Jason Line, who entered the weekend second to Allen Johnson in the NHRA Pro Stock standings with this Big O Tires Nationals and the season finale at Pomona, Calif., to make up an 82-point deficit, got a huge boost Saturday in the KB/Summit Racing Camaro.
He'll lead the field with a 6.590-second, 209.72-mph clocking on the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway quarter-mile that set both ends of the track record.
"We put ourselves in the position to go for it, to have the opportunity to win," Line said.
"We need to have a banner day," he said, referring to Sunday's eliminations. "I keep saying that, but it's do or die. If we don't have it tomorrow, then it's over," he said.
Line and teammate Greg Anderson are racing with heavy hearts this weekend because days ago they lost friend and public-relations representative Jon Knapp to cancer.
"In the past I haven't liked to use things like that [for motivation]. Jon was a special guy. He's not replaceable," Line said. "It would be nice to win for him. I would have liked to have won for him while he was still here.
"He wanted me to win so bad. He was probably my biggest fan," Line said. "I wish I could have had a chance to tell him the things I thought before he passed. A hard lesson learned -- I should have done it before he got that sick. He was a great guy, a one of a kind, and if we can win in his honor it would be great."
For earning his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 32nd of his career, Line drew 16th-place starter Shane Gray as his first-round opponent in eliminations.
He said his mind set going forward is "easy -- win. That's all you got to do. Obviously, Greg’s mind set is different than mine, in that he's trying to help me win, which is a great thing -- maybe slightly unorthodox. It isn’t anything which hasn’t happened before. That’s why you have teammates. Our philosophy has never been to race each other and dive. That's been done in the past, and nobody likes that. That's not real racing.
"We're going after A.J. to try and beat him. It's going to be tough to do," Line said. "He has a really fast car, and he's good and we have a lot of respect for him. We want to do it the right way, and if it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
"We’re going to do the best we can, and Greg put himself in a position to make that happen. We'll see if Greg and A.J. can both get past the first round. None of that matters if I don't win. We have a great car, and we put ourselves in a great position."
Line was quickest in qualifying at the previous race, at Reading, Pa., but said "it just took us a little longer than it should have" to show that kind of dominance. We're off to a better start than we were in Reading."
But Line knows that it's not the start but rather the finish that's essential Sunday.
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