DRAG RACING

Determined Pro Stock standout Line moving forward

Jason Line was one final-round victory from winning his third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world championship in 2014. Returning to historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona for this weekend’s Circle K NHRA Winternationals might serve as an easy reminder as to how close Line was before falling to Erica Enders-Stevens in the last round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at the same track.

But Line doesn’t see any reason to look back and is instead focused on only the road ahead in the 2015 NHRA Pro Stock season. With three Winternationals victories to his credit, including one a season ago, this weekend also marks the perfect opportunity to start the quest for redemption in style in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro.

“I don’t dwell on the past,” Line said. “If you do that, you’re probably going to trip and fall. I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it, but I try not to do it too much. I’m trying to get better so I don’t repeat the same thing, which means trying to go forward. If not, you’re not going to have a lot of longevity in this sport. You constantly have to be analyzing and dissecting your own performance in order to get better.”

Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel) and John Force (Funny Car) joined Line as winners last year of the race that will again be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Returning to the scene of the heartbreaking defeat to Enders-Stevens may not appear to be the most ideal scenario, but Line is concentrating solely on the 2015 season. That meant finding more power for his Camaro in the off-season and continuing to work on the talents that have made him one of the top stars in the Pro Stock class for more than a decade.

Several of those accomplishments came last year when Line entered the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship in first place. Following the Winternationals victory to start the year, Line won three straight races late in the regular season, also performing well in the Countdown.

He advanced to three final rounds, including the deciding one in Pomona. Line came up short there, which has him motivated for improvement. But consistent progress has always been part of his mindset, as evidenced by finishing in the top three in points each of the last four seasons and five of the last six.

“We’re just moving forward, trying to make more horsepower and get better,” Line said. “We’ve got a great team, and I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish. We’re always thinking about where we can improve and get better, and that’s a continual process on this team.”

Enders-Stevens claimed her first world championship last year with her victory over Line and will be looking to add to her 12 career victories in Pomona. But Line will offer a stiff challenge, as will class stalwarts Allen Johnson, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray, Vincent Nobile, Greg Anderson, and Chris McGaha.

After missing the first five races of last season due to off-season heart surgery, Anderson is back for the full 2015 campaign. That’s welcome news for Line, who knows that having his Summit Racing Equipment teammate back for the full season will only help the team.

Both will look to perform at a high level in Pomona, which has always been a thrilling venue for Line when it comes to opening the NHRA season.

“The thing I like best about Pomona is the fact fans have great energy,” Line said. “That’s always nice to see, and it reminds you that this is fun, and racing is fun. I want to do the best job I possibly can for the people I represent, and we’re excited to get the season started. I’m always excited for Pomona and to see what we can do.”

The star-studded Top Fuel class is led by reigning world champion Tony Schumacher, who claimed his eighth world championship in 2014. Former world champions Antron Brown, Larry Dixon, and Shawn Langdon as well as top challengers J.R. Todd, Spencer Massey, Doug Kalitta, class newcomer Dave Connolly, and 2014 NHRA rookie of the year Richie Crampton will aim to prevent a ninth world title for Schumacher. Last season’s Top Fuel winner of this event, alBalooshi, is reportedly planning a return to NHRA Pro Mod competition, where he is a past season champion.

In Funny Car, Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan claimed his second world championship at the season-ending race last season, dethroning 16-time world champion John Force in Pomona. Hagan, who won his first championship in 2011, will try to thwart a list of perennial stars in the loaded class, including John Force, Courtney Force, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon, Tommy Johnson Jr., Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham, and Tim Wilkerson.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and enjoy cherished face time with and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.

The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Feb. 6, with sessions at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Feb. 7, at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 8.