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NHRA: Minnesota natives in the hunt for Pro Stock title

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Greg Anderson speeds down the track in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro earlier this season. Anderson is sitting second in the Pro Stock season points standings heading into this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Photo courtesy of NHRA

Greg Anderson is hitting on all cylinders as he returns home for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Aug. 15-18 at Brainerd International Raceway.

His Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro teammate, Jason Line, hopes to turn his fortunes around as the two Pro Stock veterans look to move up in the points standings with just two races before the Countdown to the Championship begins.

Anderson, a Duluth native, found himself in 11th after the first three races of the season. Since then he’s been in pursuit of the No. 1 spot in the standings. A successful Western Swing jumped Anderson from fourth to just 46 points out of first place.

Anderson won at Denver and Sonoma before settling for second at Seattle two weeks ago. The Western Swing improved Anderson’s season record to 20-8 with two wins, two seconds and two other semifinal appearances.

“We got off to a slow start,” Anderon said. “I was definitely behind the eight ball after the first few races. We came back home and worked for six weeks and came back out and we were a different race team. We’ve been making ground up ever since and then we had a great Western Swing. I think we’re starting to peek at the right time of the year.”

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That’s got Anderson looking at BIR as a place to grab the No. 1 spot away from his other teammate Bo Butner, who has led the field from the start after winning the season’s first race.

Butner suffered two early exits during the Western Swing, allowing Anderson to see the ultimate prize.

“He’s been the No. 1 seed all season leading into the playoffs until we went through this Western Swing,” Anderson said. “I had a good run and I made up a lot of ground on him. So now there is a realistic possibility that I could get that No. 1 seed before we go into the playoffs. I didn’t think that was possible a few races back, but things have turned. Brainerd will be a project of trying to gain more ground on Bo before we start the playoffs.”

Anderson advanced to the semifinals in last year’s Lucas Oil Nationals. Of his 462 career wins a few have come at BIR and that has Anderson feeling good about the coming weekend.

“Confidence goes a long ways,” Anderson said. “So coming off a good Western Swing and the confidence I gained there and then going to one of my favorite race tracks in Brainerd this could be a good time.

“The class is so even and there are so many cars that can win it’s those little intangibles that make a big difference like confidence. Things are going our way and confidence is at a high for the season right now.”

For Line, a Wright, Minn. native, gaining confidence is paramount.

“It’s big,” Line said. “I need to win one of these next two races. It’s going to set up how our countdown goes. That’s a big part of it. We’ll see. We have a couple new things we’re going to test for and I have high hopes for. We might not start out that good, but I feel like by the time eliminations start we’re going to have a good car.”

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Line still hasn’t qualified for the countdown, but should after BIR. He’s sitting fifth in the standings with the top 10 teams making the postseason. Line is 171 points away from Butner, but the entire season has been a struggle.

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Jason Line and his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro powers off the start line earlier this season. Line is sitting fifth in the Pro Stock points race as he prepares for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Friday, Aug 16-18 at Brainerd International Raceway. Photo courtesy of NHRA

He’s 13-10 in rounds. He’s advanced to just one finals -- at Pomona 1 to start the season where he lost to Butner. While success hasn’t come yet for Line, the season hasn’t been uncharacteristic of the former national champion.

“If you look at how my success has been, I’ve been saving up for the playoffs,” Line said. “We’re ready to go. We’re going to make a run at it now. You do have to change your mindset and I will. It’s definitely not out of character for me to have had this type of year in the middle of the season. I usually start out good. Then I slump and then I get better at the end. I think if history repeats itself we’ll end up good.
“We certainly have good enough equipment to win this thing. We Just have to make it happen.”

As for the season so far?

“It stinks,” Line said. “A lot of things haven’t worked. I just haven’t done a great job. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but it’s going to get better. It’s time to buckle down. The countdown is upon us. Nobody will remember how bad your first half of the season was if you have a good second half.”

Line couldn’t pinpoint the reason for his struggle this season, but said coming home might be the antidote to change things around. And while the monkey of never winning the Lucas Oil Nationals is off his back. Technically, he’s still never won the title at BIR. Line’s Lucas Oil Nationals win came at Indy because of weather.

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“It’s been a good race for me,” Line said. “It hasn’t been a great race, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be this year. When I was coming up, it was a good track for me. It’s really just a matter of being error free on all aspects. Easy to say. Harder to do. But we’re supposed to be professionals at this and we need to figure it out. We’re going to have a good weekend. We may not start out that great, but by the time elimination one comes around we’re going to have a good car.”

For Anderson, it's about keeping that momentum that Line is looking for.

“I think I am getting hot right now and I hope that’s not short lived,” Anderson said. “I hope that’s not the end of it, but I can see progress from that first race we came back from that big break. We’ve been gaining ground and getting better, a little better. Then we ran off almost a three-race victory there. We’re on the climb and really thinking that we're going to be great when we start the playoffs.”

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Jason Line

Jason Line

Car: Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro

Crew Chief: Rob Downing, Tim Freeman

Home town: Wright, Minn.

Last year at BIR: Advanced to semifinals

Current standings: Fifth

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Greg Anderson

Greg Anderson

Car: Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro

Crew Chief: Rob Downing, Dave Connolly, Tim Freeman

Home town: Duluth

Last year at BIR: Advanced to semifinals

Current standings: Second

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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