their combinations. KB Racing bankroller Ken Black was even more irate and pondered throwing in the towel.
“If you would have saw him here at Pomona in February, he was angry,” Line explained. “He was definitely not happy. Much like us, he didn’t exactly embrace the new rules. Obviously, it was very costly for all of us. And so he was upset enough to where on Saturday night he left. He didn’t even stay for the race. Right now, today, I think he’s over that.”
Domination heals all wounds.
“He was pretty smiley over there in the winner’s circle,” Line said of the final 2016 race. “So, I think we’re all over it. We did the best job we could and used our resources as well as we could. All three of us, Greg, myself and Bo [Butner], all had a very good season.”
A good season is an understatement in this case.
Line lit the win light 65 times in 2016 out of the combined 161 round wins accrued by the three-car Mooresville, NC.-based team, which included sportsman sensation Bo Butner. According to NHRA statistics, the 56 round losses assigned to the team, half of them came against one another.
So dominant was Line and the KB Racing team that, up until June, they had qualified their cars one-two-three at nine of 11 events, accumulating 235 of 246 available bonus points at the time. A member of the three-car team led all 43 qualifying sessions, qualified No. 1 and won every one of the first half events.
Line held a 71-point lead over Anderson, and a 682-point lead over the closest non-KB Racing Pro Stock entry, when the point standings were reset headed into the NHRA Carolina Nationals back in September.
“You know it’s coming,” Line admitted. “But it’s still painful when it happens. My thought was you try to get some back. I feel like you have to at least make the final at the first race. You just have to. And so when we won the Charlotte race, I felt like I had a decent chance. And you know, for me beating Greg in the final was in my mind, kind of set the tone for the way the chase was going to go. It did not go like I thought it was going to, but the end result worked out.”
Line never relinquished his point lead, earning three semi-finals in the next four races and qualifying either No. 1 or No. 2 at four of the six Countdown events.
Credit a lot of success to the nature of the KB Racing mentality to work hard and race even harder, this has been a dynamic in his relationship with Anderson since they started racing together in 2003.
“I think it’s very unique,” Line explained. “I’ve never seen it anywhere else. We’ve managed to stay together for 14 years. That’s like an eternity. Especially, let’s face it, drivers are a little bit of, most of the time they’re egomaniacs. So, you get a couple of big egos and manage to stay together like that, of all the things we’ve accomplished in racing, I think that’s the thing I’m the most proud of.
“We’ve managed to stay together and put our egos aside for the good of the cause and to go forward. We don’t mind fighting, we’ll definitely fight. But, we’re not fighting to win, we’re fighting to go forward. So, I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve stayed together this long. Especially, really it’s been Greg and myself, and Rob, Rob Downing, and that’s a long time for any group to stay together. And we’ve had a pretty good run. Takes a lot of give and take. It’s like a marriage, I guess. I’m not sure if you ask Greg, he’ll tell you who gives more, but I don’t know the answer to that. Apparently it’s the right amount on both sides.”
And with his most dominant season in the history book, Line has a solid plan starting this week for next season.
“We’re going to have to [go to work],” Line explained. “Because nobody likes not winning. And I promise you our competitors will be working as hard or harder, so we have no choice. The gains are getting fewer and tougher to find. So we’re going to have to come up with some new stuff, and make the process better.”
As Line knows, the challenge will be monumental to top an eight-win season.
Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus