NHRA: Jason Line’s third Pro Stock championship was great but also bittersweet

Photos courtesy NHRA
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Jason Line and Greg Anderson were both in a very bittersweet spot during the 2016 NHRA season.

Not only are they good friends, they’re also longtime teammates on the KB Racing/Summit Racing Equipment squad.

To complicate matters even more, they were both the winningest drivers in the Pro Stock class, each driver earning eight wins this season – a combined two-thirds of the victories in the 24-race season.

Both drivers wanted to win the championship, but at the same time, they were also pulling for their teammate to do it – if they couldn’t.

As it turned out this past Sunday in the season-ending Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California, Line got the better of his four-time champion teammate and went on to win the third championship of his own Pro Stock tenure.

2016_greg_anderson-2
Greg Anderson

Sometimes, beating your teammate is harder than beating other competitors because of the close bond and relationship forged over the years.

And even harder is cheering for yourself while hoping you have just enough to get past your teammate for the title, even though you are also wishing him the best at the same time.

It’s hard to separate the friendship from the will to beat your buddy for the championship.

“I don’t know that you can,” Line told NBC Sports in an NHRA teleconference on Wednesday. “It’s a strange dynamic, to say the least. I don’t know if we were pulling for each other or not.

“Obviously the selfish side of you wants to win. Make no mistake about it, racers are selfish folks. You have to be somewhat in order to win. It’s just kind of the nature of the sport.

“It’s tough. We’ve been together for 14 years, which I think has got to be some kind of record. Usually it’s very difficult. We all have big egos. It’s very difficult to survive that, especially racing each other, knowing that really the person who stopped you from winning more this year is also somebody who helped you win as much as you did.

“It’s hard to take an objective look at it. At some point it’s difficult to separate heart from head. It’s a tough deal. I think we handle it better now than we did 10 years ago. There was no fighting. We didn’t come to blows or anything. There were no foul words said at all. We both realize at this point that it is bigger than just the two of us. It’s important that we win as a group.

“That being said, it’s still hard. Each one of us wants to win. I know he’s disappointed, as I would have been, as well.”

The battle between Line and Anderson carried through the whole season. But just as dominant as that duo was, equally surprising was how arguably their top competitors – Elite Motorsports and drivers Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr. – had such a rough season.

Enders came into 2016 having won the last two Pro Stock championships, while Coughlin, a five-time champ, returned to full-time racing for the first time in several years.

Elite also made a surprising switch from Chevrolet to Mopar power and Dodge Dart chassis. Their overall record was the direct opposite of Line and Anderson. While that pair won a combined 16 races, Enders and Coughlin both failed to reach victory circle even one.

The hardest part of that failure was Enders won six races in her first championship season in 2014 and nine in 2015. To go from nine in one season and 15 in two seasons to zero is not only a hard pill to swallow for the team, it also baffled the competition, as well.

“I can certainly empathize,” Line said. “It’s not easy, especially when both those two are used to being up near the top. Erica has certainly had more bad times than him. Yeah, it’s tough to take.

“Winning masks a lot of issues. When you’re not doing well, it tends to bring out either the best or the worst in you. I’m sure they had a lot of very trying moments over that. I don’t know. I tried not to pay attention to it, just worry about our own deal. But it was a tough deal (for Enders and Coughlin), there’s no question about it.”

It was so tough that Elite Motorsports announced Wednesday that it will be parting ways with Mopar and Dodge, with a likely return to Chevrolet power and Camaro bodies for 2017.

MORE: Elite Motorsports parts ways with Mopar/Dodge after just one season

Line admitted that he had little inkling that he and his teammate would be so dominating this season. Not only did they each reach the winner’s circle eight times apiece, Line led the Pro Stock point standings for 22 of the 24 races of the season.

But once things got going, Line and Anderson knew they had something special.

“We knew pretty early on that we had a little bit of a magic there that they didn’t,” Line said of his fellow competitors. “I really still couldn’t tell you what or why that is.

“I’m glad that we found it. Obviously we chose to work in the right areas over the off-season. It was a lot of effort, for sure. It always is. Obviously we worked on the right things, and that made all the difference in the world.

“But the second half was very close. We got a little bit better as it went on. Obviously by (the season finale at) Pomona, it felt like we had a little bit of an advantage. It was a great season. I guess we got tired of losing.”

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World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)