NHRA: Jason Line hopes to finally win big at Minnesota home track

Photo: NHRA
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Even though he now lives more than 1,250 miles away near Charlotte, North Carolina, Brainerd International Raceway will always be NHRA Pro Stock driver Jason Line’s home track.

Line grew up in Wright, Minnesota, 70 miles northeast of Brainerd. It was there where he learned how to not only be a competitive drag racer, but also planted the seeds that eventually led to Line earning three NHRA Pro Stock championships.

And every year, he gets a chance to go back home to see family and friends – and once again accept the challenge that BIR’s quarter-mile drag strip presents – in this weekend’s NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals.

NHRA Pro Stock driver Jason Line (Photo: Getty Images).

But this year, Line wants to leave Brainerd in a different way than he ever has before: he wants to finally check off his first career Pro Stock win at his home track. He’s made it to the final round four times, most recently in 2016, and technically won the 2014 race – but due to weather issues, the final round was contested two weeks later at Indianapolis, not Brainerd.

So even though he has a Brainerd “Wally” winner’s trophy, Line never has had the opportunity to win and celebrate a Pro Stock win at his home track.

That’s why this weekend’s race is so important to him. He wants to finally break that dubious distinction. And what would make it all the more sweeter is if Line can also finally break a winless slump he’s been embroiled in all season.

“(Brainerd) has been kind of tough for me, but the older I get the more relaxed I get, so maybe this year it will help me,” Line said in a media release. “I’m looking forward to going, that’s for sure.

“I want to enjoy doing what I do for the amount of time I have left doing it. Going to Brainerd, the biggest thing is seeing my core group of friends and family that I started racing with years ago. It’s a good reminder of a lot of things, and there’s a first time for everything.”

This weekend also has increased significance as the Pro Stock schedule was reduced this season from its previous 24-race length to just 18 races. Brainerd will be the 11th of the 18 races, but more importantly, it’s the second-to-last race to qualify for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Even though he’s been winless thus far in 2019, Line has had good consistency. He enters the Brainerd event ranked fifth in the standings, 171 points behind points leader and KB Racing teammate Bo Butner, and 125 points behind second-ranked and another fellow KB Racing teammate, Greg Anderson.

“We’re not bad right now, but I don’t know that we’re great,” said Line, who has 48 career Pro Stock wins and 100 final round appearances. “I think we can be better and obviously that’s the goal.

“There’s some other stuff we’re working on that I think will refine things and will help us be better long-term. We need to do a little better on raceday. Our class has evolved into super refinement. You’re not going to find big gains, so you’re going to have to rub on what you’ve got and try to improve it.

“In our class, the difference between okay and great is a really small number. There’s definitely not a huge difference between okay and great. I’m just trying to take an analytical approach to it and try to do a better job. We’ll try to keep getting better and we’re constantly trying to come up with new ways to improve.”

Qualifying begins Friday with rounds at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. ET, and two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. ET. Final eliminations are slated to begin at Noon ET on Sunday.

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)